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Training Module

Livelihoods, Health, Poverty, and Well-being in Conservation


Welcome to the livelihoods, health, poverty and well-being in conservation training module by the EDGE of Existence.



We are pleased to have you join us on this training module designed to equip early career conservationists with the knowledge and skills to understand and contribute to conserving some of the world’s most unique and threatened species. This module is structured into several sections and is delivered in-person to new EDGE Fellows during the Conservation Tools Course using a combination of lectures, activities, individual and group work, quizzes, and problem-based learning. Here, we present a series of videos outlining the taught content.

This training module has been made possible through the generous support of the DEFRA Biodiversity Challenge Funds Darwin Initiative and a Capability and Capacity Grant. Their contributions have enabled us to develop this new module and provide new educational content for the next generation of conservation leaders.


In this module, we cover:

Understanding Poverty

In this session, we introduce the concept of poverty and explain how the understanding of poverty has evolved over time. We highlight persistent and false assumptions about the global state of poverty and poverty alleviation. Fellows will gain an initial awareness of the sustainable livelihoods approach and well-being concepts, understanding their critical relation to poverty; these ideas are developed further in later sessions. We will examine the key concepts of vulnerability and marginalisation and how these intersect with poverty, highlighting the importance of addressing these issues as a precursor to effective conservation efforts. Additionally, we will discuss Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and its relevance in reducing vulnerability and marginalisation in the context of conservation.

Furthermore, this section will provide an overview of the global state of poverty, including progress toward poverty alleviation and the spatial correlations between poverty and biodiversity, particularly EDGE species and zones. We will also touch upon the broad policy context, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which frame global efforts to combat poverty.

By understanding the rural poverty status and lived experiences of people within their countries and work areas, Fellows will gain insights into the reality of poverty through case studies and applying MPI indicators. Lastly, we will explore the history and evolution of the poverty-conservation paradigm and the rationales for linking conservation efforts with poverty alleviation.

  1. What is poverty?
  2. Current concepts related to poverty
  3. Current state of poverty
  4. Global patterns of biodiversity and poverty
  5. Sociopolitical characteristics of EDGE Zones
  6. Poverty-biodiversity I (rationales and evidence)
  7. Poverty-biodiversity II (history)


In this session, we will explore the concept of well-being and what determines a good and bad quality of life, both for Fellows and for the people at their project sites. We will delve into the multidimensional and locally specific nature of well-being and ill-being, using insights from the World Bank’s ‘Voices of the Poor’ study. Fellows will learn about the origins and evolution of the well-being concept and understand contemporary perspectives on well-being, including its material, subjective, and relational aspects.

Furthermore, we will investigate the intersection of well-being and conservation, examining how conservation efforts can impact well-being. This session will highlight the importance of understanding people’s perceptions of what it means to “live a good life” and how this understanding can enhance the legitimacy and success of conservation interventions. Fellows will also learn about the guiding principles for investigating well-being and evaluating the effects of conservation on well-being, as well as explore the process of defining well-being indicators.

By the end of this session, Fellows will have a comprehensive understanding of the various dimensions of well-being and its relevance to conservation efforts, equipping them with the tools to consider well-being in their conservation work.

  1. The good life
  2. The bad life
  3. The human wellbeing concept
  4. A wellbeing framework
  5. Why well-being in conservation
  6. Guiding principles for developing well-being indicators
  7. Developing indicators

Understanding Livelihoods

In this session, we will delve into the concept of livelihoods and their critical role in development. Fellows will gain an awareness of the history of livelihood approaches to development and become familiar with the wide range of livelihood frameworks used by development agencies. Understanding the core elements consistent across these frameworks is essential, and Fellows will be able to describe these core elements comprehensively.

We will explore more recent extensions to livelihood frameworks, including considerations of vulnerability and well-being. Fellows will examine how the livelihoods of people at their project sites may align with these frameworks, gaining insights into livelihood diversification, trajectories, and coping strategies such as mobility and migration in response to natural resource fluctuations and risks. Additionally, the session will highlight how social axes can determine access to assets that are utilized for livelihoods.

The session will also cover conservation policy and livelihood interventions. Fellows will learn about different types of livelihood interventions used in conservation, understand the rationale behind these interventions, and discover ways to increase the likelihood that such interventions are sustainable and achieve positive social and ecological outcomes.

By the end of this session, Fellows will have a comprehensive understanding of livelihood frameworks, their application in development and conservation, and strategies to enhance livelihood sustainability and effectiveness in conservation efforts.

  1. Introduction to livelihoods
  2. Sustainable Livelihoods Approaches (SLAs)
  3. The elements of a livelihood I
  4. The elements of a livelihood II
  5. Livelihood interventions in conservation

Engaging with Communities and ESMS

In this session, Fellows will be introduced to the IUCN Environmental and Social Management System (ESMS), a critical framework for evaluating conservation projects for potential adverse environmental and social impacts. This session will provide an overview of all ESMS principles and standards and guide Fellows on effectively accessing and utilising this information.

Fellows will gain a deeper understanding of three key ESMS principles: gender equality and women’s empowerment, taking a rights-based approach, and ensuring free, prior, and informed consent. These principles are fundamental to implementing ethical and effective conservation strategies that respect and uplift local communities.

Additionally, the session will include a case study on working with rural communities, highlighting Mica’s work with Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) in Argentina, Caleb’s work with communities in Ghana, and an overview of some of ZSL’s work in Mozambique. These case studies will provide practical insights and real-world examples of engagement with communities and the application of ESMS principles in conservation projects.

By the end of this session, Fellows will be equipped with the knowledge to evaluate conservation projects using the ESMS framework, understand the importance of gender equality, rights-based approaches, and informed consent, and appreciate the practical applications of these principles in fieldwork.

  1. Intro to ESMS I
  2. Intro to ESMS II
  3. Gender and Conservation
  4. Rights-based approaches to conservation
  5. Case Study - Caleb - People, frogs and parks
  6. Working with IPs & LCs
  7. How to work with IPs & LCs
  8. Case study - Mica