Back To The Future: Using Traditional Knowledge to Strengthen Biodiversity Conservation in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia

Raynor, Bill
Kostka, Mark
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Botany Department, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Pohnpei's traditional belief system strongly supports conservation, but years of foreign rule and influence, population growth, excessive US aid, shift to a cash economy and other factors have combined to weaken the islanders' conservation ethic. The result has been a rapid decline in biodiversity health, which has in turn led to a decrease in quality of life and increased dependence on outside assistance. Conventional government-led western style approaches to resource management were clearly failing, and in 1990, The Nature Conservancy, the local government, and other partners embarked on a program to involve the island's traditional leaders and other cultural experts in the protection of the island's upland forest watershed. After a difficult start, the program has focused on combining Pohnpei culture and traditional knowledge with modern conservation planning and management practices with some success. The result has been a unique community-based management approach that establishes local control over spatially discreet resources that are legitimately considered to belong to the community and the return of resource management and use to an autonomous, consensus-based decision-making process. In a sense, the approach is an act of reconciliation, reconfirming those aspects of both political systems that are considered legitimate. For the participants, it has been a valuable learning experience through which a uniquely "Pohnpei-style" approach - suited specifically to the island's social and political conditions - is being developed.
Raynor B, Kostka M. 2003. Back to the future: using traditional knowledge to strengthen biodiversity conservation in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia. Ethnobotany Res Appl 1:55-64.
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