Conserving Private Forests in Koyna-Chandoli Corridor: Establishing a Model For Sustainability

Background

The Western Ghats, also known as the Sahyadri, is one of the biodiversity hotspots of the world and harbours several rare and endangered species of plants and animals. Mālki forests (forests on private land) are extensively found in the Western Ghats. Mālki forests are very important for several ecosystem services such as soil conservation, regulation of water flow in rivers, prevention of global warming, conservation of biodiversity and landscape connectivity. They also provide forest produce and income to the owners. (Read the news on mālki forests).

Koyna Sanctuary and Chandoli National Park together constitute the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve. The Koyna Chandoli corridor lies between Koyna Sanctuary and Chandoli National Park. It is a critical wildlife corridor and also forms part of the buffer zone of Sahyadri Tiger Reserve. It sustains extensivemālki forests along with government forests. The area has distinct climatic and geographic conditions which give rise to rich biodiversity. Considering its importance as a critical wildlife corridor and the large extent of mālki forests in this region WRCS is implementing a project for conservation of private forests.

 

Some benefits of conserving mālki forests are:

  • Monetary benefits to the local community

  • Valuable ecosystem services such as soil conservation, regulation of watershed runoff

  • Conservation of biodiversity

  • Strengthening the connectivity of the wildlife corridor

The project area consists of 16 villages with a total area of 8000 hectares, of which 3900 hectares (49%) is under private forests. The people in the project area belong to the economically underprivileged section of society. They have little knowledge about the scientific management of natural resources. Their main occupation is subsistence agriculture. Many people from the area have migrated to Mumbai for work.

At present, the mālki forests are managed unsustainably because of which they are getting degraded. Many areas are changed to scrubby growth and grassland. There is tremendous potential for conserving the forests and improving the monetary returns to their owners if the forests are managed sustainably by applying principles of scientific forestry.

Through this project, WRCS is promoting sustainable forest management practices that will yield enhanced forest produce and also conserve the forests. The community is encouraged to protect their mālki forests from tree cutting and fire. Tree plantation is carried out using native tree species in blank spaces and gaps in the forest. The bamboo plantation is being carried out to yield quick income. At a later stage, they will be trained in scientific forestry practices. Income-generating activities such as beekeeping and cottage industries are being promoted.

All malki owners are advised to protect their forests from fire, tree cutting and grazing by cattle. Tree plantation, using native tree species, was carried out on the land of mālki owners in 2013 and 2014. Plantation of native tree species and bamboo was carried out in all the plots. Bamboo will yield quick income which will encourage participation in the project. Harvest of trees by scientific principles will yield monetary returns in the long run. Some malki owners have started scientific management of their malki forests with good results.

Beekeeping is being promoted as an activity compatible with private forestry. Several training sessions have been conducted through the project. We are exploring opportunities for other income-generating activities.

Conservation of Mālki forest in this region will consolidate the corridor between Koyna Sanctuary and Chandoli National Park. It will serve as an excellent model for conservation of Mālki forests in the Western Ghats.

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Project AreA

Wildlife Research and Conservation Society (WRCS) has been carrying out a project for the conservation of private forests in 16 villages in corridor region between Koyna Sanctuary and Chandoli National Park. The project area is an important wildlife corridor between the two protected areas. The extent of the project area is about 8000 ha of which nearly 4000 ha is private forests. The project area is a part of the northern Western Ghats, which is one of the biodiversity hotspots of the world, and UNESCO recognized as a world heritage site. The area located in the Patan block of Satara district of Maharashtra (India).

Project Goal

The goal of the project is “to strengthen the Koyna-Chandoli corridor by the restoration of private forests, and establish a model for sustainable management and utilization of private forests”.

Project activities

 

  1. Eco-restoration: Tree plantation and seed sowing

  2. Conservation agreement

  3. Capacity building of women for income generation 

  4. Ecotourism

  5. Beekeeping

  6. Organic Farming

  7. Awareness generation

  8. Environmental education for students  

Project Achievements

  •  Working with 53 private forests owners from 10 villages of the project area

  • 40000 seedlings planted on 205 acres of degraded private forests, achieved over 80% survival rate

  •  16,400 man-day’s work created in tree plantation and maintenance activity for the local community

  • 5 Women SHG making food products and handicrafts, the total sale around Rs. 4 -5 lakh per year

  • Bee Keeping: 2 farmers have 24 bee colonies,  (Total 25000/- income per year )

  • Eco-tourism: 4 Nature guides, income 60000 to 65000 per year 

  • Organic farming: 23 Farmers each having 10 to 15 R area under organic farming 

  • Corporate volunteers:  From 2014, about 1100 corporate volunteers participated 

  • Website for ecotourism promotion developed: https://www.koynanaturetourism.com/

  • Online shop for product sale: https://www.wrcsindia.org/shop-1

  • FSSAI registration for food products 

Support the project

 

Incentive-based conservation is a widely practised strategy of offering monetary or in-kind incentives to the stakeholders to encourage them to adopt sustainable management practices. The incentives are generally low, but sufficient to motivate the stakeholders to adopt sustainable management practices. Conservation of existing forests by paying incentives is more cost-effective than carrying out plantation on degraded land. Agreements will be made with the Malki owners to protect forests on their land for a period of at least 5 years. Incentives will be paid after appropriate verification. We expect that the Malki landowners will become self-reliant after a period of 5 years and manage their forests sustainably without need for incentives.

Your monetary contributions will help us carry out incentive-based conservation of mālki forests at Koyna. We need your sustained commitment for a period of at least 5 years. Your donations will be used to pay incentives (cash or kind) to malki owners for protection of mālki forests. You can contribute to tree plantation through the Donate a Tree Scheme. Please visit the donate page to make donations. Please contact us to discuss specific activities to support

5 years old Plantation site at Devghar 
Bamboo Plant 

​We have opportunities for small groups to volunteer on this project. Tree plantations require a steady workforce to maintain saplings, remove weeds, mulch young trees among other tasks. If you are a small group (two to four people) that is looking for some field time on weekends and are willing to get your hands muddy then contact Sunil at sunilkale25@gmail.com

Volunteers need to pay for their own travel (both ways), food expenses, and basic accommodation at Koynanagar. Please note this opportunity will involve laborious physical work, often in heavy rain, and very basic food and accommodation. Apply only if you are up for this task.

Volunteering  opportunity

Our supporters

  • The project is supported by a grant from KPIT.

  • Tata Motors is providing us funds for tree plantation.

  • Maharashtra Foundation, USA is supporting us for livelihood development.

  • UPS Foundation, USA is supported for tree plantation and livelihood development

  • Forest Department of Maharashtra for eco-tourism development

  • Several individual donors have also contributed to the project.

© Wildlife Research and Conservation Society 2017