The implications of local views and institutions for the outcomes of community-based conservation

Kerry Waylen

Conservation  is  increasingly  concerned  with  ‘how’  to  conserve  rather  than  ‘what’  to conserve.    Efforts  to  improve outcomes  through  greater  local  involvement – community based  conservation  – have  been popular but  problematic. Perspectives  from  the  social  sciences  suggest  that  simplistic  conceptions  of  the  communities involved may be to blame. This work uses a  range of methods  from across the social sciences to probe the implications of various aspects of local social context – including individual views, institutions and culture – on conservation outcomes.

A  systematic  review  and  metaIanalysis  demonstrate  a  significant  influence  of  local social context on conservation outcomes.  Project success was more likely where there were  supportive  preIexisting  institutions and  culture,  and  also  when  interventions attempted  capacity  building  and  positively  engaged with local  culture  and institutions (both  governmental  and  nonIgovernmental).    Support  for  these  findings  was  stronger than that for factors previously found important, such as the provision of local benefits or market integration.

The  effect  of  a  specific  intervention  linked  to religion  was  investigated  using  a  case study of ecological teachings by a Buddhist centre in the Republic of Kalmykia, Russia.  Since perestroika, interest in Buddhism has grown, but several environmental problems have also emerged, including poaching of the critically endangered saiga antelope Saiga tatarica.  Qualitative  analysis  of  semiIstructured  interviews  showed  that  Buddhist teachings had the potential to change relevant views, and were particularly important in fostering a sense of individual capability and responsibility. A case study in Nepal focused on individuals in communities whose hunting, wild plant collection and grazing are thought to pose threats to an area of conservation importance. A  mix  of  qualitative  (rapid  rural  appraisal)  and  quantitative  (questionnaire  survey) methods  probed  local  uses  and  views  of  natural  resources.    Drivers  of  resource  use varied between households, linked to the institution of caste, with low status individuals driven by need but some others driven by cultural preference.  Elite capture by higher castes  also  influenced  lower  caste  involvement  in  and  attitudes  to  conservation interventions. This  highlights  the  need  to  look  beyond  communityIlevel  impacts  to understand behaviours of conservation concern.

Understanding  potential  conservation  behaviour  in  Nepal  also  required  an understanding of individual views and perceptions of nature, which did not correspond to  other  attributes  such  as  caste.    Structural  equation modelling  was  used to  examine 
individual  intentions  to  help  conserve  one  plant  used  practically,  and  another  plant valued  aesthetically.    Willingness  to  give  time  for  the  two  plants  was  similar,  and explained by both socioIdemographic  factors  (such as education) as well as individual views  of  nature.   In addition, low caste individuals  gave more time  for the  practically valued plant (probably as they had less access to substitutes).  This study suggests that gauging individual perceptions and  views is important  for  understanding conservation behaviours, in tandem with the more usually measured socio-demographic factors.

This  thesis argues  that  recognition  of  and  engagement  with  individual  views  in  the context of local culture and institutions is crucial to conservation success.  The studies together  provide  evidence that many  aspects of local social  context matter (including nonIgovernmental  institutions  and  aspects  of  culture  which  may  not  appear  directly relevant to  conservation  outcomes).    However,  it  is  also  necessary  to  engage  with individuals’ views and perceptions of nature.  The social context of conservation should not be stereotyped or oversimplified.