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As stated in the report from the Fifth meeting of the Subsidiary body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice to the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) (SBSTTA/5/11, p.1): “The ecosystem approach is a strategy for integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way. It is based on the application of appropriate scientific methodologies focused on levels of biological organization which encompass the essential processes, functions and interactions among organisms and their environment. It recognizes that humans, with their cultural diversity, are an integral component of ecosystems.”

Dan Janzen from the University of Pennselvannia, who participated in this CBD meeting, makes the important point that wildlife conservation is highly “place specific” and therefore is really wildland conservation. Furthermore, wildland conservationists cannot afford to condone a “hands-off” policy, since this inevitably leads to neglect and continued patterns of over-exploitation. Successful wildland management involves a proactive approach, through development of enlightened and friendly government policies, together with decentralized, knowledge-based management on the part of the local populace - a process which Janzen refers to elsewhere as the “gardenification of nature”. The case study presented here adheres closely to the spirit of the CBD’s ecosystem approach.

This study describes in detail the activities of an FAO project (GCP/SYR/009/ITA), which aims to promote biodiversity conservation in the Syrian Arab Republic, through the development of the first nature reserve of the country; extend rangeland rehabilitation; provide extension services to local communities; and strengthen conservation education and awareness raising among decision-makers and civil society. This latter activity is particularly relevant for conserving biodiversity: carrying out biodiversity conservation activities requires a real change in the mentality of people. The crucial changes in attitude triggered by the project are illustrated by the answers and opinions given in the three interviews with local people that conclude this case study. The study also highlights how the rediscovery, within the project area, of a bird that is critically endangered at a global level is catalysing interest and raising ecological awareness at local and national levels. The FAO project team, in collaboration with nomadic Bedouin herders and local hunters, detected, identified and documented over 350 species of fauna during two years of field surveying. The present case study shows the vital role that local knowledge plays in conserving biodiversity and ecosystem function in semi-arid rangelands.

Peter Kenmore
Inter-Departmental Working Group on
Biological Diversity in Food and Agriculture

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