Our Perspective

Making conservation count towards jobs and livelihoods


Community members get on-site training in wildlife protection in Tmatboey, Canbodia. Photo: Sok Sony/WCS

If we are going to preserve global biodiversity, protected areas must make sense to the millions around the world, who rely on natural resources for their livelihoods. This is one of the key messages we have heard emerging this week from the World Parks Congress – a landmark global meeting – convened every 10 years to determine the future direction of the conservation agenda.  

By involving local communities in the way we manage natural ecosystems, we can find win-win solutions that protect biodiversity while also preserving and creating jobs and livelihoods. I have heard many examples of such solutions presented this week. In Guatemala, for example, a sustainable harvesting initiative developed with local and indigenous communities for a palm called Xate has increased family incomes while sustaining this resource for the future.

There is a growing global resonance of a conservation model which creates job opportunities through tourism, outdoor recreation, scientific research, environmental education, sustainable uses including forestry, fisheries and more. An excellent example of this is seen in Zambia where UNDP helped set up the Bangweulu Management Board a public-private-community partnership which took over the management of the Bangweulu Game Management Area (6,000 sq. km). The partnership is now one of the largest employers in the region, and supports the efforts of over 100 beekeepers and over 120 conservation farmers. Roughly 15% of all commercial income generated goes directly to communities.

 The critically endangered White Shouldered Ibis. Photo: Ashish John/WCS

Eco-agriculture is another source of jobs and livelihoods in protected areas. Eco-agriculture certification which links agricultural production to conservation efforts is an important tool that can serve the biodiversity agenda. In Cambodia, the ‘Conservation Areas through Landscape Management project’ (created with UNDP support and funding from the Global Environment Facility) established a Wildlife Friendly Ibis Rice scheme whereby farmers are paid a premium price for rice cultivated in an ecologically sensitive fashion. With this approach and linking communities to tourism initiatives, logging and hunting incidents declined by more than 80% over the project lifetime (read more on the CALM project here).

As we increasingly recognise the importance of biodiversity and ecosystems to our societal wellbeing and the importance protected areas play in its realisation, we need to work towards their long term viability – social, environmental and economic sustainability. This needs a long term view – which includes support to jobs and livelihoods of local people.

Blog post Environment Ecosystems and biodiversity

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