Conservation and Customary Use

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While many conservation interventions have helped protect biological and cultural diversity and improve the linkages between the two, others have led to the infringement of indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ rights.

From the first denials of access of Native Americans to Yellowstone National Park in the 1860s, there continue to be many documented cases of conservation interventions leading to indigenous peoples and local communities being evicted from their customary lands and/or denied full access to those lands and resources.

Despite a shift in international law and policy, there also remains a reluctance on the part of national governments to appropriately recognise and support the conservation efforts of indigenous peoples and local communities.

We Aim To

  • Support indigenous peoples and local communities to advocate for recognition and support for their contributions to the conservation and sustainable use of their territories’ natural and cultural heritage.
  • Ensure conservation interventions initiated by other actors do not infringe the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, including to the customary sustainable use of their resources.

We Do This By

  • Supporting specific communities to assert their rights and affirm their responsibilities in the context of specific conservation initiatives.
  • Coordinating the development of legal reviews that focus, among other things, on how conservation laws either support or hinder indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ land and natural resource rights, including in South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Senegal.
  • Representing the issues at the African Commission’s Working Group on Indigenous Populations.
  • Conducting research and advocacy to inform the international debate about systemic changes required to address these issues.



Barbara Lassen

Director: Francophone Hub


The programme operates in the following countries:

Programme Funders

The Christensen Fund
SwedBio – Stockholm Resilience Centre
Heinrich Böll Foundation
Open Society Institute of Southern Africa
University of Strathclyde – European Union

Projects in this Programme


Support to the Implementation of the ICCA Global Support Initiative


Supporting the Khwe in the Context of the Bwabwata National Park


Supporting the Kukula Traditional Health Practitioners to Leverage their Community Protocol


The Benelex Project: Benefit-Sharing for an Equitable Transition to the Green Economy


National-level Legal Reviews in 30 Countries Worldwide


Conservation Standards

Programme News

Programme Publications

Submission: Basic Environmental Assessments for various West…

Submission: Land Tenure Act Upgrading Amendment Bill (South …

Submission: Land Tenure Act Upgrading Amendment Bill (South …

Submission on Expropriation Bill (South Africa)

Submission: Cultural Rights and Climate Change

The Khoikhoi Peoples’ Rooibos Biocultural Community Protoc…

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