Géraud de Ville

The Open University, Department of Engineering and Innovation
London, UK

Future Challenges, Local Solutions

Supporting communities is the most effective way to deliver sustainable development without destroying the environment

January 27, 2015

Attendees at an important meeting at the European Union, Brussels are encouraged to adopt a Community Owned Solutions approach within future funding and policy initiatives.

Andrea Borgarello - Creative Commons

Andrea Borgarello – Creative Commons

The Problem

Large-scale natural resource extraction and agricultural conversion is destroying and degrading essential ecosystems across the Global South. Policies to address this loss at regional, national and international levels often do not address the interests of local communities, marginalising them whilst not resolving environmental, social and economic issues. Policies such as top-down protected areas that impose strict conservation regimes can undermine or overrule local efforts at sustainable environmental management and create conflicts between communities, governments and developers.

A detailed analysis of policies by Project COBRA has found inconsistencies between policies at higher levels and the reality at the local level. Dr. Jay Mistry, Project Coordinator of Project COBRA, argues “Too often policies, such as payments for carbon, are implemented where richer countries offset their carbon emissions by transferring large sums of money to countries in the Global South to protect their forest. This often results in money being invested in large capital projects such as dam building. This directly impacts local people without achieving environmental protection. What we have found in the project is that working with communities to identify their own solutions and supporting these is a more effective way to protect the environment and sustainably manage it”.

The Solution

Project COBRA has worked with communities across the Guiana Shield region of South America to identify and share Community Owned Solutions. The communities themselves have identified what is needed for effective sustainable community-based natural resource management. These include the following: traditional ecological knowledge, linked to local cultural values; the exchange of this knowledge throughout the community, especially to young people; strong local support from civil society organisations and community leaders; support when needed from external organisations; and the adoption of new technologies in sustainable ways. The clear conclusion from the project is that community exchanges can be an effective and empowering approach to address social and environmental challenges in a long-lasting and cost-effective way.

Project COBRA has used cameras and videos for local people to identify and capture their most effective practices for managing natural resources, such as traditional fishing techniques. This has enabled them to share their community owned solutions with other communities.

Lakeram Haynes a community leader from Guyana states “It’s become harder to catch enough fish to feed our families, and our landscape is becoming increasingly polluted and degraded as a result of oil exploration, illegal gold mining, over harvesting of our fish by people from outsiders,  and commercial logging. Through Project COBRA, we have identified a range of Community Owned Solutions, such as selective fishing practices, rotational farming, community radio, which we are promoting to maintain the integrity and long-term survival of our whole social ecological system.”

Attendees at the Brussels conference have been presented with evidence for how the use of a Community Owned Solutions approach has the potential to ensure that policies and funding effectively deliver environmental, social and economic benefits. A sustainable approach to natural resource management can only be achieved if local communities are supported.



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