IUCN: Failed conservation projects or improved outcomes?

 

Improving the choices we make can minimise the unintended consequences of conservation projects says Gretchen Walters of IUCN’s Global Forest and Climate Change Programme

 

Despite their good intentions, conservation projects do not always have the desired outcomes for both the environment and local residents. But why not?  -

 

A recent series of papers from the Responsive Forest Governance Initiative (RFGI), funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, a project which IUCN is implementing with the University of Illinois and the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, identifies some of the questions raised and unintended consequences of well-meaning decisions. It also offers guidance on how to improve the outcomes of future interventions. One common mistake, the research suggests, is miscalculating which project partners or sections of society to include or exclude at different phases of the project. This can turn the outcomes sour.

 

Take for example a recent situation in Senegal. Because issues of gender equity and community engagement are of legitimate concern in conservation and development projects, Senegal’s National Park Service chose to work exclusively with women on a mangrove conservation project in the Somone Nature Reserve. But as Researcher Coumba Dem Samb describes, upheaval about the exclusive nature of the project and the negative reaction of local leaders fragmented the local community. The women felt betrayed and the men now consider natural resource management to be ‘women’s work’. Some men even threatened to sabotage the project.

 

In another case from the Democratic Republic of Congo, authors Oyono and Ntungila-Nkama describe how international agencies have been working with local people to zone their lands for resource use and conservation. However, most of the meetings are through platforms created by NGOs, rather than existing governmental platforms. This left many local residents feeling disconnected and unrepresented with no effective way of influencing the official process or holding decision-makers accountable. As the authors note, “without public participation, the people cannot question their representatives and their leaders.”

 

In Nigeria, meetings on REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) in Cross River state avoided working with local governments and instead engaged with customary authorities and NGOs. As a result, RFGI researcher Emmanuel Nuesiri found that local interests were poorly represented in the process. He describes the impacts this had on the community in issue 46 of arborvitae, IUCN’s magazine on forest conservation.

 

In Ghana, researcher Emmanuel Marfo indicates that despite clear intentions in the Government of Ghana’s official documents and UN-REDD guidelines on participation, civil society and state agents dominated the REDD+ consultation process, leaving little room for the people themselves. NGOs were thought best placed to represent local people despite the people already having elected representatives. Many were dissatisfied with the way the consultation was held. Under these conditions, can consultation on an issue be considered successful?

 

It is better, researcher Suzanne Chomba recommends, to integrate decision making into elected local government while still requiring project-imposed checks and balances in the form of public meetings, audits and other accountability mechanisms. As a result, the communities involved would learn critical lessons on how to address their needs through elected leaders and how to hold their leaders accountable. REDD+ projects would also benefit and the path could be paved for improved governance beyond just the scope of natural resource management.

 

All of these reflections lead us to consider how conservation choices can impact local resource governance and sometimes have unintended, negative impacts on the environment and local participation, representation and empowerment. How we work with local stakeholders and rights-holders, who we include, and exclude, and having appropriate places for various groups to voice their concerns are all critical for both securing local rights and achieving positive conservation results.

 

No-one intends to have a negative impact on people as a result of their project, but as we see, it can happen at any level of intervention. This research from RFGI is important to help everyone engaging in conservation actions to learn from past mistakes and guide their decisions as they navigate the many trade-offs involved.

 

In addition to the papers already available, RFGI will release two handbooks later this year, sharing further insights on how to improve conservation projects and the associated outcomes.

 

For more Information, please consult the IUCN’s Global Forest and Climate Change Programme.

 

Image credit: IUCN

Go back

CBFP News

WWF: Rainforest deforestation more than doubled under cover of coronavirus -DW

Tropical rainforests shrank by 6,500 square kilometers in March — an area seven times the size of Berlin. Criminal groups are taking advantage of the pandemic and the unemployed are getting desperate, the WWF said.

Read more …

Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park Monthly update April 2020

"At a time when many countries are beginning their gradual deconfinement and when there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon of returning to normal life, I wanted to share with you some good news that also fills us with hope for the future of the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park."

Read more …

Resources and follow-up from the virtual FAO-EcoAgriculture Partners Roundtable

Last April 30th FAO and EcoAgriculture Partners organized a virtual Roundtable on Territorial Perspectives for Development, in which over 170 people participated.

Read more …

ATIBT -CBFP: Private Sector mobilized around the CBFP Facilitator of the Federal Republic of Germany

ATIBT co-facilitated the mobilization of the private sector of the timber sector to participate in the first meeting of the private sector college of Congo Basin Forest Partnership with the new facilitator Dr Christian Ruck and his team German Facilitation.

Read more …

Development and institutionalization of a PAFC certification system for the Congo basin: opening of the second public consultation on Sustainable Forest Management Certification Standard, 23 May 2020 - 22 June 2020

This second public consultation will be open for a period of 30 days from tomorrow Saturday the 23rd of May 2020 and will be closed on Monday the 22nd of June 2020. The public consultation is open to all stakeholders of forest management in the Congo Basin interested in participating to the PAFC Congo Basin certification standards development process.

Read more …

Forest defenders on the COVID-19 frontline stand ready to assist the global EU response – Fern

These efforts go hand in hand with ensuring continued responsible management of natural resources and preventing unsustainably and illegally sourced forest commodities. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, forest-monitoring organisations Observatoire de la Gouvernance Forestière (OGF) and Réseau des observateurs indépendants des ressources naturelles (RENOI) are set to carry out COVID awareness-raising in at-risk forest areas, and will also assess COVID’s impact on forest management and governance commitments under the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI). Across the Congo Basin, fears that a proper lack of oversight may put forests and forest peoples in danger are looming despite emerging initiatives.

Read more …

22 May 2020 International Day for Biological Diversity

The theme of the 2020 International Day for Biological Diversity is “Our Solutions are in Nature”. It shows that "Biodiversity remains the answer to a number of sustainable development challenges that we all face. From nature-based solutions to climate, to food and water security, and sustainable livelihoods, biodiversity remains the basis for a sustainable future."

Read more …

CBFP News Archive

2020