Around the world, local communities and indigenous peoples are key stewards of the natural places WWF works to conserve. They depend on forests, fisheries and wildlife for their ways of life. Over generations, many have developed knowledge and practices to sustainably use and protect natural resources. Yet local people face growing challenges to their ability to be good stewards, including:
external competition for land and resources
insecure rights to land and resources
limited economic opportunities
limited access to health, education and other social services
WWF has offered a way for community members to help rehabilitate their forests and earn a living. Our reforestation programs in Indonesia help preserve our most precious wildlife and empower local people.
To address these challenges, WWF works to strengthen communities’ ability to conserve the natural resources they depend upon. We help them secure the rights, capacities and knowledge they need to strengthen their role as stewards of the environment, and improve their livelihoods and health. We also promote innovation, learning and implementation of strategies to expand community conservation across larger landscapes. This includes:
facilitating links across communities
building capacity of support institutions
promoting policy frameworks for community tenure, decentralized governance and sustainable livelihoods
collaboration to address environment-related threats to community land
Indigenous and traditional peoples around the world maintain close ties to their ancestral lands and traditional knowledge important for conservation. We support collaborative conservation approaches that contribute to securing customary land and resource rights, strengthening community organizations and generating livelihoods from well-managed resources.
Girls and women often play a central role in natural resource management and use—collecting forest products for food, medicine and firewood, and water for their families. Yet they are often excluded from participating in community decisions about resources, due cultural, legal and other barriers. We help them gain better access to education and health services such as improved drinking water, sanitation, vaccinations, and family planning so they can improve their lives and help lead environmental change in their families and communities.
Many of the most important conservation places in the world are sacred and tied closely to the spiritual and cultural identities of their people. WWF's Sacred Earth program works with religious leaders and faith communities to address threats to the places we all value and to encourage genuine sustainable development.
Competition over land is both a direct and underlying cause of conflict in Colombia, South America. WWF focuses on tackling fundamental causes of conflict such as control of land and access to natural resources, while enabling indigenous groups to assert their rights.
Namibia is home to an array of wildlife, from ostriches and zebras roaming the gravel plains to penguins and seals chilling in the Atlantic currents. It was the first African country to incorporate protection of the environment into its constitution. With WWF’s help, the government has reinforced this conservation philosophy by empowering its communities with rights to manage and benefit from the country’s wildlife through communal conservancies.
Good governance in conservation involves a policy environment and empowered civil society organizations that support democratic participation in decision-making about environmental matters and equitable access to the benefits of conservation. WWF’s conservation work includes efforts to promote governance using multiple approaches ranging from the local to global scale.
For more than five decades, WWF has collaborated with indigenous peoples and local communities on activities such as conservation area management, sustainable use of natural resources, and policy advocacy on issues of shared concern. Our approach and some of our project successes are summarized in this fact sheet.