Celine Tschirhart

Royal Holloway University of London
Egham, United Kingdom

Discussing the effectiveness of community-based management

COBRA at the 13th Congress of the International Society of Ethnobiology, Montpellier 20 - 25 May 2012

June 21, 2012

Between the 20th and 25th May 2012, in Montpellier, COBRA participated to the 13th Congress of the International Society of Ethnobiology. This Congress brought together researchers, practitioners, funding organisations and indigenous people from all over the world to discuss the diversity and sustainability of links between indigenous people and their natural environment.


COBRA participated in a ‘fishbowl discussion’ within Session 43: Assessing the effectiveness of community-based management strategies : concepts and methods for biocultural diversity conservation. This session brought together representatives of a consortium of 10 European and Latin America institutions, COMBIOSERVE which obtained a grant under the European Union FP7 Environment call for proposals on ‘Community Based Management of Environmental Challenges’ (the same source of funding as COBRA). Based on the papers that the different representatives presented, concepts and methods for exploring the effectiveness of community conservation were discussed and external commentators from the ICCA Consortium (Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas,) provided their perspectives.

The papers presented by the speakers focused on a wide range of issues concerning indigenous communities and their environment: land use and landscape changes, resilience, local politics and political networks, indigenous rights and self-motivation, perceptions of over-use, worldviews in the creation of indicators. Methods ranged from collection of secondary data, to participatory mapping, classical questionnaires and interviews, participatory workshops and games.

The following questions were discussed:

Can we really postulate that indigenous communities develop the “best-practice”? Isn’t there a risk of stereotyping and idealising indigenous practice? Is integrating community management really effective? How can we ensure its effectiveness? How can we reconcile the objectives of different stakeholders, from local to global levels? What role should the different stakeholders play, between observation and action?

The discussions have also revealed strong tensions between:

  • tradition and modernity for the communities
  • local and global for the range of stakeholders involved in community conservation
  • observation and action

In COBRA, we are dealing with most of these issues, trying to work towards the best practice through Participatory Action Research and integrating the perspectives of stakeholders at different scales.

Over the rest of the Congress the following themes came up recurrently:

  • Traditional Ecological Knowledge and its importance to improve resilience of indigenous societies
  • Collaboration research, Participatory Research, co-enquiry: it was obvious that more and more studies integrate empowerment and action in their processes
  • The value of biodiversity: should we/could we integrate intangible human values such as beauty to measure the importance of biodiversity?



QUICK DOWNLOAD: Check out the English version of the COBRA Handbook for Practitioners.