Role of Local Knowledge in Nature Conservation and Restoration: Experience of GEF SGP UNDP in I.R. Iran by Laleh Daraie


With a civilization that is thousands of years old, culture and nature have formed close linkages in Iran that are more complex than commonly recognized by mainstream environmental institutions and programmes. Cultural tradition and living tradition have been part of people’s lives and how they related to the environment. In fact, the relationship between people and nature cannot be separated from their knowledge and how they behave. The landscape/seascape approach embraces this complexity and recognizes that cultural and natural values are interlinked. Landscapes and seascapes encompass tangible and intangible heritage, and in pursuit of environmental sustainability, it is important to recognize the role of intangible cultural heritage. A thriving socio-ecological production, a landscape/seascape is where the local communities are actively involved in the sustainable management and the use of natural resources; where cultural sensitivities, heritage, and knowledge shape the core of where land and nature management come together. Therefore, intangible cultural heritage and knowledge of land/sea management need to be recognized and find its place in the decision-making processes on environmental sustainability. This article summarizes some of the GEF SGP UNDP Iran program experiences since its inception in 2001, by elaborating on a few case studies where local knowledge has contributed to environmental sustainability.