Wetlands in Bangladesh represent complex, dynamic natural environments rich in biological diversity and providing a range of ecosystem services to local people. Capture fisheries are a direct link between biodiversity and the poor, but have been declining from overexploitation and wetland degradation. Since 2007 a network of 250 community based organisations (CBOs) across the country has shown a growing interest in managing wetlands for the benefit of poor people, motivated to use their local knowledge and capabilities in collective action to manage wetland resources in ways that conserve biodiversity. Adaptive learning between CBOs has spread good practices to sustain biodiversity and thereby the livelihoods of the poor dependent on fish and other aquatic resources. By now, 59% of CBOs have created small fish sanctuaries, 10% have re-introduced scarce fish, a third of CBOs have banned hunting and a few have added a supplementary income from tourism. By developing and sharing their own knowledge of local ecosystem dynamics and related good practices, tangible ecological and developmental benefits have been derived, increasing the well-being of local people. In 91% of sites local people consider the CBO has improved access of the poor to natural resources. In many cases the main threats faced by CBOs have come from external factors: attempts by the powerful to take control of fisheries away from CBOs; pressure to pay government to lease waterbodies; and uncoordinated and unregulated development that blocks fish movement, drains and pollutes wetlands. As such, these are challenges of governance rather than management. The needs of the poor are represented by the CBOs (64% of members are poor, and almost all CBOs consult with the poor in decision making). By networking together, the CBOs are empowered to actively address these challenges and influence policy and practice to address conservation and poverty issues.
Thompson, P.; Sultana, P.; Arthur, R. Integrating biological conservation into management: Community adaptive learning in the wetlands of Bangladesh. Biodiversity (2010) 11 (1-2) 31-38. [Special Issue: Biodiversity & Poverty Alleviation] [DOI: 10.1080/14888386.2010.9712644]