From biodiversity conservation to a wider nature-culture heritage approach

Published: 21 January 2021
Last edited: 22 February 2021

For many years, the focus of conservation projects on the island has been solely on nature and biodiversity. The Soqotra Heritage Project aims at addressing both natural and cultural heritage as one interlinked element that is widely interconnected within the life and culture of people that are indigenous to the island and are a key component of the bio-cultural landscape of the Soqotra Archipelago.

This act of reconnection is firstly established through the identification and documentation of tangible and intangible heritage manifestations and expressions as well as the establishment of awareness raising activities. The project team cooperated with a group of local interested individuals in the documentation of over 400 tangible cultural heritage assets (buildings, monuments, historic places as well as artefacts and objects) and the oral and intangible traditions - particularly the local Indigenous language and oral history - of Soqotri communities through report, photographs and films. This process included consideration of the integration of cultural heritage into protected area systems designed for biodiversity conservation, and raising awareness of the importance of conserving heritage in its wider form with local communities.


Alliance and partnership development
Co-management building
Collection of baseline and monitoring data and knowledge
Communication, outreach and awareness building
Education, training and other capacity development activities
Scale of implementation
Phase of solution

Enabling factors

The interdisciplinary partnership behind the project is the backbone of the application of a more comprehensive heritage approach.

Furthermore, the fact that the local ARC-WH staff member and the project team are well connected with key local stakeholders, such as the Governorate representatives, GOAM and EPA, facilitated the communication and dissemination of key information which will motivate a widening of pure biodiversity focus to a more nature-culture approach of conservation.

Lessons learned

The project focused on challenging the existing separation between nature and culture that is still widely integrated into conservation thinking. This divide can also be found in the differences between the understanding and thinking of local communities and the external professional influence. A key element in overcoming these divides has been the involvement of local Soqotri communities in the set-up, planning and implementation of the project, including discussions with local professionals and community members representing the interest of Soqotri communities.


The project has allowed to recognise and explore the existing differences between biodiversity and heritage conservation theory and practice, and the requirement to consider novel approaches from all participants to adapt to a local system – especially where this system is a relatively isolated archipelago and where there is little or no governance or infrastructure for heritage conservation and management.