The Centre for Sustainable Development (CENESTA) is a non-governmental, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting Sustainable community- and culture-based development. Its main area of work is Iran and South-West Asia, with programmes and projects in other parts of the world. CENESTA experts have also engaged in extensive activities in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and in the international area in general.

CENESTA is a member of IUCN– the International Union for Conservation of Nature and is a founding member of the ICCA Consortium—an international organization dedicated to conservation by indigenous peoples and traditional communities.

CENESTA works with a variety of partners, from local communities in Iran and other countries to local and national government agencies, universities, research organizations, as well as national and international NGOs. The UN bodies with which CENESTA and its experts have entertained collaboration include GEF/SGP, FAO, UNICEF, UNDP, IFAD, UNSO, and the UN Secretariat.

In addition, CENESTA is accredited to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and European Commission (EC).

CENESTA has a small core of staff and a large network of associates– ranging from indigenous peoples and community-based groups to women’s associations and technical experts who act on the basis of common concerns and specific capacities. CENESTA staff and associates work in the context of project contracts and/or on a voluntary basis, contributing time as well as financial and material resources for the goals of the organization.

Who we are

Cenesta has an alternative approach to development:

Sustainable, with the following dimensions:

  • Ecological and environmental
  • Economic and financial
  • Social and cultural
  • Institutional and policy

Endogenous, equitable and rights-based:

  • Gender
  • Sociocultural and community-based
  • Economic

For us, Conservation of Nature is inseparable from Sustainable Livelihoods;
Biological and Cultural Diversity go hand in hand.

Our point of departure for Sustainable Natural Resource Management is customary institutions, world views and science and technology systems.

One of our major missions is re-empowering the indigenous and traditional local communities (IPs/LCs) to take their destiny into their own hands via a self-management and/or collaborative management approach.

What we do

  • Promote community management and co-management of natural resources (rangeland, forest, arid lands, wetland, wildlife, marine and coastal, water resources, etc.)
  • Understand and strengthen indigenous and traditional customary law & customary community institutions of IPs/LCs
  • Promote support to and appropriate local, national and international recognition of Indigenous & Community Conserved Territories & Areas (ICCAs)

We value and protect cultural diversity

  • Indigenous peoples
  • Traditional knowledge
  • Customary law
  • Customary institutions
  • Identity and rights
  • Agricultural biodiversity

We promote and strengthen sustainable livelihoods of indigenous peoples and traditional local communities.

  • Participatory Action Research (PAR) on agricultural biodiversity by focusing on traditional knowledge
  • Agro-ecology, food sovereignty, and community-based organic production
  • Participatory and Evolutionary Plant Breeding (EPB)
  • Renewable energies and appropriate technologies for human settlements and environmental sanitation

Areas of activity

We are active in the following areas:

  • ICCAs: Promoting the appropriate recognition of Indigenous peoples’ and traditional Community Conserved territories and Areas;
  • Restoration of the rights of indigenous peoples (IPs) and traditional local communities (LCs) over their natural resources and territories, including facilitating the self-organisation of IPs and traditional communities through strengthening customary institutions of governance.
  • Sustainable agriculture, food sovereignty and agro-ecology including: conservation farming, participatory plant breeding, evolutionary plant breeding, non-chemical management of pests and crop production, regenerative soil management, agroforestry, farming systems research, non-GMO advocacy, agro-fuels, social and environmental responsibility of agribusiness, local food systems, safeguards on industrial agriculture and animal husbandry, national seed laws and democratisation of food and agricultural research, land tenure rights;
  • Community empowerment, voice and equity (participatory development and conservation planning, social animation, Community Investment Funds including community-owned and –operated rural credit schemes, women and development initiatives);
  • National and international policies and programmes for sustainable livelihoods and poverty eradication;
  • Renewable energy (solar, wind, biomass technologies), including initiating major wind-farms and photovoltaic installations, as well as community based small scale application of biogas, solar heating and wind pumps;
  • Collaborative management of natural resources, including wildlife and protected areas, as well as urban and industrial areas;
  • Community-based natural resource management (common property and common pool natural resource management, promoting and safeguarding indigenous knowledge and strengthening customary institutions for management of watersheds, fisheries, water, pasture, forests, wildlife, etc.);
  • Combatting desertification (policy and practice on arid lands, pastoralism, climatic and vernacular architecture);
  • Climate change adaptation, resilience and mitigation, especially community-based;
  • Environmental, social and health impact assessment


Cenesta is a member and has accreditations from the following organisations: