Just as environmental and ecological effects have multiple dimensions of impact, so should its conservation and restoration efforts. Environmental degradation does not just affect people causing it; it affects everyone from the people living there to the people who come in contact with the polluted agents.
That is why, the stakeholders of a conservation project are so important. Earlier developmental projects were heavily criticized by critics who thought they met the narrow needs of the project developers alone. The reason, they concluded, was the lack of participation from other stakeholders of the project. Any project has its effects on multiple scales; not just ecologically but socially as well. Therefore, each restoration and conservation effort should address these social scales in order to bring out the maximum benefit. Let’s take a look at who these stakeholders are and what they ought to be doing in a conservation and restoration project…
The general public: Who they comprise of and why are they important?
Public participation has been key in recent conservation activities. The general public are the people who elected a government to their seat of power; they, therefore, have a right to know about the activities that are taking place under the government. Public participation in conservation and restoration ensures transparency. It also ensures that nothing is missed out in the process. Overall, this ensures that better decisions are taken, there is legitimacy and a sense of “rightness” to the process, and there are no environmental issue that can possibly overlooked. Within a public, there are different categories of stakeholders.
- The locals
One of the objectives or restoration ecology is to “ensure that the social and economic needs of the local populations are met satisfactorily; that they are benefited from the restoration project.” Therefore, it is absolutely imperative that they are considered in all decision making processes. Often, the knowledge and familiarity of the locals is overlooked by the government and other stakeholders. Of course, they are by no means experts, but you do learn a thing or two about the environment you live in, things that you might not know if you have only worked in.
Further, the impacts of a project are most severely felt by this stakeholder. They will know effects that do not show in surveys and machines. It helps bring a holistic outlook to the entire restoration project.
Involving locals also builds trust amongst the stakeholders. Often, the lower factions of society bear grudges against the government and the “rich folks” for being selfish and not caring about their needs. It gives the locals assurance that their beliefs, lifestyle and needs are considered and important for them.
- The government
They are the highest authority in a land; they will obviously involved in any restoration project. They usually have political reasons for being actively involved; it’s a way to show the public that they care about the citizens they serve. It might not be really true, but as long as the environment and the public is actually benefiting from it, why complain?
Government involvement is important because they are the enforcers of the restoration practices over time. Without their pressure, no activity can be sustained for long. Vultures (capitalists) will swoop down at the slightest indication of weakening resolve and take over the resources that are being restored.
Their distribution of power, decision making authority and financial resources is important for any conservation and restoration project to succeed. Educating the locals about the process and ensuring proper implementation also falls under their responsibility.
A major hurdle in overcoming poor governmental participation is the corruption within it’s ranks. Solving this, is another problem……
NGOs are the folks who gain no direct benefit out of a restoration project, except peace of mind for having done good in the world. This is a third-party stakeholder that participates in conservation and restoration activities out of goodwill. Often, they are the mediators between the government and the locals (and/or public) by ensuring proper communication between the two. They are also the antithesis to corruption within the government. While the locals cannot do anything against corruption because of lack of resources, NGOs generally have the monetary power and contacts within governmental ranks to ensure there is no foul-play (but if they themselves are involved, God help nature).
They are also key players in collecting unbiased data about the restoration sites. They usually have the best interests of the locals at heart; therefore, you do not expect them to hoodwink the locals.
Together, these three stakeholders act and combine to bring positive change at local, regional and international scales. This change is both social and ecological. This “machine” needs to work harmoniously for a successful conservation and restoration project.