Conserving biodiversity communally

Biodiversity conservation appears to be integral to many traditional management systems from tropical forests to coastal fisheries. For example, some groups manipulate the local landscape to augment its heterogeneity, use conservation 'rules of thumb' to help use species-rich communities sustainable, and integrate the production of several multi-species systems. Thus, self-interest of traditional peoples has been key to biodiversity maintenance. Guidelines and policy prescriptions for the success of community-based biodiversity conservation include eliminating open-access conditions by defining property rights, balancing resource-use rights against responsibilities, and legalizing community resource-use rights.
Arabuko Sokoke Forest on the north coast of Kenya is ranked as the second most important forest in Africa for bird conservation and is under consideration as a World Heritage Site. In 1991, most of the forest adjacent residents were unhappy with the presence of the forest and 54% wanted it totally cleared; the reasons were wildlife crop raiding, denial of access to resources, and hunger for land. In February 1994, seven local councillors and some 5,000 squatters invaded the southern Kararacha area and started to cut plot lines.

A turnaround in the situation was initiated by an ethnobotanist. The resource base of the project is the butterflies in the forest. Recognizing the considerable demand for tropical butterflies for the live butterfly exhibit industry in Europe and America, he reasoned that substantial revenues could be earned by the forest edge community by rearing Arabuko Smoke butterflies for export, without a single tree needing to be cut.

The project involved the identification and propagation of local butterfly hostplants. The number of pupae exported grew from around 10,000 in 1994 to over 46,000 in 1998. Earnings increased correspondingly; by 1998, cumulative export and community earnings exceeded US$ 100,000 and KSh 2,000,000. After three years of butterfly farming there had been no adverse impact on the wild butterfly populations. More importantly, the project had had significant impact on both attitudes and incomes. The proportion wishing to conserve at least part of the forest had risen from 41% in 1993 to 84%, and butterfly earnings estimated to contribute some 73% of farmer's cash incomes from farm products.

Type Classification:
D: Detailed strategies