The current paradigm of biodiversity conservation, with its continued focus on the notion of pristine nature, has resulted in the separation of humans and nature at the expense of both biological and cultural–linguistic diversity. The continued annexation of land for the cause of conservation has resulted in the curtailment of both rights and access to local and diverse food sources for many rural communities. Indigenous Peoples and local communities are fundamental to conserving biodiversity through sustainable use of nature despite repeated attempts to dispossess them from their lands, cultures and knowledge. It has been this traditional and land-based knowledge that has contributed to the conservation of biodiversity whilst also supporting healthy, diverse and nutritious diets. If we are to achieve a more just and sustainable future, we need to continue to centre conservation initiatives around rights, access and equity whilst respecting a plurality of perspectives, worldviews and knowledge systems. Here we review alternative approaches that help reconcile the right to food with biodiversity conservation, such as biocultural rights, rights-based approaches and integrated land management schemes, with the aim of identifying optimal ways forward for conservation that break away from the dichotomous view that pits people against nature and instead embrace the importance of this symbiotic relationship.
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