Community based conservation (CBC) initiatives seek to unite the aims and purposes of projects working towards economic and ecological goals. They generally aim to promote socio-economic growth through the sustainable use of natural resources which are also of important conservation value. In this way, natural resources can be protected from overuse by an increased community level understanding of the use of resources and their conservation benefits.
CBC often faces harsh criticism on both sides, and its effectiveness has been disputed widely. It is therefore important to evaluate how effective these initiatives are in practice, and to identify how different features in an initiative affect the success both in conservation and economic terms. A new article published in Environmental Evidence this week has examined the effectiveness of CBC projects, as well as exploring the factors which might affect CBC success. In a systematic review of 136 of these projects, Brooks et al investigate the effects of CBC according to four outcomes: attitudinal, behavioural, economic and ecological.
Their findings show the importance of community characteristics to CBC success as well as providing strong support to suggest that success may be dependent on particular aspects of the project design. Specifically, they identify the building of local institutional capacity as of high importance; this builds on previous work by Platteau and Abraham, suggesting that this may also ensure that project finances are not simply ‘funnelled to a handful of local leaders’. Furthermore, Brooks et al found that time can be an important factor in measuring the economic success of a project – the older the project the higher the likelihood for success. This provides evidence that ‘development opportunities and income generation may not emerge quickly and that CBC projects may require time before measureable economic success is achieved’.
This study provides evidence that CBC can be a highly successful conservation strategy, particularly when projects are well designed and initiated in favourable local conditions. Additional research is needed to further investigate the effectiveness of these initiatives, in order to help to build on the available knowledge for creating an effective framework for community based conservation relying on evidence.