Integrated Conservation and Development Programme

Geographical location:

Asia/Pacific > Southern Asia > Bhutan

Metal roofing versus shingleps (wooden shingles).
© WWF Bhutan / Vijay Moktan


The pilot Integrated Conservation and Development Programme (ICDP) is an initiative of WWF Bhutan, WWF International and the Bhutan Royal Government. The project started in 2003 in 3 separate communities: Daliphangma (Trashigang); Shingneer (Bumthang); and Kingarabten (Trongsa). Project sites were selected jointly by WWF, the Nature Conservation Division (NCD) of the Department of Forestry (DoF) and the district authorities based on the following criteria: location in biological corridors of Bhutan Biological Conservation Complex (B2C2); intensity of human pressure on natural resoures; and socio-economic marginality.

The pilot study formed part of WWF’s efforts to learn more about the government's developmental efforts and initiatives at grassroots level, specifically focusing on the institutional aspects of working with local communities in Bhutan.


Collectively encompassing an area of 3,828 km2, Bhutan has 12 biological corridors that connect all the protected area systems. The primary purpose of corridors is to maintain gene flow through uninterrupted wildlife movements and linking of quality habitat. Unlike protected area systems, corridors are not treated strictly and are not recorded as part of the national protected areas system. They consist of areas with low-intensity land uses compatible with conservation objectives. In Bhutan, these land uses include Forests Management Units (FMUs), community forests, agricultural lands, grazing lands, riparian corridors and steep slopes. To date there is no reliable data of any sort (socio-economic, wildlife, etc) on the corridors to enable understanding and design of appropriate interventions to help achieve the objective of maintaining corridors.

Pilot studies on the representative communities, falling under the corridors (Shingneer and Kingarabten) and one outside the corridors (Yangneer) were selected for direct comparison to understand and learn more about the current people-initiated and people-centred development initiatives. Emphasis was also placed on an understanding of institutional aspects such as local government setup, communities’ responses, etc.


Learn more about people-initiated and people-centred development initiatives, with a specific focus on the institutional aspects of working with district sectoral departments and communities in Bhutan.


Mixed activities comprising both development and conservation outcomes (health, education, sanitation, crop and livestock intensification, agro-forestry, feeder road, community forestry, alternative energy, substitution of short-lived wooden roofing with metal roofing, etc) were implemented in close collaboration with local government and the communities in the three pilot sites to understand local government and the communities’ perspectives on nature conservation.


Important lessons were learnt from the pilot study, briefly summarised as follows:

1. Establishing links between conservation and development

One of the clear difficulties for a conservation organisation that undertakes to work in areas not formally protected, but critical to the conservation of the protected area estate (such as the biological corridors), is to be clear about the primary goal of its work. In the case of the biological corridors it is clear that the primary goal is to help communities address their development requirements as they define them. The challenge is to link these back to conservation issues that are critical to these development needs.

A good example of this was metal roofing for houses, identified as a priority by the community at Daliphangma. Of 114 households, an estimated 80% (91) had bamboo roofs and 20% (23) used shingleps. Bamboo roofs require repair or replacement almost every year and shinglep roofs need attention every 3 years. An effort was made to quantify the amount of forest products conserved and the amount of time saved assuming all houses in the community were roofed in metal. The result of these calculations was that 1,747,200 bamboos and 460 standing trees would not be cut from the forest during the 20-year life of the metal roofs in this single village. At the same time a total of 59,900 person days (or 2,995 person days per year) would be saved by the community that could be applied to other income generating activities. This may be a rare example of a “win-win” opportunity for conservation and development and could have significant impact if extended to all villages relying on bamboo and shinglep roofs in the biological corridors.

2. Future directions (cross-cutting actions versus holistic village-based approaches)

2 possibilities for continued work in the biological corridors were evident where an immediate “win-win” situation can be realized.

The first, involves the identification of cross-cutting activities that have stronger “win-win” opportunities (such as substitution of wooden roofing by metal roofing). This is because the activity is very attractive to community. It is a close fit to their priority and has short-term development and conservation benefits.

The second involves undertaking a more holistic set of interventions in a single village. This has the advantage of:
a) Building on the current institutional structures being put in place by the Bhutanese government.
b) Ensuring that a variety of options are available to help buffer changes in access to important resources in the community.
c) Ensuring that responses are tailored to specific community characteristics. For example, the Royal Government initiatives to reduce livestock population through a livestock intensification programme. The holistic package should include the introduction of an improved breed of livestock, pasture development, livestock product processing and marketing.

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