Conservation and Poverty Reduction: A Shared Future

16 November 2023
For our first jointly hosted and in-person conference, Jersey Overseas Aid (JOA) and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, brought together international experts from the conservation and international development sectors to discuss how conservation and environmental preservation can help to eradicate poverty.

The planet is facing significant challenges that are intrinsically linked – poverty and inequality, climate change and biodiversity loss. To solve these issues, sustainable and integrated solutions need to be found.

The conference, ‘‘Biodiversity Conservation and Rural Livelihoods: A Shared Future”, which took place recently in London, saw more than 90 practitioners, donors and academics in the fields of conservation and international development discuss, how through collaboration, they can tackle these pressing, interwoven issues.

The Conservation Livelihoods conference was a forum for meaningful dialogue and collaboration, inspiring a collective commitment to safeguard the environment through support to the livelihoods and wellbeing of local communities – and vice versa. The event showcased the urgency of addressing conservation challenges and highlighted the crucial role of partnerships, innovation, and data-driven decision-making in advancing global conservation efforts.

The way people use and take care of nature affects the global economy, livelihoods, and even survival. More than half of the world's money depends on nature, and nearly two-thirds of the poorest people rely on nature directly for their food, jobs, and safety.

Unfortunately, the environment is being damaged through harmful farming and industrial practices, which is causing huge damage to natural systems. Farms are becoming less productive, fish are overfished, and species and forests are being lost. All these problems are making life harder for the world's poorest people and hurting the environment their livelihoods and quality of life depends on. From forest honey production in Afromontane rainforests in Ethiopia to wild cocoa cultivation in Sierra Leone, attendees discovered how environmental conservation can go hand in hand with economically viable livelihood opportunities.

“We see conservation as a vitally important tool for achieving poverty reduction and social justice, echoing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) advocated by the United Nations. Like all of us, the world’s poorest rely directly on natural resources and ecosystem services for food, fresh water, energy, protection from natural disasters, and for their well-being and livelihoods. Degradation of ecosystems and the environment, directly compromise this access,” said Jersey’s Minister for International Development, Deputy Carolyn Labey, who was in London to open the conference.

“The amalgamation of conservation objectives with development objectives, is an exhilarating endeavour. While the relationship between conservation and development is incredibly complex, JOA believes it is critical that we take an integrated perspective in order to meet this essential requirement for sustainable development,” she added.

JOA launched its Conservation Livelihoods thematic funding programme in 2018, and since then, through its partnerships, including its long-term partnership with Durrell, has catalysed sustainable change for over 135,000 people living across a range of key eco-systems, including afro-alpine forest, riverine forest, and wetlands.

Dr Lesley Dickie, CEO of Durrell, also spoke at the conference: “Conservation and the natural world is clearly not solely about species and habitats. It’s about places, communities, cultures, and politics. The old models of so-called ‘fortress conservation’ cannot work today. We live in a crowded world and conservation has to benefit us all – the 'shared future' in the title of this conference. And no more so than the communities whose day-to-day lives are at the sharp end of climate change and sustainability, of food security and habitat loss.”

The conference had representation from across the world, with travel bursaries enabling individuals to travel from countries like Rwanda, Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Ghana, and Nepal. Travel to and from the conference was offset through a financial contribution to Rewild Carbon.