IIED publishes updated guide to social assessment for protected areas

The new, expanded second edition incorporates practical learning from sites in five countries and strengthens focus on governance and equity.

News, 14 November 2018
Publication cover

The cover of the second edition of the Social Assessment for Protected and Conserved Areas (SAPA) Methodology Manual for SAPA Facilitators (Image: IIED)

IIED has published a new edition of the facilitators' manual for the social assessment for protected and conserved areas. The new edition is being published ahead of the 14th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which takes place in Egypt later this month.

The current CBD strategic plan calls for ‘equitable management’ of protected areas (PAs) by 2020, and equity is likely to remain a key issue in the CBD’s post-2020 strategic plan. But progress towards delivering more equitable management has been limited, with few people understanding the meaning of equity in a conservation context, or how to measure it.

The Social Assessment for Protected and Conserved Areas (SAPA) methodology is a relatively simple, low-cost approach for assessing the positive and negative impacts of a protected area on the wellbeing of people living within and around the PA.

SAPA is designed to be used by managers of PAs and CAs (government agencies, the private sector or communities) working together with other key stakeholders and rightholders at local and national levels. The SAPA manual is primarily written for facilitators of the assessment. The first edition has been downloaded almost 2,000 times.

What’s changed?

The manual provides detailed guidance for assessing the social impacts – positive and negative – of PAs/CAs and any related conservation and development activities. It is designed to explain key concepts, and take the facilitators through the SAPA process, step by step.

The new edition has been expanded to incorporate learning from using the first edition in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Gabon and Zambia. It strengthens the elements of the methodology that focus on the governance and equity of PAs, and puts more emphasis on taking action – to increase uptake of the ideas for action that are generated by an assessment.

It explicitly extends the range of sites where SAPA might be used to include conservation areas that may not have been formally designated as PAs. For this reason the methodology's long form name has been expanded to Social Assessment for Protected and Conserved Areas, but it remains SAPA for short.

The new 99-page SAPA manual replaces the first edition and is available for free download from the IIED Publications Library.

New opportunities for SAPA

IIED senior researcher Phil Franks says the release of this second edition coincides with a series of new opportunities for using SAPA. IIED and partners are starting a new project focused on enhancing the equity and effectiveness of protected area conservation. The project will use the updated methodology to institutionalise social equity assessments and action planning in eight PAs in Kenya and Uganda, and will initiate similar processes in Liberia and Malawi.

Several major funders of protected area support projects have now reviewed SAPA and endorsed its use, including the German Development Bank KFW, which supports around 300 PAs globally, and the World Bank (specifically in Mozambique).

Franks says: "We are excited about the opportunities SAPA provides for improving the effectiveness and equity of PA/CA conservation."
He says using standardised assessment data from multiple sites can help to build a broader, more balanced picture of the social impacts of PAs/CAs. He adds that the SAPA team welcomes feedback on the manual, and is happy to provide remote technical support where needed.

A practical solution to the challenge of measuring equity

Evidence from the research of IIED and its partners indicates that people’s resentment towards PA conservation relates not just to a perceived inequity in the distribution of social impacts of PAs, but also to the reluctance of some authorities to recognise local community concerns and to strengthen PA governance procedures.

People’s perception of equity is important because a sense of fairness or unfairness shapes the opinions and actions of people in relation to PAs/CAs. So a sense of unfairness can be a significant motivating factor for poaching and other illegal activities.

The revised SAPA methodology provides a practical solution to the challenge of understanding and measuring equity, by incorporating questions on key governance issues, including: recognition of rights, participation in decision making, transparency in information sharing, fair sharing of benefits, and the mitigation of negative impacts.

SAPA also looks at how positive or negative impacts differ among local people according to factors such as wealth, ethnicity, age and gender. This is important because an overall positive impression of the social impacts of conservation sometimes hides serious inequity in their distribution, with negative impacts falling more on poorer people, particularly women, and benefits going to wealthier people, particularly men.