Partnering with Communities


Since its founding in 1987, Conservation International has supported Indigenous people and local communities — stewards of nearly 40% of the world's intact landscapes — in their efforts to protect their territories. In fact, it was a founding principle of our organization.


Advancing our priorities

We implement a rights-based approach to conservation, which connects human well-being with the protection of nature — providing sustainable livelihoods while maintaining healthy ecosystems.

By enlisting all parts of society — Indigenous peoples and local communities, youth and others — we seek to make the conservation movement more inclusive and harness the power of traditional knowledge, science and technology.


Healthy, high-carbon ecosystems like primary forests, mangroves and peatlands can help us mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Conservation International works with stakeholders and partner organizations to provide incentives to Indigenous people and local communities for the protection of these lands.

How we protect nature for climate »


To secure the long-term health of the ocean and the services it provides, we must ensure effective management of marine ecosystems. In coordination with partners, Conservation International works with small-scale fisheries and aquaculture areas managed by local communities to implement socially responsible and sustainable harvesting practices.

How we conserve our oceans »


We focus on making our economies nature-positive by partnering with Indigenous peoples and local communities who have time-honored methods for the sustainable management of their lands and waters. We help by sharing technology and training to create scalable, nature-based conservation models for the world's most vital ecosystems.

How we pilot nature-positive economies »



Indigenous people and local communities

While Indigenous people and local communities may have much in common, there are some key distinctions between them, including how their rights are recognized in national and international policies.

Indigenous people are defined as having customary social and political institutions, a historical continuity and attachment to specific lands, and who self-identify as such a group. For more information, please see the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Local communities depend directly on their ecosystems for their livelihoods and as a result have developed traditional knowledge about their area.



Our plan

SLP staffer Tonggo Manurung discusses rubber supply chain issues.
© CI/photo by Tory Read

As part of our mission to implement a global, nature-based conservation model, Conservation International works closely with Indigenous people and local communities to facilitate connections to key policy makers, provide access to critical technology and sustainability training, and highlight the expertise and experience of Indigenous peoples and local communities — so they can better protect their territories and secure the benefits that these lands provide to all of humanity.

Conservation International supports the full and effective participation of Indigenous peoples and local communities in conservation, including through the following initiatives:

  • Indigenous leaders conservation fellowships provide emerging Indigenous leaders with a robust program of learning opportunities and connections for personal and professional development. There is a special focus on Indigenous women.
  • The Indigenous Peoples Negotiations Program enhances the capacities of Indigenous peoples and local communities to negotiate with development actors to achieve equitable benefits from activities undertaken in their territories by outside actors.
  • Conservation and conflict sensitivity programming helps leading global experts, institutions and communities better understand and value the role that nature plays in creating peaceful and prosperous societies. In partnership with the PeaceNexus Foundation, Conservation International is building on our rights-based approach to integrate conflict analysis into our conservation planning processes.
  • Combining watershed management with water, sanitation and hygiene services — collectively known as “WASH” — promotes communities’ stewardship of ecosystems and supports their well-being. Our goal is to increase awareness of the connections between resilient communities and freshwater ecosystems at all levels, and promote long-term human health and conservation outcomes.


On the ground

© Cristina Mittermeier
Brazil’s Kayapó: Stewards of the forest

In the Brazilian Amazon, Conservation International works to support the Kayapó Indigenous people in their efforts to protect their culture and lands. In 2011, we created the Kayapó Fund, the first trust fund to provide long-term financing for conservation of the Amazon by Indigenous peoples. Read more »

© Piotr Naskrecki
Direct access for climate change funding

Conservation International plays a key role in the Dedicated Grant Mechanism for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, an innovative grant program for fighting forest loss by putting project design and funding decisions in the hands of communities. Read more »

© Lucas Bustamante
Indigenous Leaders Conservation Fellowship

This fellowship provides opportunities for Indigenous leaders to explore the ways that traditional knowledge and scientific information can be used to address climate change and biodiversity loss. Read more »

© Cristina Mittermeier
Free, Prior and Informed Consent

Conservation International respects the principle of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), which refers to the right of Indigenous peoples to give or withhold their consent for any action that would affect their lands, territories or rights. Read more »

© Benjamin Drummond
Respecting Human Rights

Recognizing that there is a direct connection between human well-being and the environment, a rights-based approach ensures that mutual respect and recognition of individual and collective rights are integrated into conservation work. Read more »