Conserving biodiversity and helping the poor improve their lives


IIED aims to change the way that conservation is implemented so that it conserves biodiversity and helps poor people improve their lives. We do this through facilitating dialogue, conducting and supporting research, and engaging in training and advocacy.

Members of a Indian women’s group in a field of Finger Millet. Photo: Bioversity International.

Many conservation agencies recognise the need to address poverty issues within their work. But they often miss opportunities to enhance the synergies between conservation and poverty alleviation, or to tackle the trade-offs between the two. At the very least agencies can learn from their own or others’ experiences.

IIED has a long track record of working on community-based approaches to conservation, but this is just one example of “pro-poor conservation”. There are many other opportunities for enhancing the synergies between conservation and poverty alleviation – or at the very least for making sure conservation efforts “do no harm”.

Policy rhetoric at the international, national and organisational levels increasingly recognises the need to link biodiversity with poverty reduction and/or to ensure that the needs of local people are taken into account. In the words of the 65th UN General Assembly in 2010: “preserving biodiversity is inseparable from the fight against poverty.”

But there is less consensus on how to put policy into practice and design or implement effective conservation strategies that also work for local livelihoods.

IIED aims to:

  • Promote dialogue and shared learning within the conservation community and between the conservation and international development community. Since 2004 we have convened and facilitated an international Poverty and Conservation Learning Group: a network of conservation and development organisations and individuals with an interest in sharing their experiences and learning from others about what works and what doesn’t.

  • Ensure that mainstream conservation interventions, particularly establishing and managing protected areas, take account of the social impacts that they have on neighbouring communities, and factor findings into government decision-making.

  • Work with the major international conservation agencies to increase their attention on improving livelihoods, reducing poverty and upholding human rights as part of their project work.

  • Promote the important role that local organisations can play in linking conservation and development in their countries.