Protected areas and the neglected contribution of Indigenous Peoples and local communities: Struggles for environmental justice in the Caatinga dry forest

Dawson, Neil, de Carvalho, William Douglas, Bezerra, Jakelyne S., Todeschini, Felipe, Tabarelli, Marcelo and Mustin, Karen (2021) Protected areas and the neglected contribution of Indigenous Peoples and local communities: Struggles for environmental justice in the Caatinga dry forest. People and Nature. ISSN 2575-8314

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1. Despite evidence about the contribution of Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPLCs) to conservation, prevailing strategies still seek their separation from nature, often triggering conflicts. Current pledges to expand global protected area coverage suggest a need for critical analysis of governance quality and the way conservation interacts with the wellbeing of IPLCs. 2. We present the case of Catimbau National Park in the Caatinga dry forest of northeast Brazil, where we explored connections between the wellbeing of IPLCs and landscape through different values, practices and institutions, and perceptions of how environmentally just the park’s governance has been. 3. The wellbeing of IPLCs is inextricably connected with the Caatinga landscape, through multiple place-based relational values that, although differing between Indigenous and non-indigenous inhabitants, have in both cases developed over generations. Although often framed as degraders, IPLCs exhibit a strong motivation to conserve, reflected through local institutions including forest gardens, sustainable use regulations, restoration activities and prevention of external encroachment. 4. The strict form of protected area implemented at Catimbau, instead of a locally-led or sustainable use reserve, explicitly targeted resettlement of IPLCs and livelihood reorientation. These imposed objectives have clashed with a way of life in this peopled landscape and precluded local stewardship on a larger scale. Long-term conflict arose through governance deficiencies which sparked multidimensional injustices. These include not only misrecognition of local values and customary institutions, but also lack of procedures for consent or decision making influence, plus distributional harms including tenure insecurity and denied development assistance. 5. Development and conservation strategies must reject narratives about poor, resource-dependent rural communities and embrace the opportunities that local knowledge and institutions bring for effective conservation. As conservation efforts are expanded post-2020, the people of the Caatinga and beyond must be recognised as embedded and a key part of any solution. 6. In strict protected areas like Catimbau, where social conflict constrains their ability to function, seeking legal changes in governance type can be onerous. However, we describe other local level actions to build relationships and agency that may foster transitions towards better governance, and just treatment of IPLCs.

Item Type: Article
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of International Development
Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 23 Nov 2021 01:40
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2021 02:49
DOI: 10.1002/pan3.10288

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