A new analysis by the WWF (Worldwide fund for Nature) has determined that well planned and managed protected areas can play a key role in reducing poverty, with the relationship strengthened when well-being is measured as more than just income.
According to a report in ENN (Environmental News Network), the analysis was prepared with the assistance of the environmental research group Equilibrium.
The group used new tools to analyze what works and what doesn't in improving both human well-being and environmental quality, finding that community involvement, benefit sharing and consideration of protected areas in overall landscapes are crucial factors to consider.
"Poverty is much more than not having enough money. Not having enough to eat, or access to medicines or a clean water supply are the fundamentals which really define poverty at its most basic level," said Liza Higgins-Zogib, Manager of People and Conservation at WWF International.
"We live in a world where half of the six billion population live not just on minimal incomes but most are in rural areas depending a great deal on natural resources for their nutrition, shelter, health and nutrition," according to Higgins-Zogib.
"It is vital that we appreciate that the right type of well managed protected areas can make all the difference to the lives of those people," she added.
The report's analysis draws from management effectiveness assessments of over 1000 protected areas and developed a new tool to assess protected area benefits in detail in case studies drawn from Argentina, Finland, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Poland and Tanzania.
It provides the largest body of evidence yet of a strong link between well managed protected areas such as national parks and reserves and increased levels of food, medicine, water and cultural and spiritual fulfillment for people living in the surrounding areas, including some of the world's poorest.
Although the report stresses that every protected area is unique, the most successful in terms of the benefit they provided to poor people sought to balance conservation and poverty reduction, established direct and integrated links between the needs of people and nature and recognized that trade-offs between human and wildlife needs needed to be negotiated.
In these cases, environmental and development outcomes were well monitored and protected areas were viewed, not in isolation, but as parts of the overall landscape.
"It is clear from this research that protected areas can and do lift many people above the most basic levels of poverty, but the report also reveals that protected areas set up or managed without enough care for human needs can have the opposite effect on the lives of poor people," said Higgins-Zogib.
"It is vital that those involved in establishing and managing protected areas remember that people are also part of the landscape," she added.