Linking ape conservation with economic development and social justice

Great ape conservation organisations are increasingly aware of the need to integrate issues relating to economic development and social justice if they are to be successful. This project aims to build capacity of organisations to do this internationally and in key African great ape range states.

2012 - ongoing
Dilys Roe

Principal researcher and team leader (biodiversity), Natural Resources

Conservation, communities and equity
A programme of work showing how IIED is building capacity to understand and implement equitable conservation and enhance community voice in conservation policymaking
A great ape (Photo: Noodlefish)

Promoting learning on how to address poverty and conserve habitats is crucial for protecting great apes, which live in some of the world's poorest countries (Photo: copyright Noodlefish)

Great apes are iconic species that are highly valued by the international community and are a high priority for various international conservation efforts. But their habitats are in some of the poorest countries of the world and the cost of conservation is often felt at the local level when great apes compete for space with local people dependent on the land for their livelihoods.

Conserving ape habitats also often entails trade-offs with potential land uses that may be important to national economic development.

Despite the trade-offs, the protection of great ape ranges is not devoid of economic value. In some countries – notably Rwanda and Uganda – ecotourism generates a significant source of national income. But revenues are rarely shared with local people to a level that generates real incentives for conservation.

As a result, a potentially valuable resource not only fails to realise its full potential to reduce poverty, but the actual, or perceived, negative impacts of conservation may result in local antipathy – or even outright hostility – to conservation efforts.

A priority for PCLG national groups

PCLG is an international network of people who work in conservation, development and indigenous/community rights that promotes learning on the links between nature conservation and people. Beside the international network coordinated by IIED, national PCLG groups have formed in Uganda, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Each group has its own membership and is responsible for setting its own priorities. Each has an interest in conserving critically endangered great apes.

Recent and current work has been funded by the Arcus Foundation and focuses on strengthening the capacity of conservation organisations to address issues relating to economic development, poverty reduction and social justice. It moves beyond a focus on how conservation organisations tackle poverty on the ground, to how they can make better links with development organisations, the private sector, parliamentarians and other institutions that influence investment decisions in great ape ranges.