In this post Helen Roy, People and Nature Associate Editor, discusses the need for community-led approaches to conservation, transformative change and new research from Adam Miller and colleagues ‘Using a participatory impact assessment framework to evaluate a community‐led mangrove and fisheries conservation approach in West Kalimantan, Indonesia

Also linked to this research is a plain language summary from the authors and an infographic on why community-based programs are essential for conservation.

The conclusions from the IPBES Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, published last year, are stark – we are altering nature “at a truly planetary scale, with impacts that are distributed very unequally around the world and among sectors of societyDiaz et al. (2019). There is an urgent need for integrative approaches to “transformative change” which will address the ongoing challenges posed by biodiversity loss while recognising the interconnectedness of people and nature. At times the challenges can seem overwhelming but there is hope.

It is widely recognised that sustainable solutions to conservation issues ultimately depend on the participation of local communities. Indeed community-led interventions are critical. It is exciting to consider the possibilities inspired by the implementation of a so-called participatory impact assessment framework to achieve just that in the village of Sungai Nibung in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Perhaps the message that resonates most strongly is the need to listen and source ideas from local communities. The formation of Conservation Cooperatives to provide a forum for community members to holistically consider approaches to issues that affect daily life was seen as invaluable. Indeed the Sungai Nibung community study reveals fascinating and compelling evidence of the advantages of integrated approaches and concludes “conservation interventions designed to address socio-economic issues may be as impactful, if not more so, than traditional law enforcement and patrolling in reducing the loss of biodiversity”.

The study published recently in People and Nature highlights the importance of participatory methods to design and evaluate conservation interventions while promoting engagement with local communities. Also importantly it provides a structured framework, underpinned by theories of change, embedding social systems, such as health and literacy, and environmental systems, including ecological restoration and sustainable management of natural resources.

Unequivocally the way towards transformative change requires recognition of the connections between people and nature. Listening to people and acknowledging the diversity of their views is critical to devising conservation solutions. It is essential to address the ways in which social and economic inequalities act as a barrier to community engagement in environmental matters. Embracing holistic approaches will bring benefits to people, nature and ultimately the planet.