Kees Prins


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Institution: Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE)



University studies in Law and Rural Sociology in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and postgraduate in Social Policy and Community Development at the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, where I also worked for a number of years as assistant professor. Most recent jobs are: Coordinator of a university cooperation program between Peruvian and Dutch universities in social and technological research oriented at extension; Field Director of Dutch Cooperation in Peru, and presently, Rural Sociologist in CATIE with tasks including lecturing in environmental sociology and rural development and research on processes of innovation and organizational aspects of resource management.

Title: Conservation and Poverty Alleviation: The view and practice by the poor

Theme: 3B


Conservation and poverty alleviation are equally important societal objectives and both issues need to be linked, strategically, to make them more effective. As long as poor people do not consider conservation as a means to improve their actual well being (opposite of poverty) they will be indifferent to measures which just aim at the well being of future generations. On the other hand, if their vital and immediate needs are attended and they get a stake in conservation, they may become the most solid allies for conservation, as it is proved by various experiences. So the question is quite crucial for policymaking and intervention strategy.

It is demonstrated in the paper that it is possible to break the vicious circle of resource degradation and poverty, and get some promising win-win situations. A good avenue to do so, is to start analyzing good environmental practices by the poor: the indigenous capacity many communities still have to manage and protect their resource basis, as an essential part of their strategy of livelihood. Assistance in conserving and strengthening that natural and social capital proves to be an excellent entry to work on conservation and poverty reduction at the same time. In other cases where indigenous knowledge got eroded and new knowledge is not yet available, new information and resources must be induced and new capacities built, to reverse process of degradation and impoverishment. It was found that stress and the necessity to secure a living, is a first and principal drive of technological innovation, by natives and peasants.

The findings and ideas, expressed in the paper, are based on a combination of personal observations in Andean and Central American countries, lessons learnt in a variety of projects by CATIE, and relevant literature. They are obtained also through an anthropological approach. One needs to step in the shoes of the poor to understand their way of thinking and acting. Moreover, the views of the poor must be duly incorporated in the policies of conservation and poverty reduction, to make them more viable and sustainable.

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