Sentinel landscapes –long-term monitoring of land, forests and livelihoods

The Sentinel Landscapes Framework Assessment is a World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) project in which ATREE is participating. A sentinel landscape is a geographic area that is bound by a common issue in which broad ranges of biophysical, social, economic and political data are monitored over a long period of time. The project examines the relationship between livelihoods and land health in forested landscapes that have undergone land-use change. It is a long term ecological and socio-economic study across cultures, institution types and governance styles, and combines local and global perspectives in comparable sites across the world. In this case, the sentinel landscapes being studied are spread across the tropical belt: Borneo-Sumatra, the humid tropics of Central Africa, Mekong, Nicaragua-Honduras, West Africa, and Western Ghats in peninsular India. All six sites are biodiversity hotspots-areas of high biodiversity under threat because of use of human activity. All six sites are a mix of agricultural and forested landscapes, or closely associated with forests.

ATREE's work extends across four districts: Chamarajanagar, Kodagu, Niligiris and Wayanad, where data collection through socioeconomic surveys is being carried out.

This data will be used to do a comparative study of the landscape to find out the institutional settings that favour an equitable utilization of forest resources and associated benefits, and identify conditions that allow farmers to significantly capitalize on tree products and benefit from them as well as factors that induce people to value the ecosystem services.

For these purposes village-level data will be linked with land health indicators. The derived land health indicators will not only facilitate the assessment of the status of the land and vegetation during the time of sampling, but also help model how the landscape was 10 to 15 years ago. For each village, a trajectory of change can therefore be constructed. ATREE completed data collection in Chamarajanagar and Kodagu districts last year, and surveyed a total of 320 households in Wayanad and 324 in Nilgiris.

Preliminary findings indicate that most of the households were engaged in farming and only Katunayaka community depends on the forest for subsistence. Other ethnic and religious groups depend on the forest chiefly for collecting firewood. The households that engaged in farming were involved in the commercial cultivation of finger millet, paddy, coffee, tea, pepper, tubers like tapioca and vegetables like carrot, cabbage and so on. In Wayanad, most of the settlements shared the forest resources with other settlements.