Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page


The main challenge in protected areas is to conserve biodiversity while providing the basis for the social and economic development of local residents. In most parts of the world, biological fragmentation compares with social and economic fragmentation (see Box below). For biological diversity to be conserved and restored through the agronomic and planning practices outlined above, it must be understood that a considerable number of social, economic and or policy factors must be changed to encourage the adoption of such programmes. Ecological knowledge and economic feasibility are key to the further advancement of initiatives designed to increase the biodiversity of agricultural landscapes within protected areas. More importantly, collaborative management between both local communities and sectoral policy makers (e.g. agriculture, environment, tourism) is a pre-condition for success.

Biological fragmentation Social fragmentation Economic fragmentation
Species and ecosystem
Food insecurity Vulnerability of local economies
Micro-climate alterations Loss of life forms and practices Decreased production alternatives
Alteration of vital cycles (land, water, air) Loss of identity Homogenization of local economy
Species break-in Trust in local capacity lost Relationship with other economies lost
Landscape rupture and vulnerability Geographic and cultural uprooting Resources valued from a strictly economic point of view

Source: Solis Rivera et al., 2002

4.1 Generation and dissemination of ecological knowledge

Consumers awareness. To date, few agricultural lands in or around protected areas are managed organically and considerable knowledge (and subsequent policy efforts) will be required to convert current agricultural practices to organic practices. Lack of awareness on the benefits of organic agriculture, especially of policy-makers, remains a main constraint to its promotion and adoption. Increased awareness of both environmentalists and agriculturists of the promise of organic agriculture and connected tourism activities in protected areas (see Examples 2, 3, 4 and 7 in Annex) is key to the scaling-up of numerous but scattered successful experiences. An increased consumers' awareness of organic agriculture and connected biodiversity conservation practices creates a market demand, which in turn creates market-incentives for farmers to adopting biodiversity conserving practices. Studies conducted to date provide a strong basis to move forward to mobilize market and policy forces on behalf of organic agriculture.

Agro-ecological research. The promotion of food production in protected areas requires a commitment to expand research, which results are needed to direct choices made in policy, funding and markets. The lack of basic knowledge of biodiversity patterns in agricultural landscapes inhibits sound conservation practices. Understanding the complexity of trophic and other ecological relationships that are maintained in a structurally diverse farm require substantial research investments. Agro-ecological research, building on local or indigenous knowledge, is key to provide financially realistic management recommendations for farmers and to gain environmentalists acceptance of the agricultural activities in protected areas.

Restoration ecology is in its infancy and much research is required to provide practical answers on vegetation configurations and ecological processes in the food chain. Reclamation of degraded farmlands located near corridors, riparian habitats or protected areas deserves special attention (see Example 2 in Annex). Some natural products used in organic agriculture (e.g. pyrethrum, rotenone) are harmful to fauna and there is urgent need for more research to find suitable alternatives.

For tropical forest conservation, understory cropping associations deserves targeted research to better understand what mix and density of shade trees best enhances biodiversity and crop production (see Examples 3 and 4 in Annex). Assessments of the use of shade trees by forest organisms should be overlaid with information on the silvicultural and agronomic properties of those tree species. There is need to evaluate the impact of different management intensities and landscape settings on the long-term viability of birds, trees, epiphytes, invertebrates or mammals, especially those assumed to be dependent on vanishing wetlands and tropical forest habitats. In particular, the influence of surrounding land use on agro-ecosystem capacity for harbouring sensitive biodiversity (understudied taxa that are sensitive to anthropogenic disturbances) requires better understanding. Such knowledge is important in developing education and training programmes as well as advisory services to producers and protected areas managers.

Education and training. Multi-disciplinary education and training is key to the adoption of ecological production approaches by both agriculture and protected areas managers. Networking and joint ventures between producers and technical experts increase information flow and mutual learning: alternative forms of educational ventures facilitate exchange on production and on-farm biodiversity management and support training of local communities. Extension work may reinforce small farmers' knowledge on the need of biodiversity enhancing management for sustainable production (for example, on the low pest density value of a less common tall shade trees over cacao - see Example 3 in Annex). Extension workers could also provide materials and seedlings to build community nurseries (for improved intercropping) as well as cooperative assistance for reaching markets for certified products. Improved understanding of the value of integrating conservation planning with development, coupled with an improved foundation for additional incentives for farmers to grow biodiversity-friendly crops, has demonstrated to be successful (see example 7 in Annex).

Continued development of organic standards. Voluntary environmental and social certification schemes exist for agriculture products (plants and animals), fish farming, forest products and products gathered in the wild. Ecolabelling varies from Organic, through the Rainforest Alliance "Eco-OK", Bird Friendly, Predator Friendly, Forest Stewardship, Marine Stewardship to Fair Trade and Ethical Trade labels. These voluntary standards have the potential to both raise consumer awareness of sustainable and equitable land-use practices and offers financial incentive to farmers to raise their management standards.

