Integrating local residents – especially poor households, indigenous communities and women – into the protected area economies of the developing world via concessions compensates for losses, alleviates poverty, drives local economic development and builds conservation incentives. Integrating locals is important not only as a principle of natural justice but also on pragmatic grounds.
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The ongoing project “Incorporation of Sacred Forests into the Protected Areas System of Benin,” supported by UNDP and financed by GEF, preserves tracts of forest with religious and ecological significance in Benin. These sacred forests are at high risk, and the recent addition of Sacred Forest as a category of Benin’s protected areas legislation paves the way for greater protection of the forests included in the project scope as well as other forests around the country.