Top Down Conservation Planning

Top-down planning is not restricted to traditional development projects. Many conservation programs are also top down, and some have had equally unfortunate results. In Africa the establishment of national parks for conservation purposes has sometimes followed a command and control pattern: boundaries were established, everything within them was declared to be legally protected, and a long list of standards was drawn up ranging from a total ban on harvests to the setting of quotas for harvest.

Smouts (2003) describes the case of a huge tri-national conservation project in the Central African Republic (CAR), Congo, and Cameroon. The initial objective was to maintain "pristine" conditions, i.e., to keep large tracts of uninhabited forest lands with intact ecosystems and high densities of large mammals, in particular elephants and gorillas. "We had limited experience in developing or managing national parks", said the director of the project, "particularly in forests with relatively high human population densities or those affected by local logging activities". Unfortunately, there were indigenous Pygmy communities living in this region that was "ideal" for a conservation program. In 1986, the project had to be modified so as to leave the inhabitants the possibility of continuing their hunting and gathering activities. A decade after this initiative was started, there were still similar challenges to reconciling ecosystem and wildlife conservation and the protection of local livelihoods. Human demographic problems, marginalization of Pigmy communities, control of logging activities, and trinational coordination of conservation initiatives were perceived as the major project constraints (Fay 1997). A Sangha River Reserve extending along a 35-km stretch of the Sangha River and incorporating CAR, Congo, and Cameroon protected areas was envisioned as the next step of this conservation initiative. Securing continued funding in the form of endowments was basic for the success of the project: "We have created a system that requires 1.5-2 million US$ per year to sustain". As time goes on, human population pressure increases, logs become more valuable, and the conservation model becomes increasingly strained as funding diminishes (Fay 1997). Top-down management is sustainable only so long as top-down money is available.

The attempt to confer absolute protection to the flora and fauna of regions in Africa has caused other calamities also. For example, the creation of national parks and wildlife preserves in Kenya and Tanzania resulted in the expulsion of Massai stockbreeders. While hunting and logging diminished significantly inside the parks, the problem shifted to the outside: animals were slaughtered as soon as they crossed park boundaries. Kenya is said to have lost, in this way, half of its wildlife outside protected areas in less than 20 years (Norton-

Griffiths 1998). Logging has also shifted to other unprotected and over-exploited areas.

By definition, protected areas restrict uses over a specific area of land. When planned top-down and with only preservation of wildlife as a goal, they deprive communities of land rights they have exercised for generations. In some cases, projects have been accompanied by development and training operations that persuade these communities to change their behavior so they no longer rely solely on hunting and exploiting the forest for subsistence. The heavy social costs of top-down conservation are borne by those who live in protected areas or who have been displaced to the periphery, whereas the benefits go to others. Smouts (2003) names ecotourists, hikers, and photographers who use the parks for recreation as the principal beneficiaries of the parks. The people who benefit most from parks are rarely from the local community. The Kenya-Tanzania park development illustrates how difficult it can be to achieve success with a program that is not accepted by the residents of the impacted regions.

However, there are several examples in which protected areas successfully integrate the local communities in park management and protection. For example, in the Guanacaste Conservation Area in Costa Rica, a World Heritage Site, local inhabitants participate actively in maintenance and management. The protection of Costa Rica's existing habitats is the responsibility of the National Parks Service, which is in charge of the management of 20 National Parks, 8 Wildlife Reserves, and a National Monument. The Guanacaste Conservation Area (GCA) is composed of three National Parks: Santa Rosa, Guanacaste, and Rincon de la Vieja; the Junquillal Bay Wildlife refuge and Recreational Area; and the Horizontes Experimental Forest Station. A series of properties were purchased to form a continuous block of 120,000 terrestrial hectares and 70,000 marine hectares in which there exist approximately 230,000 animal and plant species (65% of the estimated number of species in Costa Rica). The GCA has about 10 years of experience in the search and consolidation of a model based on the reality of tropical ecosystems that can allow conservation of biodiversity through non-destructive uses by society ( In the GCA there are programs in education, research, tourism, reforestation, fire control, and police protection. The total number of staff is about 100, all of them Costa Rican, and four out of every five from the region in and around the conservation area (Allen 2001).

Another successful example of integration of local people in park management is found in the Kibira National Park, Burundi. This national park of an area of 40,000 ha contains Burundi's only montane rain forest. It is a zone rich in both animal and plant diversity. More than three quarters of the water of the country's largest dam - providing more than 50% of the hydroelectric energy consumed - comes from this forest. Thus the park, situated on the Congo-Nile ridge, plays a fundamental role in regulating the hydrological cycle and protecting against soil erosion (Amsallem et al. 2003). In the Kibira National Park, village communities participate in its management through a community conservation plan, which is a pledge of partnership among the people, the administration and conservationists. In addition, a new consultative body, the "local park watchdog community", set up in each of the communes around the park, appears to be a solution to the question of how to involve the people in managing the park.

Parks are just one category of the suite of protected areas in a country. Other categories of protected areas (e.g., wildlife refuges) generally are more flexible in allowing management and in their concerns regarding the livelihoods of local communities. For example, Brazil has a vast array of different types of conservation units that serve different purposes. Areas that are primarily for maintaining natural ecosystems without human presence are classified as "integral protection areas" under the National System of Conservation Units (SNUC). Federal conservation units in this category include national parks, ecological reserves, and biological reserves. By contrast, "sustainable-use areas" promote use of renewable natural resources in the area under management regimes that are intended to sustain production while maintaining the major ecological functions of the natural ecosystem. These include national forests (FLONAs), which are predominantly designed for timber management, and extractive reserves (RESEX), which are intended for management of non-timber forest products such as rubber and Brazil nuts. In the state of Amazonas, a new category called "sustainable development reserve" (RDS) was created in 1996, where local residents zone the designated area into portions for community management of resources such as fish and timber, with a core area that is to remain untouched (Fearnside 2003).

There is a debate about whether humans or economic activities should be allowed in protected areas. One view is that unless the local populations are allowed to benefit from the protected areas in legal ways, they will destroy it in illegal ways. The contrasting view is that parks should address the loss of global biodiversity and global warming which are more critical issues than local impoverishment and conflict. If these environmental problems are not solved, it is argued, the well-being of locals is irrelevant, since humanity will drive itself to extinction. In this train of thought, top-down, mandatory and exclusive protection of tropical forests is the only route to human survival (Terborgh 1999). Debates on this controversial topic are collected in Kramer et al. (1997) and Brandon et al. (1998).

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