“One of the anomalies of modern ecology is that it is the creation of two groups, each of which seems barely aware of the existence of the other. The one studies the human community almost as if it were a separate community, and calls its findings sociology, economics, and history. The other studies the plant and animal community and comfortably relegates the hodge-podge of politics to the liberal arts. The inevitable fusion of the two lines of thought will, perhaps, constitute the outstanding advance of the present century.”
-Aldo Leopold, 1935
Empowering local communities
CREE recognizes that conservation is above all a political movement, securing land or altering land-use patterns for the benefit of biodiversity, often at the expense of rural peoples. CREE seeks to improve this process by making projects at the human-environment nexus more transparent, equitable, and appropriate for those who have been marginalized through living near biologically diverse lands.
We do not see local actors as minor employees with little say, mere targets for conservation outreach and capacity building schemes. We work exclusively towards opportunities for local people to be in genuine leadership roles such as managers and project directors.
Respect for the land and the people
We strive for a world in which the poorest of communities in developing countries do not bare a disproportionate amount of the costs of environmental conservation often advocated in the developed world. Capacity building is not just a term that is to be applied to ‘poor’ or ‘developing’ nations, rather it must first take place in the very organizations who seek to embed themselves in the arduous work of biodiversity conservation.
Beyond traditional conservation
The conservation movement has in many respects become similar to business. As such, in order to succeed in today’s market driven economy, it will need to become as creative and adaptable. This means efficient channeling of financial, administrative, and technical resources. Accountability begins with institutional changes at the top.
CREE does not see impoverishment from wildlife and natural resources in solely monetary terms. Economics is a key component of any conflict mitigation scheme. However, a study of the multi-faceted nature of impoverishment and conflict over the use and protection of natural resources involves analyses through the lenses of political, cultural and economic frameworks.
‘Climate Ready Communities’
CREE staff are continually planning for and responding to climate change issues at the local level. As climate change has a potentially powerful effect to change natural resource system dynamics at the local level, CREE field staff are working to ensure local people and the environment are able to adapt to these conditions. For example, in Kenya the north is experiencing drought, yet the wetland communities we work in on country’s western end are experiencing increased flooding. CREE staff are looking at current and projected shifts in wetland plant communities, and planning wetland plantings and community education on climate change to help reduce conflicts and future environmental hardships. While there are no perfect solutions to climate change, adaption measures can and should be ecologically and socially appropriate.
While a thorough synopsis of the literature and history surrounding the social consequences of conservation is beyond the scope of this website, we do wish to highlight several aspects of projects which we see as integral to implementation. Projects which focus on many of the below aspects are more likely to be considered for funding under our scope of work:
- Provision of access to a limited use of resources that are harvested in a non-destructive manner
- Improvement of knowledge of the values of ecosystem services
- Heightened awareness within local environmental agencies of poverty issues in their jurisdiction so that their management activities do not exacerbate poverty
- Ensuring communities involved in decision-making processes have clearly defined rights and can promote and defend community interests without exclusion from intellectual properties
- Recognition of diverse sets of local actors with different and possibly competing interests; do not assume static cultural norms and homogeneity within societies
- Provision of sustainable protein sources in the form of fish, birds, or mammals
- Facilitation of access to healthcare clinics and schools
- Improvement and/or diversification of livelihood options, including strengthening resiliency in the face of climate change
- Focus on women and other traditionally under-represented subsets of society
- Conducting environmental education that focuses on heightening awareness within younger generations of their unique cultural and environmental histories.
CREE recognizes the power in networking through both grassroots and top-down approaches. Grassroots approaches build on solid, democratic traditions directly targeting our focal audiences. At the same time, utilizing channels of powerful individuals and organizations recognizes obvious political and economic realities through which the conservation movement has to work. Given the history of failures in the conservation movement with respect to human rights, we see a diverse set of projects linked together through a poverty-environment theme as a start in the right direction.
Western and Right, 1994
Hulme and Murphy, 2001
Sanderson and Redford, 2003
Roe and Elliot, 2004