Conservation programmes that address livelihoods have a better chance of success

T. V. Padma

T. V. Padma
South Asia regional coordinator, SciDev.Net


Imagine if you are a poor farmer with less than a hectare of land, and find a rhino or a leopard munching your crop away, or an elephant trampling your house meanwhile. Your, or many poor communities whose livelihoods depend on local resources, point of view may differ a little from of a wildlife enthusiast on the rhino, leopard or elephant.

Efforts are on to integrate livelihood issues into conservation programmes and I listened to several such case studies in the Asia-Pacific today (19 October).

Conservation programmes such ‘Ibis rice’ address livelihoods issues too. Photo credit: けんち, Japanese Wikipedia

In Nepal’s Bardia national park, explained Rabin Kadariya from the National Trust for Nature Conservation, Kathmandu, the human-wildlife conflict became severe due to animals from the nearby national park rampaging fields.  The trust, therefore, initiated a programme to help farmers switch to cultivation of mentha which, for some reason, the rhinos do not like.The trick succeeded. The farmers income trebled fromUS$400 a year from a hectare of wheat, to US$1,200 and rhinos no longer annoy them. “The farmers are happy in their fields, and the rhinos are happy in their forest,” Kadariya says.Under a Wildlife Conservation Society project, a remote part of northern Cambodia grows ‘Ibis rice’. A “unique repository for biodiversity”, the area is home to 40 species in IUCN’s Red List, with six species critically endangered,  says WCS’s Madu Rao. It was also under threat from over-exploitation, hunting, illegal logging, and overfishing.

The project engaged the local communities to conserve Ibis, and also helped them grow and market rice. The trick here was clarify resource tenures to the local communities, and provide incentives for niche marketing, which were linked to their efforts at conservation.  Thus came the Ibis rice”, whose production rose from 38 tonns in 2008-09, to 141 tonnes in 2011-12.

“It is an example of benefit sharing  relevant to the Nagoya Protocol’s Access and Benefit Sharing,” she says.

There are similar projects in Papua New Guinea, where Ona, Keto and other tribes are engaged in local reforestation programmes that also help raise their incomes. The Ona Keto community reforestation and sustainable livelihoods project has since been recognised as a model project by government institutions and universities.

These are some heartening examples … and seem to be the way forward to avoid the human-wildlife conflicts that invariably plague top-down conservation programmes in abjectly economically poor areas that are also rich in biodiversity.

This blog post is part of our coverage on COP 11 Convention on Biological Diversity — which takes place 8–19 October 2012. 

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