Community Conservation

Community-based conservation is a conservation movement that emerged in the 1980s, in response to escalating protests and subsequent dialogue with local communities affected by international attempts to protect the biodiversity of the earth. These contentions were a reaction against traditional ‘top down’ conservation practices, whereby governments or large organizations exert control at a local level, which were perceived as disregarding the interests of local inhabitants.

This stems from the Western idea on which the conservation movement was founded, of nature is separate from culture. The objective of community-based conservation is to actively involve and give some control to members of local communities in conservation efforts that may affect them, and incorporate improvement to the lives of local people while conserving areas through the creation of national parks or wildlife refuges.

One strategy of community-based conservation is co-management or joint management of a protected area. Co-management combines local peoples’ traditional knowledge of the environment with the modern scientific knowledge of scientists. This combination of knowledge can lead to increased biodiversity and better management of the protected area.

Community Conservation Goals
Community-based Conservation is built on the idea that socioeconomic benefits and community engagement can alleviate poverty and improve human welfare while supporting conservation efforts and reducing threats to biodiversity. Since 1996, the Wilder Institute has been working with communities to identify win-win scenarios to benefit wildlife and people simultaneously.

Identifying solutions that can make a real difference requires time, patience, and trust. Community Conservation initiatives involve collaborations with in-country organizations and/or long-term on-the-ground support by Wilder Institute staff to ensure full integration with the local community.

Six principles are among the key features of the success of Community-based Conservation such as sustainability, social inclusion, ownership, partnership, tangible results and evidence-based results.

The ultimate goal of all our community conservation programs is to achieve social, economic and ecological resilience and self-sufficiency, so the initiatives can function independently, without reliance on external finances or expertise.

Social Inclusion
Through Community-based conservation approaches, projects should seek to ensure equity in the sharing of costs, benefits, responsibilities, recognition, and decision-making. The community-based conservation efforts aim to protect the vulnerable and ensure no one is excluded from conservation-derived opportunities. Therefore, the project should take a socially-inclusive, gender-responsive approach to foster cultural diversity and inclusivity for all groups.

Natural resources should be owned and managed by local communities.

There is a need to build long-term relationships with local and international stakeholders, working collaboratively to share knowledge, methods and tools.

Tangible benefits
Create meaningful opportunities leading to definitive improvements for both people and nature as a whole.

Evidence-based results
There is a need to ensure engagement in long-term monitoring and adaptive management with measurable outcomes that can be carefully evaluated.