However, many officially protected areas suffer from neglect, poor management, and corruption. This new research emphasizes the pivotal role local communities could play in addressing these shortcomings. From their analysis of villages in a region in Papua New Guinea, the researchers conclude: “…local monitoring contributes to effective protection and deters unregulated exploitation,” and that, “Clearly, local people are effective in protecting large areas in a relatively natural state.”
Giving local people a stake in the protection and restoration of their surrounding area could make all the difference, even to established conservation programs. The bottom-up approach can provide the community with much-needed jobs through ecotourism, sustainable harvesting and conservation area protection. In turn, local jobs help to prevent migration to urban areas, and lessen the pressure to engage in slash-and-burn agriculture or to sell out to the highest bidder, which may be a mining or lumber company, or big agriculture.
We certainly need new and thoughtful approaches, since the past half century of business as usual has got us nowhere.
Sheil, D., M. Boissière, and G. Beaudoin. 2015. Unseen sentinels: local monitoring and control in conservation’s blind spots. Ecology and Society 20(2): 39.
See also Mongabay: Local stewardship: conservation’s ‘vast blind spot’