Safety net: protected areas and poverty reduction

Safety net: protected areas and poverty reduction

Do protected areas reduce poverty?

This report looks at the role of protected areas in poverty reduction, focusing primarily on the poorest countries and on poor communities within those countries. The publication seeks to specifically review five linked questions:

  • what is the range of benefits that protected areas can offer?
  • how do these benefits link to poverty reduction strategies?
  • what is the evidence, if any, of protected areas reducing poverty and increasing well-being?
  • what are the prerequisites for protected areas to contribute to poverty reduction?
  • how do the benefits reach the poorest people, if at all?
The report begins by defining the concept of a ‘protected area’ and explores the different types of relationships between local people and protected areas, ranging from ‘win-win’ to ‘lose-lose’. The authors consider whether protected areas can help to reduce poverty by looking at the World Bank definition on poverty that is applied to the Millennium Development Goals, and other wider definitions of poverty. The sometimes chequered history of protected areas and local communities is also considered, looking at poverty reduction in particular.

Case studies, which look at the issues discussed in the report, come from Argentina, Finland, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Poland and Tanzania.

Conclusions include:
  • there is an evolution of approaches to integrating the needs of people and nature in protected areas, from ‘no linkage’ to ‘direct linkages’
  • monitoring is critical for effective conservation and development projects and it is important to be clear about what is being measured
  • good examples of effective protected area management combined with poverty reduction strategies need to be studied and replicated
  • if poverty is understood as a multi-dimensional state rather than just a question of income, then protected areas have more chances of contributing to poverty reduction
  • not only is the generation of benefits important, but their distribution is also key
  • each situation is unique
The report makes a series of recommendations, both general and aimed at specific stakeholders.