Conservation Can Reduce Poverty

Ecotourism site

Ecotourism Site in Budongo Forest

Nyungwe Forest

Hiking in Nyungwe Forest, Rwanda

One of the biggest struggles in modern-day conservation is how to make sure that local people are benefiting from, or at least not being hurt by, conservation efforts.  It can often be discouraging as one new approach after another is tried, often without success.  There is also controversy around whether conservation groups should even try to address poverty since some believe that it waters down the conservation objective and takes resources away from the direct protection of wildlife and natural places.  Given that even organizations with huge budgets and a primary goal of poverty eradication have had little success, it might just be too much to ask from organizations with a conservation focus.

That said, conservation works better when local people have buy-in, and buy-in comes more readily when people are benefitting from conservation.  Recently, a team commissioned by the International Institute for Environment and Development looked at 400 studies on the effects of conservation efforts on poverty around the world.  They were trying to determine if there are any interventions that have a lasting positive effect on rural incomes.

The full reports will be released sometime in the next few months, but the researchers identified 5 interventions that seem to improve rural livelihoods:

1.  Community Timber Enterprises
2.  Forest tourism
3.  Agro-forestry
4.  Marine Tourism
5.  Exploitation of fish spill-over from protected areas into adjacent fisheries

As somebody with a focus on conservation through tourism, I am happy to see that two of the top five are tourism-related.  It will be interesting to read more when the final reports are released.  For now, you can read more here.

Mark D. Jordahl – Kampala

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