Written by an anthropologist working in Central American conservation efforts for more than 10 years, this article describes the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (MBC) project as having succumbed to a neoliberal agenda. Although originally spearheaded by Central American environmentalists, the notion of cross-border environmental collaboration was adopted by the World Bank and large international conservation organizations working in Central America in the 1990s. In the hands of these international giants, the biological corridor initiative became a bureaucratic, top-down project, deaf to the voices of local communities.
With all this new bureaucracy, a broad and unfocused agenda, and the challenges of high-level political coordination, the MBC quickly lost its potential to inject a stronger environmental justice component into regional biodiversity conservation programs.
Indeed, the MBC that emerged from the World Bank’s incubator was decidedly more business-oriented than initial proposals for Central American environmental coordination at the 1992 Earth Summit [Grandia 2007: 486].
In this context, the MBC’s conservation efforts have focused more on securing land for protected parks and less on community-based initiatives. The author suggests that in addition to land protection, the MBC should engage farmers in capacity building for eco-agriculture with a view toward achieving landscape-wide ecological connectivity.
The corridor approach might also draw greater attention to the agrarian contexts outside of parks, which may be just as ecologically important as what happens inside parks. By bringing agricultural systems into conservation debates, corridors may present new opportunities for supporting fair-trade projects and other small-scale agroforestry systems compatible with conservation. In other words, corridors could offer a method for moving beyond protectionism to embrace a mosaic vision for conservation that includes local people more explicitly. Corridor planning frameworks also could provide more democratic conservation forums [Grandia 2007: 484].
Grandia, Liza, 2007, Between Bolivar and bureaucracy: the MesoAmerican Biological Corridor, Conservation and Society 5(4), http://www.conservationandsociety.org/article.asp?issn=0972-4923;year=2007;volume=5;issue=4;spage=478;epage=503;aulast=Grandia.