Unleashing the potential of local organisations in linking conservation and development


IIED is supporting and raising the profile of local organisations in East Africa to help make the case for investing in and scaling-up community-based approaches to transforming landscapes, economies and rural societies.

Project partners share their experiences during a global learning network meeting in Uganda. Photo: Bill Vorley

National and international agencies increasingly recognise that grassroots institutions, independent of the state, whose members and beneficiaries have strong links to a specific geographical place and community, underpin the success and sustainability of most environmental and developmental initiatives.

The role of local organisations has been emphasised, for example, in the practical and policy guidance on reaching the international targets set by the Millennium Development Goals and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

Yet there is still not enough attention paid to supporting local organisations and creating conditions that bring out the best from them.

Building directly on IIED’s experience of working on community-based approaches to conservation in Africa and elsewhere, we have recently been working in collaboration with Birdlife International and the Equator Initiative to understand the roles and common enabling and constraining factors that affect the work of five East African organisations in linking conservation and development. These organisations include:

  • the Kijabe Environment Volunteers, Kenya
  • the Muliru Farmers Conservation Group, Kenya,
  • Uplift the Rural Poor, Uganda
  • the Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development, Uganda and
  • the Forest of Hope Association in Rwanda.

Through an analysis of the respective profiles of the five organisations, we seek to make targeted recommendations for how the ‘enabling environment’ in which local organisations work could be improved in order to achieve better outcomes for maintaining biodiversity through conservation, and also for local community development.

Read more about why working with local organisations can be an important entry point for conservation and poverty reduction based on the experiences of Birdlife International, and our recommendations for governments, development agencies and donors if we want local organisations to thrive.


Poverty, Biodiversity and Local Organisations: Lessons from BirdLife International, David Thomas (2011) IIED Gatekeeper series