What qualifies organic agriculture as the preferred management tool in protected areas is the prohibition on synthetic agricultural inputs and the organic inspection and certification system that ensures compliance with defined practices. However, requirements for practices which specifically target biodiversity in organic systems remain underdeveloped. Biodiversity standards for low-input agriculture in tropical forests exist (i.e. those of the Rainforest Alliance) and management principles and recommendations for biodiversity-compatible farms have been established by a number of scientists and institutions5. Although the latter standards are not inconsistent with organic standards, moderat use of agro-chemicals is allowed; however, provisions are made for maintaining a percentage of the farm area under forest, establishing riparian buffer zones, fostering diverse native canopies, creating processing plants that divert pulp and liquid wastes from local streams, and improving livelihoods (e.g. workers' rights).

Considering that organic products enjoy an established (and steadily growing) market demand, a combination of organic standards and biodiversity standards specific to tropical forests would be an optimal mix to improve the ecological and economic performance of agriculture in protected area landscapes. The organic agriculture community has started to move in this direction (see Box below). Such international standards would provide the foundation for developing standards tailored to local environments, traditions and specific production systems. In addition, there is need to develop certification schemes and labels proper to protected areas and buffer zones in order to create an improved market demand and supply for commodities produced in these areas. Such labels would increase adherence of farmers to schemes promoting biodiversity conservation and would encourage consumers' support to stewardship farmers and protected areas. The development of appropriate organic standards and certification for protected area landscapes can become an important tool for environmental regulations, conservation policies and programmes, extension services and environmental and agricultural financial schemes.

Standards for biodiversity on organic farms

Few countries have schemes which encourage farmers to conserve and create habitat for wildlife and to set aside a farm area for biodiversity purposes. Few national organic agriculture standards include specific provisions for biodiversity conservation: a biodiversity management plan for organic farms is requested in Sweden and Australia and is recommended in the United Kingdom. The provisions of the Codex Alimentarius guidelines are limited to the creation of habitat for natural enemies of pests. The IFOAM International Basic Standards for Organic Production and Processing include, inter alia, provisions for organic certification of products from Organic Ecosystems (2.1) and Wild Harvested Products (2.4) as well as draft standards for Forest Management (IFOAM, 2002). IFOAM is currently involved in further developing the Biodiversity Standards of its International Basic Standards in order emphasize the biodiversity objective of organic agriculture and enable the monitoring of its positive impact.

Organic farmers will be expected to set biodiversity conservation objectives and to develop a comprehensive biodiversity conservation management plan. Recommendations will include use of native and local varieties and breeds and mixed production, based on traditional practices. Organic systems will be required to safeguard wild habitats through clear restrictions on land clearing and to conserve habitats for beneficial organisms and wildlife. Standards are being developed for the establishment and maintenance of semi-natural areas on a representative size of the farm, conservation of trees and bushes, and proper management of grasslands. Habitat for endangered, migratory or keystones species is also addressed in a standard that request minimal conservation action when such species are recorded on the farm. Field boundaries, which are important corridors that link natural or semi-natural areas, will be required on organic farms, along with buffer zones and border between the field and natural ecosystems. A proposal will be made to request operators to minimally participate in landscape planning tools and habitat conservation projects concerning their region.

4.2 Market and capital incentives

Off-farm income generation. Organic agriculture has developed in response to market-demand and farmers' innovations and commitment to environmental quality. As discussed earlier, off-farm income generating activities such as agro-ecotourism, and eco-organic tourism in particular, provide a promising alternative to both small holders livelihoods and sustainable economic activities in and around protected areas.

Secure land tenure. Market pressures and the security of farmers over a given piece of land will largely determine the degree to which farmers are willing to adopt organic agriculture and other biodiversity conservation practices. The 2-3-year transition period required by organic certification schemes and the associated cost of transition represents a considerable investment for farmers. Farmers need to have secure and long-term access to lands in order to commit to the adoption of biodiversity conserving practices. For farmers without legal land tenure, tenure could be granted to farmers in exchange for adopting a defined set of conservation land use practices. In protected areas where land is legally owned by farmers, conservation easements may be used to identify land-use practices that must be maintained in exchange for cash payments from the purchaser. The purchaser is often a local, national or international land trust which holds conservation easements and monitors compliance with the legal agreement. A conservation easement is a legally binding plan that is attached to the deed of the property and transferred to anyone who may purchase the land in the future (INECE, 2002).

