Working Together: Protecting People and Nature

For millennia humans have altered the environment for their benefit: through fires, hunting and livestock cultivation. The biodiversity crisis has therefore been heightened by human activity and it is our responsibility to reduce it.

Traditional methods of conservation encompass the idea that we should protect nature regardless of its cost to humans. Throughout the 20th century the most common conservation approach was the formation of protected areas, often termed ‘fortress protection’. These are clearly defined areas in which human residence and resource consumption are sometimes prohibited. Although these areas have proved very successful in protecting biodiversity and nature, they have severely impacted the lives of local people.

Without the cooperation and support of local communities the success protected areas is often impacted. Poaching in protected areas is prevalent all over the world and local people continue to illegally exploit nature on reserves. Low compliance is expected with the exclusion of the community1. This problem is beginning to be addressed.

Community-based conservation incorporates communities into decision making and implementation. This method empowers local people, utilises the knowledge of indigenous people and allows controlled exploitation of natural resources for economic development.

This method has been heavily criticised because it is not always as successful in protecting biodiversity as ‘fortress protection’. Some conservationists argue that nature should still take priority and even controlled exploitation of nature is still unsustainable.

In spite of this, I would argue that while we must conserve nature, we should not do so at the expense of local communities. There is a clear link between biodiversity loss and social, economic and political factors. 

fiona 2The menuvu community – filled with pride for their globally recognised conservation efforts.
(Photo: Glaiza Tabanao)

Many people depend on extracting natural resources for their livelihood. In the face of a booming population there is a growing need for an approach that encompasses the protection of nature and people simultaneously.

One method may be to educate those who may be affected by conservation on the problems associated with losing biodiversity. This may lead to great participation and support for conservation efforts in the local area.

The goals towards protecting nature and protecting people can be mutually beneficial. Protecting nature can in turn protect the livelihood of those who depend on it. So, it is fundamental to the future success of conservation strategy that the effects to humans and nature are considered as equals in the decision making process.


  1. Weladji, R. B., & Tchamba, M. N. (2003). Conflict between people and protected areas within the Bénoué Wildlife Conservation Area, North Cameroon.Oryx37, 72-79.



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