~ By Satvik Parashar
Conservation on a holistic level that maintains biodiversity as well as local livelihood requires collaborations across scientists, local people, decision-makers and practitioners. Such strategy engages NGOs, researchers and governments within what is called a Science, Policy and Practice Interface (SPPI). This calls for the involvement of a socio-ecological network that drives collaborations between trans-disciplinary organizations and measures the effectiveness of the knowledge gained through this collaboration, for multiple goals. Our network – the NCCI is one such network, and a recent paper by Amrita Neelakantan, Kishore Rithe, Gary Tabor and Ruth DeFries discusses the institutional context within which NCCI operates and indicators that could measure our work in the future.
The familiar Central Indian Highlands cover an area of more than 450000 sq. kms, spanning the states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The landscape consists of several Protected Areas (PAs) and Tiger Reserves (TRs), and is home to a variety of flora and fauna.
Central Indian Highlands and protected areas landscapes. (a) India and location of the Central Indian Highlands (CIH)region across three states (Yellow and orange polygons depicting parts Madhya Pradesh (MP), Chhattisgarh (CH) and Maharashtra (MH) states) as well as PAs (green polygons). (b) Forest cover (dark green) in the region with embedded PAs (lighter green polygons) show corridors between the PAs
~ by Satvik Parashar
A recent study by interdisciplinary researchers ( from McGill University, Rutgers School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University and Deshpande Foundation, including some NCCI members from the University of Delaware, Columbia University, Foundation for Ecological Security (FES)) explores the efficacy of multiple cropping, seasonality and the socio-economic factors with respect to food security and especially dietary diversity. Specifically they explore the seasonal variation of dietary diversity and food security as well as the associations with multiple cropping and income sources in the region.
Food insecurity is a global problem, as 690 million people worldwide were still undernourished in 2019. Apart from this, the lack of diversity in dietary intake is responsible for chronic deficiency of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals, such as iron, vitamin A, and zinc). This deficiency is known as ‘hidden hunger’, and it affects around a quarter of the world population, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. This calls for intensive agriculture strategies such as multiple cropping, which involves harvesting crops more than once a year. The study tests the efficacy of this cropping in increasing food security as well as dietary diversity among the households.
200 households were surveyed from 40 villages within five districts of Madhya Pradesh (see map below). Same individuals from each household were surveyed for the three seasons (summer, monsoon and winter), resulting in 600 surveys.
Map of study area showing location of the 40 study villages within the five study districts at the boundary of the Indian states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, along with the spatial distribution of winter cropping (the second crop) in 2016 (cropped area data source: Jain et al 2017).
Agroforestry as an avenue for enhanced livelihoods, lower ungulate-crop raiding and PES in central India
~ by Satvik Parashar
Since the last few decades, biodiversity conservation measures in India have largely been dependent on the creation of state-controlled protected areas (PAs). Despite the popularity, PAs in India face many conservation challenges that include fragmentation, insufficient size, limited connectivity, development pressure, close proximity to human population etc. Additionally, there can be resentment among some local populations in these areas as they are seldom part of the decision making processes that directly affect them. Inclusive strategies such as ecotourism and biodiversity-friendly agriculture are proving to be more sustainable steps in conservation. A recent paper focuses on the effectiveness of voluntary conservation initiatives on private agricultural lands such as agroforestry. For the involvement of landowners in agroforestry, the influence of factors such as 1) Program Design, 2) Land Characteristics, Demographic and socio-economic characteristics of landowners, 3) Socio-psychological variables of landowners has been studied in this paper.
Figure 1 :Program Factors and Landowner Characteristics that shape Landowner Preferences
~ by Amrita Neelakantan (NCCI Coordinator)
A timely study by NCCI founder Prof. Ruth DeFries and collaborators lays out possible scenarios for minimizing risk of exposure to COVID-19 in rural India as the lockdown is relaxed and migrants return to their villages.
What we know
Seasonal migration is a widespread livelihood option for households in forest-fringe areas of Central India, moving people from villages to the country’s cities for up to 6 months in a year. Typically, these migrants are young males and they return to the village in time to plant monsoon crops. Seasonal migrants are generally poorer and less educated than those that migrate permanently (for work or education) . In the current pandemic of COVID-19, the risks of exposing rural India with returning migrants from cities is of major concern for both rural communities and government authorities, as well as for migrants who are desperate to return with no source of income during India’s lockdown.