Securing capital incentives. Capital incentives are necessary to transition from strictly economically-driven activities to environmentally and socially sound productive activities. The adoption of technologies and approaches necessary for biodiversity conservation in agriculture include business partnerships, private capital investments and public incentive payments. Market-based and other private and public incentives compensate organic farmers for their stewardship efforts. Special interest business groups can provide a sizeable interested market (such as the "Bird Friendly" chocolate) and thereby secure some level of demand for the product (see Examples 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7 in Annex).

While market forces provide a sufficient drive for certified organic products, public support and other biodiversity schemes are of key importance for the start-up phase: during the 2-3 years conversion period, farmers cannot capture prices premiums and do incur yield losses. In particular, payment for ecosystem services should be transferred to farmers who grow crops in forests and other natural systems (e.g. wetlands, pastures) which are degraded and of great biodiversity concern. Financial incentives should also apply to buffer zone land holders, with a view to encourage farming practices that harbour dispersing native flora and fauna, cushion the impact of invasive species on protected areas, and stabilize agriculture encroachment at the park boundary.

Considering that 60 percent of terrestrial biodiversity is found on a mere 1.4 percent of Earth land area, support to farmers operating in these biodiversity "hot-spots" is a priority. Hotspots as well as all protected areas are islands where anything except collaborative management is not sustainable. Collaborative management requires intensive local science (agro-ecology and other ecosystem-based approaches) and a conducive political process. Investments in intensive local science and political processes is a pre-condition for the effective management of protected areas and biodiversity hot-spots.

Examples of capital incentives for biodiversity investments in organic systems

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Environmental and Natural Resource Law Centre (CEDARENA) have fostered over 60 contracts with private land holders in protected areas, protecting over 2 834 ha of cloud forest in the Monte Verde Preserve in Costa Rica. CEDARENA experts are helping landowners survey their lands and develop management plans that, for example, permit low impact farming in one area and preserving intact forest in another. At present, TNC and CEDARENA are working with Monte Verde land owners in drafting conservation easements to expand the biological corridor between Monte Verde and surrounding protected areas (INECE 2002).

An innovative land-use agreement is the creation of networks of landowners and landseekers whereby land is granted to organic farmers to develop local food systems while contributing to landscape stewardship. For example, the Linking Land And Future Farmers Association in Victoria, B. C., Canada, established in 1994, provides partnership planning advice to landowners and farmers and assist organic farmers activities through a number of facilities, including start-up grants for new farmers (LLAF, 1996).

Terra Capital Investors, run by the US-based Environmental Enterprises Assistance Fund has developed an investment fund to support biodiversity enhancing industries in Latin America. Terra Capital Investors is a ten-year fund established with US$15 million with targeted investments in organic agriculture, sustainable forestry, nature tourism, sustainable harvesting of non-timber forest products and aquaculture. Similar funds have been established to provide venture capital to businesses with explicit social and environmental goals. These include: the EcoEnterprise Fund of the Nature Conservancy which invests in projects in Latin America and the Caribbean and Kijani Initiative run by IUCN and the International Finance Corporation which targets development projects in Africa (Stolton, 2002).

In the United Kingdom, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs has established a series of incentives programmes, or agri-environment schemes, which focus on promoting environmental awareness and conservation practice with farmers. These voluntarily conservation agreements are an important tool in compensating farmers for income lost when establishing or improving environmentally beneficial aspects of farmland. Defra's Organic Farming Scheme was launched in April 1999. It provides producers with five years of area-based payments to support them through the conversion period, where additional costs and lower yields may be incurred. The programme includes seven separate schemes for land based preservation which serve to protect or restore rare elements the natural and cultural environment. Though such programmes exist on a voluntary basis at this time, they serve as foundation for developing production standards for the conservation of biodiversity (Defra, 2003b).

4.3 Governance and collaborative management

Participation and partnerships. Landscape management plans for protected areas often involve modifications of land-use practices or land tenure. Local cultural and livelihood needs must be considered along with conservation goals. The use of participatory appraisals of problems and solutions, collaborative management, and participatory monitoring/evaluation schemes are effective ways of integrating community member's interest and involvement and thus, generating long-term support to biodiversity conservation projects. Community-conserved areas are found in every region of the world and take a variety of forms, including indigenous reserves, community-managed ecosystems, managed landscapes, sacred forests and springs, partnership areas, and many privately or NGO protected lands. However, after a decade of implementation, community-based protected area management is still not widely accepted (or practiced) and more rigorous documentation of opportunities and constraints, including an analysis of effective incentive measures, is required for scaling-up (and sustaining) successful experiences (IUCN, 2002).

