The Andes-Amazon social team has published three journal articles documenting their work

Taken together, these papers strengthen the case for engaging communities and their traditional knowledges in conservation, show how conservation and local people can work productively together to enhance local people’s well-being through good natural resource stewardship.

 “A new approach to conservation: using community empowerment for sustainable well-being,” published in Ecology and Society, takes stock of The Field Museum’s long-standing work with indigenous and campesino communities in the Peruvian Amazon to unpack how emphasizing communities’ assets, rather than their deficits, has strengthened conservation. Conventional economic development in the Amazon has often involved government agencies and private firms coming to rural communities with the assumption that they are poor and need projects like timber management and agricultural intensification to escape poverty. Environmental conservation nonprofits have offered more sustainable alternative to communities, but have often done so through a similar top-down approach. The Field’s approach to conservation for well-being, which this new paper describes, aims to flip this prevailing paradigm on its head. Communities have useful longstanding traditions of socioeconomic organization and natural resources stewardship, and when people think critically about what priorities make sense to them, they often shift away from environmentally destructive activities like agricultural intensification and cattle ranching to agroforestry, reforestation, and artisanal crafts using non-timber forest products. Read the essay here:


In Environment and Society, Alaka, Tita, Ashwin and co-authors unpack the so-called “biocultural” approaches in an article entitled “Culturally Grounded Indicators of Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems.” Effective, culturally grounded measurement systems are key to supporting adaptive management and resilience in the face of environmental, social, and economic change. The paper reviews seven case studies and one framework regarding the development of culturally grounded indicator sets, and propose new indicators to take stock of how well these approaches are performing relative to conventional conservation initiatives. The paper can be accessed here (you will need a subscription to read it all):

Then, in Nature/Ecology and Evolution, Alaka, Tita, Ashwin and some 30 co-authors—scientists, policy-makers and on-the-ground practitioners—suggests alternative and complementary approaches that use indicators grounded in the values of a particular community. Culturally grounded perspectives are missing from many medium- and large-scale sustainable resource management efforts developed by governments and other institutions. Disconnects can result in miscommunication, misdirected resources, and failed policies. Worse, assessments that lack a place-based cultural context can be harmful to communities, leading to loss of control over place, knowledge, or resources. Many types of knowledge—from those that reflect local, place-based cultural values to information derived from external researchers or policymakers—can contribute to understanding and managing systems sustainably.“Biocultural approaches to well-being and sustainability indicators across scales” can be read here: