Social Capital in Biodiversity Conservation and Management

Social Capital in Biodiversity Conservation and Management


The article begins with a description of the opposing views of the roles of smallholders in conservation strategies.  On the one hand they directly use resources that external agencies attempt to protect, on the other hand these people have intimate knowledge of these systems.  Thus leading to the question, “Could local people play a greater role in biodiversity conservation and management?” (Pretty, 2004).

Conclusions & Takeaways

The participation of smallholders in conservation strategies is defined in terms of social capital.  Specifically, the values of collaborative interests, economic efficiency, trust, reciprocity, and networking are all cited as examples of benefits of endorsing social capital strategies. The author then describes the pitfalls of such approaches.  For example, reciprocal engagements should be based on trust rather than fear, which can be a harmful social arrangement, conformity can have detrimental effects, and formalization of rules and norms can potentially trap individuals. Implications regarding incentive-based development are addressed in the paper.  Skills based encouragement rather than externally influenced commodities are highlighted as a strategy to encourage ongoing participation. Most importantly, six types of participation are examined: passive, consultative, bought, functional, interactive, and self-mobilized.  The authors argue that only half of these approaches lead to positive biodiversity over the long-term. Lastly, the importance of encouraging social learning is highlighted as a valuable enterprise.  This strategy has potential to change in behaviors which can be longer lasting.


PRETTY JULES, SMITH DAVID. Social Capital in Biodiversity Conservation and Management. Conservation Biology. 2004;18:631–638. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2004.00126.x.


  • Centre for Environment and Society
  • University of Essex