Conservation is Development

Speeches Shim

People in the village of Kailas in Nepal now have more water for home use as a result of conservation of the uphill forests.
People in the village of Kailas in Nepal now have more water for home use as a result of conservation of the uphill forests.
Jason Houston for USAID

USAID’s biodiversity programming both protects natural resources and priority places and establishes conservation as a foundational component of human well-being. USAID and partners are exploring many critical intersections and entry points for integration between development sectors.

Biodiversity integration graphic
Biodiversity programming both benefits and is supported by programming in other development sectors.

Conservation actions, such as enforcing wildlife laws and partnering with indigenous communities to protect forests, can safeguard nature’s benefits while leading to equitable and sustainable development. Through collaborative approaches, USAID works to diversify livelihoods, end extreme poverty, improve peace and security, empower women, and build resilient societies. USAID’s Environmental and Natural Resource Management Framework, launched in 2019, provides an Agency-wide guide to ensure USAID investments in all sectors bring environmental considerations to the forefront.

Food security

USAID invests in improved management of the natural systems that help the world, especially the most poor and vulnerable, to grow food. Through sustainable agriculture and sustainably-managed wild fisheries, USAID and its partners can improve the resilience of food systems while conserving biodiversity.

The USAID-funded Bluefields fish sanctuary in Jamaica has contributed to a 70 percent decline in illegal fishing and an increase in legal fishing hauls and fish size, resulting in greater food security.

Game warden Venis Bryan and co-captain Cavin Lattibeaudiere remove an illegal fish trap from the Bluefields sanctuary.
Game warden Venis Bryan and co-captain Cavin Lattibeaudiere remove an illegal fish trap from the Bluefields sanctuary.
Kimberley Weller, USAID

Water and sanitation

Ecosystems like forests, grasslands, and wetlands harvest water, remove contaminants, and store and deliver water for human use. Similarly, water and sanitation programming reduces marine pollution and unsustainable water use.

With the Government of Indonesia, USAID has secured protections for more than 24,000 square kilometers of forest where the country’s freshwater supply originates.

Tropical forest in Indonesia
USAID works on three of Indonesia's largest islands to improve land use and conserve the biodiversity of the country's diverse tropical forests.
William M. Frej

Democracy, human rights, and governance

Both good governance and conservation require equitable community participation in decision making and management. By promoting co-management of resources, investing in judicial systems, and supporting land tenure systems, biodiversity programs often establish entry points for improved governance.

In Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, a USAID-supported paralegal training program helped 15 indigenous organizations resolve land disputes and secure almost 100,000 hectares of indigenous lands.

Cofan Indigenous people
Supported by USAID, the Cofan Indigenous people in Ecuador are combining their traditional knowledge with democratic principles and natural resource management skills. The Cofan now join government meetings and contribute their knowledge to decision-making in their territories. are working to become more united and stronger to continue conserving biodiversity within their territories.
Thomas J. Müller


Biodiversity loss increases risks like poor nutrition and disease emergence and transmission, especially in marginalized communities who may be more dependent on nature. Poor health restricts people’s ability to work or attend school, keeping low-income communities overly dependent on limited natural resources; similarly, costs to treat an illness or injury can drive people to log, hunt or fish illegally in order to earn extra income quickly. Accessible and affordable healthcare can reduce pressure on natural resources, while intact and diverse ecosystems promote health and fight disease by providing wild foods and natural medicines, regulating disease carriers (like mosquitoes and ticks), and cleaning the air and water.

In collaboration with the University of Vermont, USAID research found that children living near watersheds with greater tree cover are less likely to experience diarrheal disease—the second leading cause of death for children under the age of five.

Girl planting mangroves in Indonesia
The University of Vermont study researched 35 nations across Africa, Southeast Asia, South America, and the Caribbean and found critical links between children’s health and healthy tree cover.

Highlights of USAID’s conservation work and mission

Related Sectors of Work