Nature protection and local community development

Many of the important natural areas and sites are located in, near or at the boundaries of settlements. Very few protected natural areas are located in remote and difficult to access locations. The key aspect for successful protection and management of a protected area is the support, cooperation and engagement of the local community and the needs of the local population. Some locals, because of ignorance and fear of changes, see protected areas as a threat that would change their everyday lives and the dynamics in the community and the region, but in almost all cases they directly improve lives, living standards and quality of living. Putting an area under protection will certainly bring changes, however these are not negative changes, they just promote the region and protect natural resources. Naturally, this implies great responsibility and discipline – thus, some habits of the locals that are a direct threat to nature, such as throwing waste, burning crop residues, excessive use of pesticides, etc. would have to become a thing of the past through education and support. Even this would result in a better environment for the local population.

Photo: Irena Madzarovska

A significant part of protected areas are located in rural areas, where the population is generally involved in agriculture and lives off the earth, which means that nature protection, particularly protection of natural resources, has direct benefits for their production. In what ways are nature protection and community development related:

1.Socio-economic development

Protection of nature and its proper use have direct economic benefits and more importantly, sustainable and equitable economic development. Local products become more competitive on the market and recognizable brands are created, local tourism and local businesses are developed, young people stay in the area and build their lives, infrastructure is developed and public services become more available.

2.Protection of natural resources

Natural values are particularly important for environmental protection and their protection is key for the life of the local community. Life in a protected area means that safe and secured natural resources lead to a stable life, opportunity for development and advancement.

3.Preservation of history and tradition

Community development as a result of nature protection would contribute to demographic development, which means that the community would continue developing within its historical space. This means that more people would remain and live there, which leads to preservation of the community, its history and tradition.

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