On days three (yesterday) and four (today), the sessions I witnessed at the World Parks Congress revolved around one particular theme – building resilience within nature and within community livelihoods.
The case studies examined by the speakers throughout both days identified the critical role that local communities, particularly, indigenous communities play with regards to conservation. The first example of this was from Finland, where game hunting for meat is popular. Indeed, nearly ten million kg of game meat are hunted each year (with nine million being moose). Not only does game hunting offer a mechanism for sourcing protein, it is also seen as an effective method for maintaining wildlife populations.
A similar case study was presented from Cameroon, where game hunting not only provided protein to the local indigenous communities, but also an avenue for income generation.
The greatest challenge facing policy makers and conservationists has been balancing ecosystem resilience with livelihood resilience. The focus on ‘protected areas’, where no-take boundaries are established arbitrarily will deny indigenous and local communities access to natural resources.
Perhaps an even greater impact of conservation policies that undermine livelihood resilience is the loss of indigenous knowledge and practices. This was touched upon by various speakers in the sessions i visited today. Indigenous knowledge is vital for conservation management. For the benefits (ecosystem services) of protected areas to be felt both locally and on a larger scale, the areas need to be protected for generations.
The only way to achieve this is to allow for indigenous knowledge to maintained, practiced and passed onto the younger generation. This can be done in the traditional sense, where traditional elders spend time in nature with the youth, or through mainstream education programs where school children learn to respect nature.
The sessions that I have visited so far have made me realise that there are so many unique and interesting solutions and strategies available to the most common challenges currently facing the global community. While no on strategy trumps all others, ongoing dialogue and networking between and within the global environmental community if vital for continued protection of landscapes and seascapes.