By Joanne Gordon
This is a very exciting time for the Darwin Team – this is the time of year when we welcome all our newly funded project. I really enjoy learning about the new projects and organisations behind them – it’s great to see Darwin going in all sorts of new directions, targeting different issues across the globe. As my first ever blog post (eek!), I thought you might enjoy hearing about them too! I am interested in how projects approach the nexus of biodiversity and poverty reduction (see Jami’s blogs for some thought provoking ideas!) so I’m reflecting on how our new projects approach this, and how the intend to meet the dual objectives of Darwin.
This year, 19 new Darwin Main projects have been funded as well as 2 scoping projects, 2 post projects and 11 projects under Darwin Plus. Four new Darwin fellowships have also been announced. We have projects starting up all on multiple continents, from Africa, Asia and Central America. The full list of projects can be found here.
The projects cover many thematic areas, from fisheries management in Madagascar (WCS) to bean production in Tanzania and Malawi (RBG Kew) and community fire management in Belize (UoE). It is interesting to see how projects are linking biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction. Many of them focus on improving and diversifying sustainable livelihoods.
For example, WCS’s project in Belize: “Maximizing benefits of Marine Reserves and Fisheries Management in Belize” aims to increase catch-per-unit-effort and income, strengthen ecosystems health and provide a model for expansion of no-take zones and managed access programs. This project looks at poverty from a monetary standpoint, which is entirely valid, especially when discussing fisheries as they have such large economic value.
Projects also connect conservation with poverty reduction through the use and management of natural resources. For example, University of Edinburgh’s project: ‘Conserving pine woodland biodiversity in also in Belize through community fire management’ aims to conserve the biodiversity of pine woodlands in southern Belize is by developing community-based wildfire management, with local communities. It is interesting to see connections between sustainable use and management of natural resources, with improved wellbeing of local communities.
Also, the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust project ‘Establishing Sustainable Management of the Lake Sofia Catchment Madagascar’ are working to ensure that over 10,000 wetland dependant people have secure access to natural resources and are part of a community-based management regime which improves food security/wellbeing/livelihoods and ecological conditions. This ambitious task to ensure access to natural resources for 10,000 people is ambitious and demonstrates the importance of sustainable natural resource management for both environmental conservation and poverty reduction. Using sustainable resource management is probably one of the more diverse ways to connect poverty and biodiversity since you can look at it from many different angles. Improving management of natural resources can improve food and water security for local communities, as well as enhancing local biodiversity and demonstrating the importance of conservation for both people and nature.
Interestingly, University of Aberdeen are working to reduce livestock losses, increase income and improve attitudes, leading to stable or increased abundance of snow leopards and wild ungulates in their project ‘Collaborative conflict management for community livelihoods and conservation’ in Mongolia, Kyrgyz Republic, and Pakistan. I am keen to learn how they plan to influence behaviours, and changing attitudes in conflict management. I think this is a forward thinking project, which could influence how future Darwin projects considers the nexus of biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction. It emphasises the link between conservation and social spheres, and that the key to successful long term conservation, especially in trade, is the support of local communities.
We have many more great projects starting up (as well as those that are on-going), and they all bring something new and interesting to the table. I’m sure the Darwin team will continue to share their progress with you this blog. You could also check out our quarterly newsletter. The next one is on Darwin and trade and should showcase some creative ideas. We also have a project of the month on our social media pages where we highlight any new achievements projects have made, or if you like you can browse the projects database on our website.
See, the Darwin world is a very interesting place to be right now!