New studies show that Indigenous communities are highly effective at protecting natural resources over large-scale areas where formal conservation authorities do not exist.
However, community practices and their significance go unrecognised, to the extent that many communities are removed from protected areas. This has lead to experts calling for change.
Studies from scientists at the Centre for International Forestry Research in Indonesia is one of the first to show how local communities are protecting extensive areas of land.
The findings from the paper named "Unseen sentinels: local monitoring and control in conservation's blind spots" provides evidence that natural resource management by local communities can be more effective and cost-efficient for large-scale conservation than government sanctioned protected areas.
Within certain areas of Indonesia, several indigenous communities reside. Researchers studied how these communities respond to threats and identified the systems they use to adapt. They found that customary leaders or respected groups within the community were responsible for protecting resource-rich areas from overexploitation.
Co-author of the paper, Douglas Sheil says “For conservationists pushing for the expansion of protected areas, the study highlights the potential dangers of alienating people from their environment, and represents a neglected opportunity to support them doing what they already do.”
It is being said that today there are many indigenous communities around the world that are forced to move from large-scale areas of land designated for national parks and protected areas. There is the assumption that these local communities have little interest in achieving conservation outcomes and are not effective at protecting their environment against themselves or external threats.
“One serious implication is that effective indigenous conservation systems may be replaced by formally protected areas that are inadequately managed by overstretched government authorities,” Sheil says.
For more information regarding this research, you can download it for free here.