What are Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs)?
ICCAs are natural and/or modified ecosystems containing significant biodiversity values, ecological services and cultural values, voluntarily conserved by Indigenous peoples and local communities, both sedentary
((of people or animals) that stay and live in the same place or area) and mobile, through customary laws or other effective means. ICCAs can include ecosystems with minimum to substantial human influence as well as cases of continuation, revival or modification of traditional practices or new initiatives taken up by communities in the face of new threats or opportunities. Several of them are inviolate zones ranging from very small to large stretches of land and waters capes.
Three features car be taken as defining characteristics of ICCAs:
- A community is closely connected to a well defined ecosystem (or to a species and its habitat) culturally and/or because of survival and dependence for livelihood;
- The community management decisions and efforts lead to the conservation of the ecosystem’s habitats, species, ecological services and associated cultural values [even when the conscious objective of such management may be different than conservation perse, and be, for instance, related to material livelihood, water security, safeguarding of cultural and spiritual places, etc.].
- The community is the major player in decision-making (governance) and implementation regarding the management of the site , implying that community institutions have the capacity to enforce regulations; in many situations there may be other stakeholders in collaboration or partnership, but primary decision-making rests with the concerned community.
The global coverage of ICCAs has been estimated as being comparable to the one of governments’ protected areas (12% of terrestrial surface). Globally, 400-800 million hectares forest are owned/ administered by communities. In 18 developing countries with the largest forest cover, over 22% of forests are owned by or reserved for communities. In some of these countries (e.g. Mexico and Papua New Guinea) the community forests cover 80% of the total (Molnar et al., 2003). More land and resources are under community control in other ecosystems. By no means all areas under community control are effectively conserved (i.e. can be considered ICCAs), but a substantial portion is.