A landmark report released by The Nature Conservancy has demonstrated that effective conservation measures - far from simply benefiting the local biota - can also help alleviate poverty. The study, co-authored by Nature Conservancy policy advisor Craig Leisher, economist Peter van Beukering and social scientist Lea M. Scherl, showed that well-managed marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Asia-Pacific region - at sites in Fiji, Indonesia, the Solomon Islands and the Philippines - cut poverty rates and boosted the quality of life for residents of impoverished communities.
They did so by improving fish catches, increasing the number of new jobs created (mostly through eco-tourism), empowering women and by generally ameliorating community health. Moreover, they helped reinforce good management practices by strengthening local governance. The authors conducted over 1,100 interviews with local residents from the four sites - each of which had been picked because of the perceived benefits of its conservation projects - to determine what impact the MPAs had had on their economic status and overall quality of life. The overwhelmingly positive response was best articulated by a Fijian community leader, who explained that, "The marine protected area is like a bank to the people. Opening more branches of the bank in developing countries can contribute to coastal poverty reduction."
Leisher told us that he and his colleagues had recently presented the results of their study at an APEC summit; the feedback they received, he told us, was very favorable - even from high-level officials who had often been more skeptical about the merits of conservation. He hopes this study will help stimulate a wave of new conservation efforts in these and other developing countries in Africa and other parts of Asia.
He and his colleagues are hoping that this study will help convince economists and policymakers that ocean and coastal management need not only be about protecting the environment - that they can actually offer up measurable financial and health benefits to local communities. Looking further ahead, Leisher sees this study encouraging local governments to invest in a variety of conservation projects - not just marine protected areas (MPAs).
Via ::The Nature Conservancy: How Marine Protected Areas Help Alleviate Property (press release)