Moreover, communities on the periphery of forest areas in the country are some of the most vulnerable and poorest. Central India, one of the main forested areas in the country, is important for tiger conservation and has a high proportion of Scheduled Tribe populations. In these villages of Central India, the poorest households use seasonal migration to supplement their incomes , increasing the risks of exposure to COVID-19 as migrants return. These villages are even more at risk as they have poor or non-existent health facilities and low quality diets in typically crowded households . Additionally, most households continue to use fuelwood with high indoor air pollution already causing respiratory problems . While the populations are not as dense as in cities, the spread from village to village and lack of medical facilities is a grave concern.
As of this writing, the country has been in lockdown since March 24th. Seasonal migrants are unable to access work or means to return home. News channels have documented migrants returning home on foot. Quarantine facilities have been set-up in villages but the quality and efficacy of these are unknown. The government restricted inter-state travel for migrants after April 20th. As restrictions ease, chances persist of exposure and spread to adjacent villages from migrants who have already returned.
Given the economic hardships of lockdown, the authors of this study provide some alternatives to severe physical distancing. The objective is to reduce chances of exposure while allowing people to obtain essential supplies, plant crops, and carry out other necessities of daily life. A post-COVID-19 path could be informed by their results.
The study uses data from a 2018 study that surveyed approximately 5000 households in 500 forest-fringe villages in Central India. The original study was to assess patterns of migration over the previous five years (2013 – 2018) and was unrelated to tracking disease spread.
What they found
The researchers found that seasonal migration is widely dispersed across forest-fringe villages of Central India. Eighteen percent of surveyed households sent migrant workers to cities in the last five years. Seventy-five percent of villages had a least one household with migrants, and all districts had a least one village with migrants. Similarly, migrants traveled to 124 locations over the last five years. Over eight percent of migrants went to cities were COVID-19 cases were reported at the beginning of the lockdown, based on the publicly-available COVID-19 tracker site (www.covid19india.org).
The researchers used a simple, epidemiological model of disease spread to examine different scenarios of movement between and within villages (Figure 2). Using varying R0 values (the basic reproduction number that represents the expected number of cases generated by an infected individual), the researchers allowed for scenarios with lenient (no restriction R0=3), moderate (some restriction to interactions R0=2) and maximal (highest restriction R0=1) movement within and between villages. The findings highlight how different strategies for easing lockdown restrictions might vary in terms of the number of people exposed in the unlikely but possible event of the virus reaching a village.
The most effective way to limit exposure is obviously to keep everyone within and across villages in lockdown. But as most Indians are now familiar with, keeping an indefinite lockdown is not feasible with many states already easing some restrictions to save India from economic hardship. The more important question then becomes, how one would begin opening up the lockdown or easing restrictions to balance the economic needs with necessary caution to avoid exposure to the virus.
This study reports, for a hypothetical case of exposure in one village, that maximal limitations to movement between villages with lenient movement within villages (middle scenario in Figure 2) exposes fewer people than moderate restrictions that apply to both within and across villages (bottom scenario).
Incidentally, the scenario that led to the least number of exposed people in the model is similar to New Zealand’s successful “social bubble” and communities’ efforts in India to restrict entry to villages.
~ by Kalyanee Paranjape
Given the tumultuous history of conservation and establishment of national parks, it is important to note that protected areas continue to provide various benefits to the local population. These benefits are not just limited to providing ecosystem services but also have shown to alleviate poverty. Various scholars have discussed these benefits by analyzing the various types of capital but few have evaluated them in a single system.
A recent paper titled, “Contributions of financial, social and natural capital to food security around Kanha National Park in central India”, sheds more light of this. The researchers have utilized the five capitals model of sustainable development – including financial capital, social capital, natural capital, human capital, to clarify associations between certain livelihood factors and food access in the Kanha National Park (KNP) landscape. This framework has allowed the researchers to explore locally contextual links between livelihood characteristics and well-being while also providing a way to compare across time and geography. The authors have focused on food security as a multidimensional aspect of well-being.
The study took place in central India (yellow inset) surrounding Kanha National Park (dark grey polygon), surveyed households are demarcated by black dots.
The paper revolves around three aspects, the status of food security around KNP, how it varies across seasons and geography; and the contribution of the three capitals including finance, social and natural to household level food security. The team used semi structure interviews to extensively survey around 800 household across three seasons (summer, monsoon and winter) to capture seasonal changes of food security and livelihoods.
Project Spotlight highlights our members' work in Central India.
|Network for Conserving Central India||