People and Nature | WWF
© WWF / Michel ROGGO

People and Nature

Flooded forest during rainy season Floating plants Rio Negro Brazil

Managing natural resources for tomorrow

Protected areas are pockets of prized natural habitat, confined by precise boundaries. But what about biologically important places where sustainable development is vital and protected areas don’t exist?

 rel= © WWF / Michel ROGGO

Most people living in the Amazon are completely dependent on the natural resources the region has to offer. On a daily basis, thousands of fish, fruit, plants and many other living organisms are plucked from their habitat so that people can cover their subsistence and economic needs.

But the Amazon's natural resources are not infinite. This is why WWF works to help communities manage their natural resources responsibly – whether in lakes, watersheds or any ecosystem where local livelihoods are closely tied to the integrity of the environment.

Diagnosing the situation

Different areas need different management approaches, a lesson that WWF has taken to heart over its decades of experience in the Amazon Basin. So when beginning work in an area, WWF begins a consultation process with all stakeholders.

Sharing, consulting, deciding

In Bolivia, WWF organized workshops with communities in the area of influence of the Iténez Departmental Park and Integrated Management Natural Area.

The idea was to diagnose, socialize and validate the local population's priorities regarding the use of natural resources in the area. Based on the results of the diagnoses, WWF suggested several management activities, shared them and adjusted as necessary.

What NRM looks like in on the ground

NRM can take many forms. In the Iténez Departmental Park and Integrated Management Natural Area, IPHAE (Institute for Man, Agriculture and Ecology), in collaboration with WWF, began developing two components: natural resource management and strengthening community organizations.

This involved developing and managing tree nurseries and vegetable gardens, breeding and managing small farm animals, diversifying agriculture and recovering degraded areas, improving pastures and diversifying family fruit orchards.

Improving efficiency of land-use

The activities in Iténez Departmental Park and Integrated Management Natural Area seek to increase the productivity of farming areas. A fundamental principle of NRM is that it reduces the need to expand this type of activity, which would involve clearing new, primary forests. In addition, these efforts also contribute to efficient land use planning.

Strengthening communities for better management

Beyond on-the-ground activities, training sessions aim to make communities aware of their rights, natural resources legislation, and the basics of institutional organization.

Bringing together key stakeholders in the management of an area is no small undertaking. It often requires bringing around the same table people with different perceptions and priorities. Cooperation in this case is not only necessary but unavoidable if sustainable management is to happen.
    © WWF / Edward PARKER
Community meeting about environmental issues and agricultural extension at the fishing community of Nossa Senora de Carmina Eva. Amazonas State, Brazil
© WWF / Edward PARKER

Stakeholder management in practice

To promote effective management of the Lower-Pastaza River Basin in Peru, WWF has facilitated the formation of a watershed management committee that guarantees the active participation of all key river basin stakeholders in decision-making. This committee brings together representatives of Kandozi, Kichwa and Achuar communities and the Mayor of the Pastaza area.

Empowering communities to enforce their rights

Sometimes, the stakes are particularly high. When it comes to oil extraction for instance, a potentially dangerous and damaging activity for ecosystems, it is vital that local communities have a say over what happens on their land.

In the Abanico del Pastaza, WWF is active building the capacity of the Achuar federation. The organisation provides it with the necessary information to improve the federation's decision-making regarding oil companies present in the area.

Scaling up to management plans

Management plans are blueprints for the sustainable use of natural resources. While these documents are mostly referred to in the context of protected areas, their role is no less important for NRM. Lake Rimachi - the largest lake in the Peruvian Amazon – provides an example of how such tools can help share fisheries resources.

Trouble stirs in Lake Rimachi

In Rimachi, overfishing has reduced the populations of several key aquatic species, resulting in diminished livelihood opportunities and increased poverty in indigenous communities. In addition, commercial fishing fleets ploughing the waters strike informal agreements with native communities to extract large quantities of fish, or purchase fish from indigenous fishermen at prices well below market value.

To protect indigenous interests, WWF and partners are developing a management plan that will allow sustainable fishing for Kandozi indigenous communities in the area while ensuring conservation of the lake’s natural resources.

From there on, it is an uphill struggle to secure the necessary approval from the relevant Ministry, and the endorsement by no less than 25 Kandozi communities that fish in Lake Rimachi. The next phase – the implementation of the plan - includes training and support for the commercialization and business management of the lake fish.

Managing Amazon fish

In Peru, WWF helped formalize the Yungani Artisanal Fishing Association, with the inscription of its statutes in Public Registries. The association includes 150 fishermen representing 25 Kandozi communities. The aim of this association is to set up committees to oversee the control and monitoring of Lake Rimachi's spectacular abundance of fish resources.