The Darwin Initiative Blog

Insights and personal musings from the world of biodiversity conservation and development. For more info on the Darwin Initiative see

Integrating poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation: Is there a ‘right’ approach?



Ecotourism: Training guides to foster development and conservation benefits in Myanmar. Photo credit: P Bates, 2014

Following on from last week’s blog, this week I’ve been reflecting the different ways of thinking about the relationship between poverty and biodiversity. My ponderings were inspired by reading this quote in Adams et al., (2004 p.1148):

‘[o]rganisations committed to the preservation of species and those committed to sustainable rural livelihoods based on natural resource use are likely to engage with issues of poverty and biodiversity in very different ways’.

It makes sense, right? Organisations have different goals and priorities, which means that they will have different ways of thinking about and addressing the relationship between poverty and biodiversity. Adams et al., (2004) outlines four approaches:

  1. Poverty and conservation are separate policy realms;
  2. Poverty is a critical constraint on conservation;
  3. Conservation should not compromise poverty reduction;
  4. Poverty reduction depends on natural resource conservation.

In terms of finding solutions, this way of thinking suggests that we need to differentiate between the end goal (i.e. is it poverty alleviation, biodiversity conservation, or both?) and the means to achieve the goal. For example, if we think that poverty is a constraint on conservation, then it makes sense to address poverty as a means to promote conservation, which is similar to the way Flora and Fauna International talk about this relationship on their website ( There are lots of other organisations that we could try and categorise, but my question is, does categorising these different approaches serve a useful purpose?


Engaging with development and conservation issues in Mauritius. Photo credit: University of Newcastle, 2007

I guess that recognising that there are different approaches is an important first step, then you can start to understand how organisations (and individuals) approach issues of poverty and biodiversity.

Does this mean that we should be trying to work out what is the ‘best’ way or the ‘right’ approach?

Research has tried to analyse what the best approach might be (see for example Salafsky, (2011)). But given what we know about the context-specific nature of biodiversity-poverty links, it’s likely that there isn’t a ‘best’ way. However, I think that starting to unpack what works, for whom, in what circumstances, and what we can learn from this is helpful. There’s also potential to start asking why things do / do not work, as this could help to identify the underlying processes that influence poverty and biodiversity initiatives. This could potentially be very useful for the Darwin Initiative, as well and contributing to wider debates. As usual, there’s lots to think about ……

In other news this week, the technical team working on the review of the Darwin Initiative are trying to narrow down the research focus and identify research questions. There are so many potential questions, gaps, and interesting avenues that the research could take, so deciding is proving to be a challenge – it’s certainly been a head-scratching week!

Adams, W. M., Aveling, R., Brockington, D., Dickson, B., Elliott, J., Hutton, J., … Wolmer, W. (2004). Biodiversity conservation and the eradication of poverty. Science (New York, N.Y.), 306(2004), 1146–1149. doi:10.1126/science.1097920

Salafsky, N. (2011). Integrating development with conservation. A means to a conservation end, or a mean end to conservation? Biological Conservation, 144(3), 973–978. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2010.06.003

Blog post by Jami Dixon, LTS Research Associate leading a thematic review of the links between poverty and biodiversity in projects funded through the Darwin Initiative

Blog post by Jami Dixon, LTS Research Associate leading a thematic review of the links between poverty and biodiversity in projects funded through the Darwin Initiative


Author: darwininitiativeuk

The Darwin Initiative is a UK government grants scheme that helps to protect biodiversity and the natural environment through locally based projects worldwide.

2 thoughts on “Integrating poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation: Is there a ‘right’ approach?

  1. Pingback: Nibbles: Citrus greening, Deforestation, OFSP, Sugarbeet breeding, Poverty & conservation, Indian tribals, Eat This Podcast, Musalit, WorldVeg DG search

  2. Pingback: Integrating biodiversity and poverty alleviation: insights from the Darwin Initiative | The Darwin Initiative Blog

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