Connecting indigenous communities, ecology and enterprise in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve

@ATREE auditorium at 11.00 pm on 4th April 2018

Keystone Foundation has been working to establish linkages between livelihood, governance and conservation goals for marginalised communities living close to biodiversity rich areas. In the last two decades protected area coverage in the region has increased from 60-75% (Keystone Foundation, unpublished data). Protection for indigenous people’s rights and access to land and forests has been strengthened with the declaration of the Forest Rights Act (2006). In spite of this, we find that the overall quality of forests and life of indigenous people do not seem to be improving. Conservation challenges like increased human-wildlife conflicts, wide spread invasive species, loss of grasslands, reduced water availability and prolonged periods of drought persist. Challenges to human well being in the form of poor education, inadequate health facilities, and poor implementation of land tenure settlement continue in the lives of indigenous people. We anticipate, climate change will only exacerbate some of these threats by reducing the resilience of forests and increasing the vulnerability of indigenous people. In our work over the past 25 years, we have observed that the communities’ life, land and forest interactions, has sustainability science in-built in traditional methods and is likely to play a crucial role in maintaining and enhancing the quality of forests. The effects of exclusion of traditional use and management of forest and land resources on both biodiversity and livelihoods needs to be monitored and assessed in order to improve decision making for good environmental governance.

About the speaker
Dr. Anita Varghese, is Deputy Director at Keystone Foundation. She holds a Bachelor’s in Zoology (Bombay University), Masters in Ecology (Pondicherry University) and a Doctorate in Botany (University of Hawaii). She is a member of the Plant Conservation Sub Committee of the IUCN, Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group steering committee (CEESP/SSC- IUCN) and Cycad specialist group (SSC/IUCN). Her interests are in plant conservation specifically on sustainable use, non timber forest products, long term population dynamics of harvested species, invasive plants, cycads, and forest trees. Her work looks at the factors that mediate the relationship between people and nature, specifically how the goals of conservation and development can be harmonised.