This Week in Natural Capital

africa agriculture

7-10 September, 2014, by Anna Heuberger

Giving rights back to local communities to manage their commons

This week’s lead story is based on a blog entry by the Oxford University Press titled “Biocultural community protocols and the future of conservation”. The article is based on the implementation of a biocultural community protocol (BCP) giving back rights to the Namibian Koeh people. The community of around 6,700 Koeh people resides in Bwabwata National Park and survives mainly as hunters and gatherers.

BCPs provide instruments to communities that facilitate culturally rooted, participatory decision-making processes within communities with the aim of asserting rights over their communally managed lands and traditional knowledge.

I chose this article because of the parallels between the approach of the biocultural community protocols (BCP) and the TEEB approach of using economic tools to equip societies with the means to conserve nature. By introducing BCP to a native community, people closest to the natural habitat receive the rights to steward the environment their lives depend on.
By applying biocultural community protocols in local communities a network of “use and stewarding relationships amongst a number of rights holders” is created as an alternative to giving a company, the state or a person the absolute right over an area.

The reason the need for privatization or nationalization was justified in the first place was that a lack of ownership and absolute rights would result in the “tragedy of the commons”, an economic phenomena arguing “that where consequences regarding commonly held resources are borne by the community as a whole, individuals would maximize self-interest to the detriment of the community and sustainability of the resources.”

Nevertheless extensive research by scientists like Elinor Ostrom has proven that nature can be conserved more effectively by changing incentives towards a community approach. To bundle diverse concerns and interests the that arise in common management the BCPs provides a legal framework for community- led instruments for the use of their commons.

BCPs are promoting “participatory advocacy for the recognition of and support for ways of life that are based on the sustainable use of biodiversity”. Therefore they also support the reduction of poverty by empowering local communities to benefit and sustainably manage nature. Read more about biocultural community protocols here.

Other headlines

Policy Making

Can valuation save ecosystems and the services that they provide?
Elgar Blog, 5 September, 2014
Is viewing ecosystems as a financial asset the best way to protect biodiversity?Valuation of ecosystems is a meaningless exercise unless it has policy relevance. More here

Natural Defence Against Un-Natural Disasters
Huffington Post, 8 September, 2014This article argues that because these events are triggered by human activity, they are un-natural disasters and that we need natural defenses to mitigate the risk they impose. More here


New Study Assesses Reforestation for Ground-Level Ozone Reduction and Compliance
The Nature Conservancy, 8 September, 2014
This new study suggests that large-scale peri-urban forest restoration can help reduce air pollution abatement and compliance costs, while at the same time providing benefits for nature and people that conventional, technological pollution controls do not provide. More here

Envionment & Health:

A Closer Look at the Ebola Epidemic in the Context of Ecological Health
Dot Earth, 9 September, 2014
The Ebola epidemic continues to rage in West Africa, and while it is very unlikely to reach pandemic scale, the outbreak provides a reminder of the linkages between disrupted ecosystems and human illness.More here


This weekly blog has the purpose to summarize and collect important stories and news on Natural Capital..
By Anna Heuberger, TEEB Communications and Outreach


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