The Nature Conservancy's Global Water Team has embarked on a program of work to use community-based conservation to achieve both ecological and social outcomes. Community Based Conservation(CBC) is conservation that strengthens the voice, choice, and action of indigenous peoples and local communities to shape and manage land and waters in ways that improves peoples' lives and drives biodiversity outcomes. Freshwater CBC projects emphasize freshwater resources and their management.

The Conservancy's fCBC projects include the following 2 components:

  1. The project has a strong connection to freshwater biodiversity by focusing on the protection and/or conservation of freshwater species and/or ecosystems[1] and the services they provide. The project should have a focus on protecting or restoring freshwater ecosystem services (e.g., water purification, flood attenuation, aquifer recharge), addressing stressors specific to freshwater systems (i.e., alteration to hydrology, water quality, aquatic species or ecosystems), and articulating outcomes that are specific to freshwater ecosystems and species.
  2. The project is focused on indigenous people and local communities (IPLCs) as users and beneficiaries of the freshwater resource. A "community" usually refers to a well-defined group that self-identifies as a people and/or that has a shared identity, culture and/or values. Communities contain multiple diverse actors and interests that interact through institutions and change through time. We use the term "indigenous and local communities" to refer to communities that possess a close and profound relationship with their natural landscapes (territory, area, or habitat) which they depend on for cultural, religious, health, and economic needs. This includes the original inhabitants of a place and/or migrants who have settled in a place who have the aforementioned relationship with the natural landscape. Note that indigenous peoples and indigenous communities are usually original inhabitants of a place and thus consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing in the territories, which they [indigenous peoples] originally occupied prior to colonization. Indigenous peoples have collective rights recognized under international law.

In fCBC programs, freshwater conservation goals are pursued by fCBC strategies that emphasize the role of IPLCs in decision-making about natural resources. fCBC programs are often strongly linked to other non-fCBC strategies (e.g., hydropower by design, sustainable agriculture), but because communities are often distributed along water bodies throughout river basins of interest, the community can often be an important entry point for system change.  fCBC includes a spectrum of approaches that range from the formalized devolution of rights to communities, to practices that emphasize the co-management of resources. fCBC strategies involve many actors, including community members, government officials, and non-profit organizations, with decisions and feedbacks often occurring across multiple scales.

[1] Freshwater species and natural communities are those that are dependent on freshwater ecosystems (rivers, lakes, wetlands, springs, aquifers, etc.) for all or part of their life history stages. This can include riparian and floodplain species and habitats which depend on freshwater ecosystems for processes such as seed dispersal; but does not include all species that simply use the water in a freshwater ecosystem.

 Key Resources