Community engagement is one of IFAW’s key program areas. Here are some of the terms we commonly use when discussing our community engagement work.
In the context of conservation, coexistence refers to a dynamic state in which people and wildlife exist in proximity while meeting the interests and needs of both species. Human-wildlife conflict is a barrier to coexistence. We must take a holistic approach to reduce the incidents of HWCs through interventions that reduce direct pressures leading to conflict situations, improve institutional capacities of stakeholders to manage HWC, reduce the negative impacts of HWC and enhance collection, dissemination and sharing of HWC science data. Human wildlife coexistence is achievable through context-appropriate and well-informed collaborations of actors arriving at a way forward that is acceptable to those most directly involved.
Communal lands are typically rural territories that are characterized by communal rights of access and individual use of resources, accompanied by group control in which members share reciprocal rights and duties. Communal lands are often occupied by smallholder farmers who rely on mixed subsistence crop and livestock farming and/or small-scale commercial farming.
In conservation, community engagement (CE) is the process of working with groups of people who live alongside wild animals to collaboratively address socio-economic and environmental issues to enhance coexistence. Community engagement promotes participatory approaches, inclusivity, transparency, and people-centered decision making. Further, CE embraces and upholds traditional knowledge, innovations, and practices of local communities that are relevant for the conservation and sustainable customary use of biodiversity.
IFAW engages those living closest to the animals and habitats we strive to protect to create positive, sustainable change through:
- Managing human-wildlife conflict through holistic approaches that take local development and conservation plans, human aspiration, social dynamics, sectoral plans, drivers of conflict and local sociocultural contexts into consideration, and integrated approaches which consider and include interventions from all six elements (understanding the conflict, prevention, mitigation, response, policy and monitoring) of conflict management in project design.
- Conservation advocacy, governance, and leadership that considers the socio-economic and political circumstances, wellbeing needs, and lived realities of those most directly reliant upon biodiversity. Core principles include ensuring a rights-based approach to conservation action in which community agency, access and decision-making autonomy are supported and revitalizing the customary and local institutions that provide legitimate and adaptive strategies for biodiversity stewardship.
- Supporting holistic education approach which seeks to address the social, ethical, and environmental needs of buffer communities through integrated learning that provides whole-individual support (social, economic, and environmental) to members of communities living alongside wildlife.
- Promoting eco-friendly, nature-based livelihoods that consist of climate change-adaptable activities that help to restore ecosystems, conservation of biodiversity, and sustaining livelihoods. Amongst key benefits of the interventions under this pillar are creating alternate new and more resilient livelihood opportunities, creating jobs, and increasing incomes, including for vulnerable households, improving the overall resilience of local economies and society.
We work respectfully, collaboratively, and inclusively with communities to find lasting solutions that work for wildlife, people, and domesticated animals.
Constituency for conservation
A constituency for conservation is a population of people who support conservation initiatives and will vote for policy that protects nature and wildlife. IFAW aims to build a constituency for conservation through educational campaigns and community engagement.
Critical landscapes are areas that enable wildlife’s movement to access resources, ensure gene flow, shift their ranges, and establish new territories. They support and maintain the ecological processes and enhance connectivity—the degree to which the landscape facilitates or impedes movement. Despite being home to diverse wildlife species, including those that are endangered and threatened, anthropogenic and climate change induced impacts continue to threaten critical landscapes.
Human-wildlife conflicts are interactions between humans and wildlife with negative outcomes. People and wildlife share half of terrestrial surfaces, and as space increasingly overlaps, so does competition for limited resources, resulting in conflict.
The impacts of human-wildlife conflict are felt not just by communities that suffer from crop/livestock loss, loss of human life, or loss of biodiversity, but by the global community, which indirectly experiences its effects via the global supply chain and production of goods. Compounded by climate change, human-wildlife conflict has strongly emerged as a development and humanitarian concern, impacting most of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), making it a global significant threat to conservation and sustainable livelihoods.
Inclusive participation describes the process that empowers stakeholder groups including communities to participate in, benefit from, and own animal welfare and conservation initiatives that affect them.
Indigenous Peoples are the descendants of the earliest known inhabitants of their land, generally land which has been colonized or is now occupied by a number of peoples from various backgrounds. Historically, Indigenous Peoples have endured oppression from colonial rulers.
IFAW works to bring Indigenous Peoples and traditional leaders into conservation projects through community engagement. Their knowledge of the land and wildlife is valuable to protecting it.
Natural capital includes all of the natural resources in an area that may give economic value or provide services to people.
Poaching is the illegal hunting, trapping, or capturing of animals that are not one’s own, are a protected species, and/or are living in a protected area. Poaching isn’t just the killing of animals but also involves live trade and trafficking.
Social empowerment is a concept that promotes autonomy, self-determination, and direct participatory democracy, considering the sociocultural beliefs, knowledge, needs, interests, challenges, and opportunities of individuals and communities in relation to the ecosystems they inhabit and utilize. It aims to build the capacity of people living with wildlife to adapt to a changing environment.
Socio-economic development initiatives
Socio-economic development is the progress of a community towards higher levels of efficiency, well-being, justice, and democracy.
Sustainable land-use practices
Sustainable land-use practices are methods of agriculture and other land usage that are environmentally friendly and wildlife friendly in the long term and are regenerative. Examples include conservation tillage, cover cropping, and crop rotation, which can improve soil health, improve water filtration, and reduce erosion and degradation.
Sustainable livelihood strategies
Sustainable livelihoods are those that are viable in the long-term both for the working individual and the environment. With the threat of climate change and biodiversity loss, it’s important that people’s livelihoods are wildlife-friendly and climate-resilient. Sustainable livelihood strategies involve strategising how one makes a living, spends their money, and preserves existing assets and income in a way that is sustainable.
Traditional leaders are those serving as leaders in their community who hold authority due to customary ideas like lineage and descent. Traditional leaders often serve Indigenous Peoples. IFAW works to amplify traditional leaders’ voices in conservation.
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