This policy brief, published by the research network NCCR North-South, looks at how involving local people in the management of protected areas can help conserve biological diversity.
While donors, civil society organisations and researchers increasingly recognise the value of such "participatory conservation" in achieving ecological goals, the authors find that in reality, local people are rarely included in managing protected areas.
Drawing on case studies from across Africa, Asia and Latin America, they argue that incentives at both the household and community levels are essential for sustainable development, saying that if local people see an economic or political benefit from conserving protected areas, they are more likely to support management projects.
Such benefits could include providing basic social services such as constructing trails or improving access to drinking water, support for income generating activities like goat-keeping, revenues from tourism and capacity building to strengthen land rights.
Yet, the authors find that the benefits from current participatory conservation projects are low. In Africa in particular, the political gains of living in or close to a protected area are low and existing management practices mean that local people may be evicted, lose land or suffer crop damage.
Working more effectively with local communities means understanding their interests in protected areas, say the authors. This means giving local stakeholders a strong institutional framework for addressing their needs, collaborating with them from the outset in establishing protected areas, and empowering them to manage protected areas themselves.
This policy brief was prepared by Tobias Haller from the University of Zurich and Marc Galvin from The Graduate Institute in Geneva, Switzerland.