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Empowering Communities


Member of the Emberá community

Around the world, local communities and indigenous peoples are key stewards of the natural places WWF works to conserve. They depend on forests, fisheries and wildlife for their ways of life. Over generations, many have developed knowledge and practices to sustainably use and protect natural resources. Yet local people face growing challenges to their ability to be good stewards, including:

  • external competition for land and resources
  • insecure rights to land and resources
  • limited economic opportunities 
  • limited access to health, education and other social services
  • population growth

Empowering women and families to build healthy communities and a healthy planet

Meeta is a young mother from India. Back-to-back pregnancies and heavy housework responsibilities took a toll on her health and wellbeing. Noting her declining health, a neighborhood social worker invited Meeta and her husband Ramkishore to participate in a CARE maternal health program that fostered open communication, education and access to family planning information.


What WWF Is Doing

To address these challenges, WWF works to strengthen communities’ ability to conserve the natural resources they depend upon. We help them secure the rights, capacities and knowledge they need to strengthen their role as stewards of the environment, and improve their livelihoods and health. We also promote innovation, learning and implementation of strategies to expand community conservation across larger landscapes. This includes:

  • facilitating links across communities
  • building capacity of support institutions
  • promoting policy frameworks for community tenure, decentralized governance and sustainable livelihoods
  • collaboration to address environment-related threats to community land

Respect Rights and Improve Livelihoods

Indigenous and traditional peoples around the world maintain close ties to their ancestral lands and traditional knowledge important for conservation. We support collaborative conservation approaches that contribute to securing customary land and resource rights, strengthening community organizations and generating livelihoods from well-managed resources.

Local women making handicraft goods

Empower Women and Improve Health

Women in Ghandruk

Girls and women often play a central role in natural resource management and use—collecting forest products for food, medicine and firewood, and water for their families. Yet they are often excluded from participating in community decisions about resources, due cultural, legal and other barriers. We help them gain better access to education and health services such as improved drinking water, sanitation, vaccinations, and family planning so they can improve their lives and help lead environmental change in their families and communities.

Sacred Earth: Faiths for Conservation

Buddhist shrine

Many of the most important conservation places in the world are sacred and tied closely to the spiritual and cultural identities of their people. WWF's Sacred Earth program works with religious leaders and faith communities to address threats to the places we all value and to encourage genuine sustainable development.

Publications and Documents


  • Conserving Wildlife and Enabling Communities in Namibia

    Namibia is home to an array of wildlife, from ostriches and zebras roaming the gravel plains to penguins and seals chilling in the Atlantic currents. It was the first African country to incorporate protection of the environment into its constitution. With WWF’s help, the government has reinforced this conservation philosophy by empowering its communities with rights to manage and benefit from the country’s wildlife through communal conservancies.

  • Managing Marine Resources in the South Pacific

    The marine resources of the South Pacific region are threatened by major challenges. WWF believes that sustainable livelihood, development and conservation efforts are most successful when community groups adopt conservation initiatives and make their own management choices.

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