News From Fortress Conservation the inclusion of people: The origin of protected area zoning

In the second half of the 20th century, more and more conflicts between local people and park authorities emerged in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Being confronted with local communities that fought back and NGOs that focused on human rights and justice, conservation agencies gradually started to rethink the fortress approach. 

Source Partners For Conservation
Release date 22/12/2015
Contributor Emmanuel BUGINGO
Geographical coverage Rwanda
Keywords Man and Biosphere,

In the second half of the 20th century, more and more conflicts between local people and park authorities emerged in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Being confronted with local communities that fought back and NGOs that focused on human rights and justice, conservation agencies gradually started to rethink the fortress approach. They realized that control alone was not sufficient and started looking for ways to integrate human development into conservation. At the 1968 Biosphere Conference in Paris, organizes by UNESCO, it was stated that conservation and use by local people should be reconciled. This was a first shift away from the preservation paradigm.

In 1971, the Man And Biosphere programme was introduced by UNESCO and this marked the start of the creation of biosphere reserves. The idea underlying the biosphere reserves was that local people will be willing to cooperate in conservation efforts provided there a certain benefit for them. Biosphere reserves were designed using a zonation system. The core area was meant for strict conservation with no or minimal human disturbance. The surrounding area was called a "buffer zone". In this area more human activities were allowed, but only those that were compatible with the conservation objectives.

The outer zone was called the "transition area" in which more emphasis was put on development. It was within these buffer and transition zones that conservation agencies were forced to think about how to combine community interests with conservation interests. In practice these ideas were difficult to implement. Moreover, existing national parks sometimes became the core areas of biosphere reserves and in such cases the establishment of a buffer zone actually led to additional restriction of local use. In this way it can be argued that parks actually encroached upon local people’s territories.

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