Stakeholder engagement and biodiversity conservation challenges in social-ecological systems: some insights from biosphere reserves in western Africa and France
Ecology and Society
Biosphere reserves are an example of social-ecological systems that combine biodiversity conservation and socioeconomic development with knowledge generation and dissemination (both scientific and local). We review lessons learned from case studies biosphere reserves in western African and France, highlighting the importance of early stakeholder engagement to build knowledge for achieving sustainable development. We discuss the evolution of the concept of biosphere reserves and its application
... ver time in different socioeconomic and cultural settings. The diversity of stakeholders and their different needs and perceptions about nature conservation complicate implementation processes, sometimes resulting in conflicts about the objectives and zonation of biosphere reserves. Dialogue among the different stakeholders must start at an early planning phase and be based on the principle of social and ecological solidarity. Dialogue must then be pursued, formalized, ritualized, and translated both in terms of biosphere reserve management and in terms of political support. Tools and methods exist that can facilitate such dialogue and colearning. We begin by reviewing the initial objectives of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) program of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the conception of the biosphere reserve project. We then proceed with a discussion of the different case studies, focusing on stakeholder engagement, governance, and knowledge production. Based on ongoing practices and research in West Africa and southern France, we discuss the conditions, principles, and values that favor positive interactions between conservation and development that may enable societies to maintain and create more options for present and future generations. These two regions were selected because they represent different socioeconomic contexts; our aim was to include experiences from so-called developing countries. Research for the case studies was conducted by some of the authors. Data were gathered through in-depth interviews with (representatives of) the main stakeholders involved in the biosphere reserves, focus group discussions, and participatory observations during stakeholder workshops (in some cases, organized by the researchers). Some cases also involved actionresearch, through which, for instance, participatory monitoring systems were cocreated with stakeholders.