Monday 5
Participatory conservation
Christophe Le Page
› 11:05 - 18:00 (6h55)
› Centre du Scamandre Vauvert
Participatory science as a tool for engagement in the co-management of natural resources: Understanding how different ways of knowing can translate into better ways of doing in Madidi National Park, Bolivia
Anne Toomey  1@  
1 : Lancaster Environment Centre  (LEC)  -  Website

In the field of conservation there is a wide gap between science and practice, often referred to as the ‘research-implementation' gap. Why spend years studying an endangered species if resulting knowledge will not help to save it? In response to this problem, conservation scientists in developing countries increasingly seek to engage with local communities through collaborative methods in the collection of scientific data, such as ‘participatory monitoring' or ‘citizen science'. Such methodologies are increasingly utilized for scientific research and community-based conservation, allowing for research that would normally be cost-prohibitive, promoting environmental awareness, and having the potential to empower and engage local people in conservation actions. In settings where traditional communities still live closely connected to the land, participatory science can additionally serve as an alternative to conventional scientific knowledge and postcolonial conservation strategies, offering promise as a source of social-ecological resilience. However, participation is not a guarantee for empowerment, and these attempts towards the co-production of knowledge often neglect to take into account the specific cultural and social histories that are a large part of what motivate people to participate in the first place. 

This presentation will explore the potential of such participatory research methodologies to bridge the research-implementation gap by taking the case of Madidi National Park, Bolivia, one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, which is overlapped by lowland indigenous territories that cover approximately one-third of the park's area. Protected areas administration and indigenous leaders are the key decision-makers in these overlapping lands, but they often lack the information necessary for its sustainable management.

During 2012-2013, I conducted PhD-level fieldwork along with Bolivian researchers to find ways to make scientific research in the region more relevant for management, using a participatory action research methodology in order to open up spaces for the exchange of ideas and perspectives between scientists, community members and park managers in Bolivia. We held workshops with the various stakeholder groups to understand to what extent previous and current research incorporated local ecological worldviews, to identify of the kind of information needed to make informed decisions about land use and natural resources management, and to find ways to support collaborative research in overlapping lands (i.e. official co-created research agendas). We also studied in-depth two ‘participatory monitoring' projects, one that used data collected by indigenous hunters and fishers to determine the sustainability of catches, the other that involved park guards to monitor biological and social indicators, with the aim of evaluating the potential of these methodologies to bridge the research-implementation gap. 

This presentation will take an interdisciplinary approach by drawing on theories from both the natural and social sciences, including human geography, conservation biology, community development and the sociology of science. The ultimate goal is to take a closer look at the particular histories and institutional relations that shape the production and dissemination of knowledge in a given society, thus making the subtleties of power relations, ethics and sociocultural values explicit. 

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