What are Biocultural community protocols (BCPs):

With the progress of mankind, the world has developed many international and national environmental laws. The development of biocultural community protocols (BCPs) by local communities is a process in which these communities can increase their capacity to control the local implementation of these laws. A BCP is a protocol that is developed after a community outlines its ecological, cultural, and spiritual values, customs, and laws based on its traditional background and resources. They also establish clear terms and conditions to control access to their knowledge and resources.

A Community-based Approach:

A biocultural community protocol is a unique community approach that ensures the integrity of environmental laws and policies. Communities declare their rights to their accord and improve their engagement with other stakeholders. These stakeholders can be government agencies, researchers and other project promoters. These stakeholders are consequently given certain access to have a closer look at the whole community, their territories, and natural resources, and their bio-cultural values and customs. They are also given access to natural resource management, their challenges, and their visions of their future.

BCP is considered an empowerment for the communities such as indigenous people, local or mobile communities, and non-governmental and community-based organizations who can make informed decisions to secure their rights and strengthen their existence in all sectors.

Developing a BCP:

The process of developing a BCP focuses on the various dimensions of indigenous and local communities, their lifestyles, cultures, customs, and resource management. It also involves resource mapping, assessing governance systems, and evaluating community development plans. It considers legal empowerment as well, so the community members can develop a better understanding of the international and national rules and laws that control various sectors of their lives. This wide range of sectors covers the protected area frameworks, ecosystem services strategies, etc. Within the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) framework, a community may want to review and control their research priorities, on what terms and scale it would engage with the researchers and other stakeholders who want access to their traditional knowledge, what the procedures relating to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) must be, and what types of benefits the community wants to achieve. 

The Terminologies:

Some common terminologies are interconnected with the whole concept, process, and frameworks of a Biocultural Community Protocol. These are often used in short abbreviations, these short forms are useful to understand the structure of the system. Some of these most-used acronyms are;

  • ABS– Access and Benefit Sharing
  • BABS– Bio-prospecting and Access and Benefit Sharing
  • BCP– Bio-cultural Community Protocol
  • CBD– Convention on Biological Diversity
  • ESS– Ecosystem Services
  • FAO– Food and Agriculture Organization
  • FPIC– Free, Prior, and Informed Consent
  • ICCA– Indigenous and Community Conserved Area
  • ICESCR– International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights
  • ILC– Indigenous People and Local Communities
  • IUCN– International Union for the Conservation of Nature
  • PoWPA– Programme of Work on Protected Areas
  • REDD– Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation
  • TK– Traditional Knowledge

A Biocultural Relationship:

The traditional knowledge of a community is interconnected with the interaction between ILCs and the cultural practices and spiritual values embedded in their customs and laws. The ILCs have been through an integrated relationship with the environment at the international platforms to evaluate international laws and regulations. This relationship emphasizes the cultural, spiritual, and correlative connections with the lifestyle, land, and territories.

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Illustrating the Holistic Nature of ILCs relationship with ecosystems_UNEP.jpg

Biocultural Community Protocols and REDD:

The term REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation which is often integrated with the goals of BCPs. This specific term of REDD was first proposed by the Coalition of Rainforest Nations in Montreal at the 11th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP 11).

Though the interconnection between deforestation, carbon, and climate change is already well-established globally. Unfortunately, most of the development schemes hugely disturb the balance and coherence between nature and the forest-dependent communities which have been carried by them for generations. These communities have a high potential to control and mitigate the impacts of REDD, but they are often marginalized politically and economically which makes them extremely vulnerable to the facts that degrade forests.

These forest-dependent communities are provided with an opportunity by the BCPs to define their development expectations in their way. The specific activities that accelerate deforestation are controlled by funding alternative livelihoods to the community. BCPs are a culturally sensitive approach to get a better idea of the needs of the ILCs, and also to go to the deep roots of the degradation and deforestation of that specific region.

Biocultural Community Protocols and Protected Areas:

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Rainfed Livestock Network

The indigenous people and the local communities (ILC) play a significant role in managing the protected areas designated by the national and international authorities. Their traditional knowledge, customs, and practices hugely contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in and around protected areas which are gradually being recognized in global platforms. That is why, the authorities have signified that the management of these protected areas can be governed by the ILCs, along with other private stakeholders and state agencies.

The Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCA) are defined as natural or constructed ecosystems that contain significant biodiversity, ecological services, and cultural values, which are voluntarily conserved by ILCs. Through BCPs, these communities can bring huge impacts on biodiversity and wildlife conservation.

Challenges and Ways Forward:

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Biodiversity and Culture_google

Each of these specific ILCs is threatened by various factors that affect their lifestyle, maintenance of their traditional knowledge (TK), and their resources. For example, political regimes often restrict them from their traditional livelihoods and affect them largely. This issue also hampers the local ecosystems, affecting the bigger picture of climate change and resource and production.

When these communities learned to address their challenges and started outlining their development aspirations, the major issues they wanted to resolve were; better access to their resources and to ensure the appropriate use of their traditional knowledge. They did not want any ways to conflict with their values. With this approach through BCP, they learned to outline the ways they want to secure their biocultural future ahead. 

What are Biocultural community protocols - Sheet4
BCP for Livestock Keeper_Cover_Biocultural community protocols for livestock keeper


  • Anquet, R. and Girard, F. (2022) “Biocultural community protocols and the ethic of Stewardship,” Biocultural Rights, Indigenous Peoples And Local Communities, pp. 271–313. Available at: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003172642-14.
  • “Bio-cultural community protocols. A community approach to ensuring the integrity of environmental law and policy. K. Bavikatte and H. Jonas (eds.) United Nations Environment Programme and natural justice published in 2009, pp. 88. available at http://www.unep.org/communityprotocols/pdf/communityprotocols.pdf” (2010) Animal Genetic Resources/Ressources génétiques animales/Recursos genéticos animales, 46, p. 82. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/s2078633610000779.
  • Frison, C., Parks, L. and Tsioumani, E. (2022) “Biocultural community protocols,” Access and Benefit Sharing of Genetic Resources, Information and Traditional Knowledge, pp. 177–190. Available at: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003301998-15.
  • Indigenous Rights and Resource Governance Research Group (no date) Biodiversity and culture: Exploring community protocols, rights and Consent, FPIC.INFO | Biodiversity and Culture: Exploring Community Protocols, Rights and Consent. Available at: https://fpic.info/en/resources/biodiversity-and-culture-exploring-community-proto/ (Accessed: March 30, 2023).
  • Rakotondrabe, M. and Girard, F. (2021) “Protecting traditional knowledge through biocultural community protocols in Madagascar: Do not forget the ‘B’ in BCP,” Sustainability, 13(18), p. 10255. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/su131810255.