The Snow Leopard Conservancy engages local communities using a highly participatory planning process known as Appreciative Participatory Planning and Action, or APPA. APPA significantly extends the more traditional rural development tools such as Participatory Rural Appraisal.
The Mountain Institute (TMI) has developed and pioneered APPA as a community-action and learning tool. It combines concepts from Appreciative Inquiry (used in business leadership training) and Participatory Learning and Motivation, in a collective inquiry and planning process that fosters effective group action.
In our context, APPA enables participants to better explore ways in which biodiversity protection, livestock (or crop) damage alleviation and income-generating opportunities can be implicitly linked to the benefit of local residents and the protected area’s overall objectives.
APPA operates on two simple complimentary premises:
- What you seek is what you will find – “if you look for problems, then you will find more problems,” or conversely, “if you look for successes, you will find more successes.”
- What you believe is what matters most – “if you have faith in your vision or ideas for the future, and if these are believable, then you'll be able to achieve success without waiting for government or an outside donor to help take you there.”
APPA is practiced through a repetitive cycle known as the “Four Ds:”
- discovering the community’s strengths and valued assets or resources;
- dreaming, or envisioning, the short-term (one year) and long-term (five or more years) futures – if adequate and realistic resources were mobilized and the community acted in concert;
- designing an action plan for linking community development with stewardship of snow leopards and their habitat, emphasizing what the community already knows and can do on its own without relying substantially on outside financial sources or technical know-how;
- delivery – spurring participants to initiate community-improvement actions immediately rather than waiting for some future time or depending on a government subsidy that somehow is always delayed for lack of funding.
APPA has been applied to community-based conservation initiatives in Nepal’s Makalu-Barun Conservation Area, in Sikkim’s Khangchendzonga National Park, in Tibet’s Qomolangma Nature Preserve and India’s Hemis National Park. It has empowered communities to learn from their successes instead of focusing on their problems, mobilized individuals and groups toward concrete actions which they can start immediately, and initiated long-term change toward self-reliance. APPA is relatively quick and easy for villagers to learn and implement by themselves. Junior park field staff found it relatively easy to understand and implement with minimal training.