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If you want better conservation, you need to recognize and engage with local experts

In a book entitled “Conservation Research, Policy and Practices” researchers argues that combining conventional scientific approaches and indigenous and local knowledge can move biodiversity protection forward. Illustration from Kathita river, one of the case examples in the authors book chapter. Photo: P. Malmer

Story highlights

  • A review and three case-stories show synergies between Indigenous and local knowledge and conservation science
  • Cross-fertilization of knowledge led to stronger partnerships and better conservation outcomes
  • The Multiple Evidence Base (MEB) approach can guide the design and implementation of collaborative conservation partnerships

Why mobilizing different types of knowledges creates opportunities for long-term sustainable governance

A FULL AND OPEN DIALOGUE: Conservation has for Indigenous peoples and local communities historically often been associated with dispossession of land.

More recently, conservation interventions increasingly recognize the need to partner with local communities and acknowledge the importance of Indigenous and local knowledge systems for managing critical biodiversity.

Such collaborations must be equitable and just to be effective in the long term.

But, with deep potential inequalities and power imbalances in these knowledge partnerships, how could diverse sources of evidence be combined?

Multiple Evidence Base

In a book recently published by Cambridge University Press entitled “Conservation Research, Policy and Practices”, centre authors Pernilla Malmer, Vanessa Masterson and Maria Tengö along with Beau Austin from the Charles Darwin University argue that, taken together, conventional scientific approaches and indigenous and local knowledge can move sustainable development forward in new and important ways.

One way of achieving effective solutions for biodiversity protection is to mobilize multiple knowledges, values and governance systems through collaboration between Indigenous and local knowledge and practices, and Western approaches to science.

Pernilla Malmer, lead author

The authors describe how the Multiple Evidence Base (MEB) approach can guide the design and implementation of collaborative conservation partnerships.

The approach views differing perspectives and methodologies as complementary rather than conflicting, and equally valid and useful for informing and enhance governance of biodiversity.

It has contributed to a move towards broader recognition and inclusion of Indigenous and local knowledge holders in multi-level ecosystem assessments such as The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

The authors review scientific and grey literature to describe the extent of uptake of the MEB approach and it’s application in science and policy-practice processes.

Overcoming power imbalances

The authors present three cases to illustrate how a MEB approach can help in overcoming power imbalances, recognizing the integrity of knowledge systems, creating conditions and methodologies for full and open dialogue, and navigating cultural differences: the Kimberly region in Australia, Tharaka river region in Kenya, and the Global Dialogue on Human Rights and Biodiversity Conservation.

The latter two case studies draw on long term engagement with SwedBio’s collaborative partnerships with Indigenous peoples and local communities.

Malmer and her colleagues conclude that a collaborative, inclusive approach such as MEB has potential to support the inclusion of a wider range of evidence in conservation practice, strengthen active participation of local actors and improve conservation partnerships through the recognition and revitalization of local knowledge systems and governance.

"Ultimately, the MEB approach contributes to a much-needed conceptual mind shift to mobilize all knowledge that is useful for maintaining the life-supporting ecosystems in our world."

Read more and download the book chapter here

Published: 2020-05-11


Malmer, P., Masterson, V., Austin, B., & Tengö, M. 2020. Mobilisation of indigenous and local knowledge as a source of useable evidence for conservation partnerships. In W. Sutherland, P. Brotherton, Z. Davies, N. Ockendon, N. Pettorelli, & J. Vickery (Eds.), Conservation Research, Policy and Practice (Ecological Reviews, pp. 82-113). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781108638210.006

Link to publication

For more information about the book chapter, please contact Pernilla Malmer:

Pernilla Malmer is a senior advisor for SwedBio, working on issues connected to agriculture and biodiversity.


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