Eco-agriculture Partners

During the 2002 World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, Eco-agriculture Partners was established under the auspices of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the Future Harvest Foundation. Eco-agriculture Partners seek to transform landscapes where both agricultural production and natural biodiversity are highly valued to "eco-agriculture", defined as sustainable agriculture and associated natural resource management systems that simultaneously enhance productivity, rural livelihoods, ecosystem services and biodiversity. Eco-agriculture includes a wide range of systems and practices that integrate productivity goals (for crops, livestock, fish, trees and forests) with provision of ecosystem services (including biodiversity and watershed services) at a landscape level. Eco-agriculture systems make more space for wildlife by designating protected areas and corridors that also enhance local production and income, and improve the habitat value of productive areas by reducing pollution, improving resource management, or creating crop mixtures that mimic habitat conditions - while still maintaining or increasing productivity. Eco-agriculture Partners envision eco-agriculture systems wherever the demands for food, ecosystem services and rural livelihoods converge - in areas with large and small-scale farms, in developed and developing countries. IUCN and Future Harvest are also developing a complementary partnership to address the policy dimensions of integrating food production, environment, and poverty reduction goals, known as the Monterrey Bridge Coalition.

Source: Scherr S.J., 2002

Integrated policy and planning of protected areas and buffer zones. Organic agriculture alone cannot meet conservation challenges without landscape planning. Also, the ecosystem services on which organic agriculture depends can only be restored and maintained at the ecosystem level. The closed attempt to realign agricultural policy towards more environmentally sustainable systems is found in the agri-environmental programmes of the European Community; within this policy framework, organic agriculture has played a central role in many countries' policies, together with management agreements for biodiversity conservation (Stolton and Geier, 2002).

Globally, the fragmentation of natural habitats and the increasing livelihood needs of millions of people living in and around protected areas impose an integrated policy for nature conservation and agricultural development. Integrated policy, planning and management of protected areas represent a major challenge to the agriculture, forestry, environment and tourism sectors. Policies that reconcile the needs of both rural communities and nature conservation has been addressed on a number of occasions but implementation on the ground remains a major undertaking.

Public sector agencies and civil society institutions involved in environmental and agricultural and rural development, together with local community members, should establish cooperation agreements and plans to evaluate, implement and monitor a holistic approach to economic activities in protected area landscapes. Plans related to buffer zones for internationally supported parks should consider the positive environmental and economic effect of organically managed agro-ecosystems (e.g. in Latin America, biodiversity-friendly shade crops provide alternative corridors for large scale continental corridor initiatives as well as between parks within nations).

Financial support to stewardship farmers should be not be limited to agriculture agencies but should also be incorporated within park management plans and budgets. Specific strategies and programmes should be adapted to the specificities of each nation, region and area for agriculture, forestry, tourism and biodiversity conservation. Coordination is necessary with the landscape and town planning sectors in order to support mixed-use structures and facilities (e.g. recreational facilities, networks for tourist mobility). Strategic partnerships need to be established between farm operators and protected area managers with the involvement of community organizations and consumer associations, based on traditional cultures and living heritage.

FAO/UNEP International Technical Consultation on
Protected Area Management and Sustainable Rural Development
Harare, Zimbabwe, 1999
(Final Communiqué)

We, the participants, from 18 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and six international and bilateral organisations, in the FAO/UNEP International Technical Consultation on Protected Area Management and Sustainable Rural Development held in Harare, Zimbabwe from 26 to 29 October, 1999:

Having considered the documentation on the issues arising from the interaction between protected area management and sustainable rural development,

Considering the deliberations of the consultation in plenary and working group sessions, which were enriched by the participants' broad variety of experience,

Recognising the legitimate needs for both conservation and rural development and the complexity of reconciling these needs,

Recognising the diversity of ecological situations, and categories of protected areas and livelihood systems which were discussed in this consultation, and

Appreciating that there is a shared conviction that the past narrow, authoritarian approach to protected area management should be broadened to accommodate the wider needs and aspirations of society, and in particularly rural communities,

Advocate the following:

  • Review and analysis of existing policies, legislation, strategies and programmes which govern the creation and management of protected areas with a view to strengthening both these institutions and the communities, so as to better assimilate the new paradigms of conservation and the sustainable development of rural communities.
  • Promotion and evaluation of collaborative protected area management to develop replicable models of effective conservation and sustainable rural development.
  • Increasing the flow of sustainable benefits to rural communities from resources located in, and activities based on protected areas, without undermining the objectives for which the areas were established.

Urge that governments focus on meeting the needs of marginalized populations and communities in and around protected areas by making special provision for them in rural development policy and planning.

Urge FAO, UNEP and other international intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations both to recognize the critical importance of the issues relating to protected area management and sustainable rural development, and to ensure that the dialogue on these issues is continued, especially at a regional level.

Source: FAO/UNEP, 1999

5 For cacao, see Parrish et al., 1999; for coffee, see Mallet, 2001.

Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page