Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas: A Bold New Frontier for Conservation

02 February 2010 | News story

The ICCA Forum has a new website which includes a variety of ICCA information, analyses and reports from all over the world: www.ICCAforum.org. You are welcome to submit ICCA-relevant case studies and other insights, announcements and materials that you would like to propose for uploading.  

What are Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs)?

ICCAs are natural and/or modified ecosystems containing significant biodiversity values, ecological services and cultural values, voluntarily conserved by Indigenous peoples and local communities, both sedentary and mobile, through customary laws or other effective means. ICCAs can include ecosystems with minimum to substantial human influence as well as cases of continuation, revival or modification of traditional practices or new initiatives taken up by communities in the face of new threats or opportunities. Several of them are inviolate zones ranging from very small to large stretches of land and waterscapes.

Three features car be taken as defining charateristics  of ICCAs:

  1. A community is closely connected to a well defined ecosystem (or to a species and its habitat) culturally and/or because of survival and dependence for livelihood;
  2. The community management decisions and efforts lead to the conservation of the ecosystem's habitats, species, ecological services and associated cultural values [even when the conscious objective of such management may be different than conservation per se, and be, for instance, related to material livelihood, water security, safeguarding of cultural and spiritual places, etc.].
  3. The community is the major player in decision-making (governance) and implementation regarding the management of the site , implying that community institutions have the capacity to enforce regulations; in many situations there may be other stakeholders in collaboration or partnership, but primary decision-making rests with the concerned community.

The global coverage of ICCAs has been estimated as being comparable to the one of governments' protected areas (12% of terrestrial surface).  Globally, 400-800 million hectares forest are owned/ administered by communities. In 18 developing countries with the largest forest cover, over 22% of forests are owned by or reserved for communities. In some of these countries (e.g. Mexico and Papua New Guinea) the community forests cover 80% of the total (Molnar et al., 2003). More land and resources are under community control in other ecosystems. By no means all areas under community control are effectively conserved (i.e. can be considered ICCAs), but a substantial portion is.

The ICCA Forum are in the proces of writing IUCN/CEESP Briefing Note no 10, which is preliminarily entitled “Recognising and supporting indigenous and community conservation: from lessons to action"

Briefing Note 10 is a follow up to Briefing Note no. 8 and Briefing Note 9, can be downloaded from here:

The new Briefing Note 10 - about 36 pages, with possibly a detached summary – will be produced in English, Spanish and French thanks to the support of GTZ and GEF SGP. The text will draw a lot from BN 9, but will incorporate new ideas and lessons and attempt to clearly spell out the most important “dos” and “donts” for policy and practice regarding ICCAs.

We expect to distribute BN 10 at the next CBD SBSTTA meeting in Nairobi in May 2010 and, after that, at CBD COP 10 in Nagoya, in October 2010. We thus have a tight deadline for the preparation of the document, but we still would like to make this preparation as participatory and open as possible.