Local people preserve the environment better than governments

05/08/2014 15:44

Source: New Scientist

 

In Guatemala's Peten region, which includes the Maya Biosphere Reserve, the rate of forest loss in government-protected areas is 20 times that in areas under community control. Only communities are able to repel encroaching cattle ranchers, says Andrew Davis of Fundación PRISMA, a research institute in San Salvador, El Salvador.

New research shows this fear is mostly misplaced. Community control, it turns out, conserves forests and possibly wildlife, too (see "Stop extinctions, stop slavery"). What's more, by keeping carbon trapped in those forests, it may help stop climate change.

A report from the World Resources Institute and the Rights and Resources Initiative, both in Washington DC, reviews over 130 earlier studies in 14 countries. Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change concludes that most communities are better forest custodians than governments.

These communities are made up of indigenous people with the legal right to control what happens in their ancestral lands. Like the Wapichan, they want to protect the natural resources they depend on.

The report finds that, in the Brazilian Amazon, deforestation since 2000 in areas under the control of groups like the Yanomami and Kayapo has been at 0.6 per cent, compared to 7 per cent outside. The report also cites the case of Indonesia, with just over 2 per cent of its forests under legal community control. This may explain why it has overtaken Brazil as the country losing forest cover fastest.

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