Managing protected areas

Ecosystem services for poverty alleviation (ESPA)

Tim Webster

Tashi Reeve

Aiyana Gane

An equity framework for governance

ESPA was a nine year global interdisciplinary research programme that aimed to give decision-makers and natural resource users the evidence they need to address the challenges of sustainable ecosystem management and poverty reduction.

The programme was developed by the UK government in response to the findings of the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment that substantial gains in human well-being in recent decades have been achieved at the expense of high and often irreversible levels of ecosystem degradation.

This explainer animation used hand-drawn illustration to tell the story of ESPA’s work.


The world needs protected areas to help conserve rare and endangered species that are losing their habitats. Protectedareas provide important global, national and local benefits, such as conserving biodiversity. Acting as a sink for carbondioxide and providing clean water flows. By 2020, it’s expected that 17 percent of the world’s terrestrial area and 10percent of coastal and marine areas will be conserved in protected areas of some kind. However, the growth of protected areas will increasingly impact local communities.

The equity framework can help ensure that protected areas are governed effectively and equitably.



Practices such as shifting cultivation, grazing livestock and hunting and gathering food can all be affected. Localcommunities can often come into conflict with wildlife protected species such as monkeys or elephants can destroy cropsand local people can be injured or killed in some cases. This growth of protected areas has caused people to be evictedfrom a protected area or prevented from accessing it for culturally important activities. Frequently, local people may not be properly consulted about the boundaries of the protected area and have very little involvement in management decisions when compensation is provided.

The framework

To tackle the injustices caused by protected areas, an equity framework has been developed which can help to avoid theinjustices caused by protected areas. Whether it’s governments, environmental, NGO, OWS or communities themselvesthat manage these research funded by the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation program, has developed theframework, which has three dimensions. Recognition, procedure and distribution recognition describes respecting theirrights and values of local people.

The growth of protected areas will increasingly impact local communities.


The framework

This can be particularly important for indigenous people who may lack the opportunities to make their voices head.Procedure means ensuring that all relevant people are involved in the decision making process regarding issues that affectthem with mechanisms in place to resolve any disputes. Distribution involves mitigating the negative impacts of protectedareas and sharing out the benefits fairly in Kenya. Managers of one protected area have upgraded fences to stop baboonsgetting into farmers’ fields. They established a transparent process to distribute benefits to communities more fairly through community projects, and they introduced a democratic system of electing community representatives to work with them.

Read more

The ESPA programme is now finished, but you can read more about it here.