Past conservation efforts in India have been centered on Protected Areas (PA) and have ignored the need to manage PA networks at a landscape level. Additionally, very little has been done to maintain or restore connectivity of ecosystems outside PAs. It is well acknowledged that landscape-level corridors are as important as PA's for the long-term conservation and many such corridors pass through production landscapes.
Managing such corridors will require support and involvement of local land managers and owners. However mechanisms for co-managment are lacking and do not allow communities in productive landscapes to pro-actively participate in conservation initiatives, and often they are averse to such initiatives. Active participation also involves opportunity costs that they incur through better land management practices and co-management is best achieved when it is profitable, economically and holistically, for people to involve themselves in conservation activities.
The situation described above is well exemplified in the Shencottah Gap, which connects the Ashambu hills with the Cardamom Hills in the Western Ghats of Southern India. Our previous work has identified potential linkages for wildlife connectivity, passing through a mixture of land ownership types, individual landowners and those owned by companies. We have also identified rubber plantations to be a crucial landuse feature influencing river and watershed management. A certification process, linked to Corporate Social Responsibility and a market based approach that encourages landowners to manage their land and waterbodies in a more ecologically friendly manner appeals as a workable solution for private plantation managements. Proposed standards are directly linked to fair- and sustainable-trade markets and based on best management practices that are grounded on ecological and social indicators, while safeguarding agricultural production.
The key components of this study include:
- Developing key ecological indicators for a certification process of rubber plantations in Southern India.
- Identifying market linkages for certified rubber.
A website on Sustainable practices in rubber plantations and on eco-certification has been designed as part of the project: http://www.feralindia.org/ecoag