The Snow Leopard Trust and its partners have engaged with local communities in key snow leopard habitats of Central Asia for nearly three decades, working on conservation solutions that could benefit both people and wildlife.
In his book ‘The PARTNERS Principles for Community-Based Conservation’, Snow Leopard Trust Science & Conservation Director Charu Mishra distills our experiences into a set of guidelines for wildlife conservationists wishing to engage with communities.
Like any other activity that so closely involves people, community-based conservation is a complex pursuit. Combine that with the complexity of natural systems, and you have an almost impossible task at hand, especially when it comes to writing guidelines. No questions have simple answers. Every issue is nuanced in its ecological and human complexity. There isn’t and perhaps shouldn’t be one correct way to do community-based conservation.
We do however believe that there are certain principles that must not be compromised on, and certain pitfalls that can jeopardize conservation efforts.
In the PARTNERS Principles, we identify eight broad principles for engaging local communities in wildlife conservation. We hope will motivate others to work with local communities, or help them improve their conservation efforts, and avoid some of the mistakes we’ve made.
The PARTNERS Principles include:
- Relationship-building through the sustained and long-term Presence of conservationists amidst the local community.
- The Aptness of specific community-based interventions with respect to addressing the main threats to biodiversity, the underlying science, the local culture, socio-economics, the available or potential social capital, and the value of multi-faceted programs.
- A relationship that views the community with dignity and Respect, and interactions based on beneficence and non-maleficence.
- High Transparency in interactions with local communities with truthful and open communication regarding each other’s interests, and visible equitability in program benefits to community members.
- Integrative Negotiations with local communities and interventions based on formal agreements and conservation linkages.
- The ability to view problems, constraints and opportunities from the community’s perspective with a high level of Empathy.
- The ability to adaptively improve the programs and address emerging problems and opportunities with a high level of Responsiveness and creativity.
- Strategic support to increase the resilience and reach of community-based conservation efforts through partnerships with governments in management planning and implementation, and policy and legal support.