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Community-Based Conservation

Bolivia    Ecuador    Madagascar    Peru    Vietnam


Community garden in Mahabo, Madagascar
Community garden in Mahabo, Madagascar


Preventing further destruction of habitats in biodiversity-rich countries depends both on strengthening management of protected areas and on stimulating the efforts of trained, engaged people living in areas adjacent to protected lands. Because rural communities depend for their livelihood on the health of nearby ecosystems — and because environmental monitoring and conservation must ultimately be implemented at the local level — it is critical that local people have the understandings, skills, and economic incentives to manage their resources in ways that sustain natural ecosystem processes.

The Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development (CCSD) works to increase the capacity for and commitment to community-centered conservation in tropical countries so that community members become a driving force for sustainable development at the local level. In areas where the Missouri Botanical Garden conducts botanical research, CCSD engages members of local communities in working together as direct agents and beneficiaries to monitor and sustainably manage the biodiversity of their area. To achieve this goal, we help communities diagnose the barriers to sustainable use of the area and identify viable economic alternatives to ecologically unsound practices.  We then train communities in planning and implementing these alternatives. Close involvement of community members in developing activities that improve local livelihoods will help ensure lasting conservation.

We have found that we can contribute most effectively to locally-based conservation by focusing on communities in priority conservation areas where we are working. Thus, our community conservation efforts build upon and are closely integrated with our botanical research. We concentrate this research in a small number of unexplored areas where experience and preliminary studies lead us to anticipate exceptional species richness and endemism. In these areas we develop a comprehensive approach, conducting field studies to understand the area's richness and degree of endangerment, basing our student training programs there, and developing relationships with the local communities. During the initial phase of our work, we conduct extensive discussions with community leaders to reach agreement on how we can best use our expertise to help build long-term capacity for conservation.

Raising majas in captivity as an alternative to wild harvesting in Pasco, Peru
Raising majaz in captivity as an alternative
to wild harvesting in Pasco, Peru
Neighborhood greening program in Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Neighborhood greening program in
Santa Cruz, Bolivia

In our community conservation work we aim to achieve five goals, which we implement differently according to the circumstances and expressed needs of communities in particular areas:

1. Information-based environmental planning and sustainable resource use
We assist in conservation planning and sustainable resource management by providing reliable, scientifically-based information — e.g., analyses of data derived from botanical surveys, or results of research on the ecology and conservation status of particular species.

Rodolfo Vásquez, MBG curator-in-residence in Peru, speaking to schoolchildren about the importance of conserving the forests surrounding their villages
Rodolfo Vásquez, MBG curator-in-residence
in Peru, speaking to schoolchildren about
the importance of conserving the forests
surrounding their villages

2. Environmental education and awareness
We seek to develop a conservation outlook among local community members together with a sense of community responsibility for environmental protection and sustainable development — through environmental education programs in the schools, and community-wide programs to raise environmental awareness and explain research results and approaches to biodiversity and ecosystem conservation.

A training session for site-based community conservation facilitators in Firarazana on Madagascar's High Plateau
A training session for site-based community
conservation facilitators in Firarazana on
Madagascar's High Plateau
Community conservation of an endangered rattan species in the buffer zone of Bach Ma National Park, central Vietnam
Community conservation of an endangered
rattan species in the buffer zone of Bach Ma
National Park, central Vietnam

3. Participatory planning for sustainable, community-based management
We apply the information collected in our inventory of an area to help manage its resources sustainably and over the long term — namely, by fostering participatory design of management plans for sustainable land use and sustainable productive activities that communities themselves can develop and lead. We also provide expertise to help develop these sustainable activities. In some areas, we are developing ex situ conservation projects with local communities.

4. Capacity building for sustainable management
We work to increase local capabilities for sound management of an area’s resources at two levels: overall management of natural resources, and management of individual sustainable projects.

Technical training in resource management
We aim to develop a cadre of local parabiologists with abilities to conduct surveys of land use and biological resources, prepare management plans, and monitor land and resource use.

Skill development for participatory sustainable development activities
We build skills for conservation through experiential, field-based education for community members — e.g., through hands-on instruction for children in creating sustainable school vegetable gardens and through training for adults in implementing sustainable productive activities.

In some areas, partnerships with other non-governmental organizations allow us to incorporate capacity building for administering other aspects of community lands.

5. Community partnerships for improved livelihoods
We work with community members to reduce poverty and increase food security (e.g., by supporting development of vegetable gardens and cultivation of native fruit trees or by helping to improve community health) — important incentives to conservation and sustainable use of forest resources.

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Director, CCSD, Missouri Botanical Garden, P.O. Box 299, St. Louis, MO 63166 Phone: (314) 577-0871 CCSD@mobot.org © 2014