Conservation projects that exclude the local people are doomed to failure. Communities can and should be the first line of defence for national parks, but they should also receive significant benefits in return. National Park Rescue believes in creating functioning microeconomies between the parks we run and the communities that surround them, engaging the local people in the protection of their natural heritage, so they see the park as an asset to be protected.
In addition to protecting the ecosystem services that people need to survive, we aim to create an interdependence between the park and the surrounding communities through employment opportunities, tourism and commerce. By sourcing vital goods and services from the local communities, the the communities become an integral part of the day-to-day functioning of the conservation project. In turn, the communities rely on the park for trade that ebbs and flows with the fortunes of the park, explicitly linking community prosperity with the success of our operations.
National Park Rescue’s Mark Hiley and Niall McCann devised the Community Rations Supply scheme (CRS), which feeds the park rangers almost exclusively with food sourced from the communities surrounding the park. We provide vegetable seeds and buy back the produce, and we purchase livestock at market rates to supply the rangers with their monthly allowance of meat.
“Since its inception, the scheme has funnelled thousands of dollars of vital cash into the cash-strapped communities,” said Mark Hiley. Niall McCann added, “It’s providing a strong incentive for the local people to work hand-in-hand with us and the park rangers, and further demonstrates that poverty alleviation and conservation are two sides of the same coin.”