Communities count: exploring the role of participatory monitoring in conservation and development initiatives
Working at the nexus of conservation and development is challenging. Participatory environmental monitoring (PEM) is, on paper, a win-win for conservation and development, but there has been limited evaluation of its effectiveness in improving the lives of local people while also supporting improved management of species of conservation concern. In this thesis, I use a multidisciplinary approach to gain a better understanding of the role and implications of PEM for conservation and development,
... using a project in Madagascar as a case study. I conducted a systematic literature review and online survey to describe approaches to PEM. I found that PEM schemes are variable, widespread and growing in number, but local participation is still limited and opportunities exist to improve use of modern technologies. Using occupancy modelling, I found that the case study lacks power to detect trends at the landscape level, but could provide useful presence-absence information on species and threats at the village level. However, the biggest issue highlighted by this research relates to inadequate data management that prevents most data being available for analyses and 'learning-by-doing' feedback loops. Using semi-structured interviews, I gathered local peoples' perspectives of the project operating in their village and found that the project was widely known within the villages, but that not everyone benefits. Based on these findings and with my own first-hand experience of the case study project, I designed a tool for practitioners to use during the design and implementation of a PEM scheme. This thesis highlights the need to carefully consider all aspects of a PEM project, from the ecological knowledge gleaned from the data to the social impact across all sectors of the community. In doing so, this research demonstrates that PEM is challenging, complex and by no means a silver bullet for meeting dual conservation and development goals.