9:01 am. Jul 23, 2014

Two new publications describe the communal conservation initiatives in northeastern Peru; reasoning, challenges and successes.

Northeastern Peru is considered a global conservation priority due to high biodiversity and acute threats to natural habitats, species and resources. Its non-indigenous migrant populations, known as “campesinos”, are presented by mainstream conservation agents as a major threat to this area, as environmentally destructive, apathetic to nature and only responsive to economic and material incentives.

Results from new studies, published in Oryx and the Journal of Political Ecology, show that far from being a problem for conservation many rural communities actively promote or participate in conservation initiatives on a local scale with landscape-level impacts. These initiatives include land protection, hunting control and reduced deforestation, often providing effective solutions to threats. The main obstacles to campesino conservation are often a lack of assistance from governmental and non-governmental institutions and the economic resources to fund the extensive bureaucratic processes of registering protected areas. Many campesino communities bypass these restrictions through informal conservation initiatives. For many poor, local populations, conservation is not a 'dirty word.' Rural people in north-eastern Peru find nature and biodiversity conservation attractive to their intrinsic, social, aesthetic and moral values, as well as being a measure to ensure their own future. In most cases the prospect of economic benefits is perceived as a welcome, but secondary, outcome and occasionally even as a hindrance.

These two articles highlight shortcomings of mainstream conservationists who often see local people as an obstacle for conservation. They also challenge the political ecology paradigm that stresses the conflicts between local people and conservation. We suggest that although local people often do not agree with the way conservation is administrated by the state or by outside conservation agencies, they do initiate parallel projects, following similar objectives and justifications. Therefore, the conflict between local people and conservation projects is not related to the fundamental nature of conservation, rather it is the result of the way conservation is administered, resulting in antagonism between local people and institutions.

There is an urgent need to inform conservation practitioners and the general public about the potential of locally run conservation, a potential that might be deliberately obscured by mainstream conservation institutions to secure their continuous funding. A more informed public could provide more funding to small, locally run projects as well as encouraging highly biodiverse countries to simplify their conservation policies to give local people equal opportunities to lead conservation initiatives and projects themselves.

Shanee, N., Shanee, S., and Horwich, R.H. (2014), 'Effectiveness of locally run conservation initiatives in north-east Peru ', Oryx, Online early addition.

Shanee, N. (2013), 'Campesino Justification for Self Initiated Conservation Actions - a Challenge to Mainstream Conservation', Journal of Political Ecology, (20), 413-28.

For more information please contact Noga Shanee: noga@neoprimate.org, nogashanee@gmail.com


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