People are closely connected to biodiversity in the Western Ghats, where tea is a major commodity. © Cristina Mittermeier
Local communities in the Western Ghats, especially those living in or near key biodiversity areas (KBAs), can act as guardians of the environment. Bringing these communities together can be a critical component of successful conservation.
With support from CEPF, the Wildlife Information Liaison Development Society (WILD), in partnership with the Nityata Foundation, connected motivated individuals and civil society organizations in Karnataka’s Udupi and Shimoga communities to create a network for conservation. These people live at the forest edge, in immediate proximity of conservation threats, such as destructive development and poaching.
“Through this project we have identified many key stakeholders who are actively working in conservation in the local areas,” said Anup Prakash, project manager with WILD. “We have gotten them to talk to each other through various approaches like holding regular meetings between them and the local forest department officials, and especially through using locally available technology, like the internet and smart phones, to try and collect relevant data in the region and pass it on to different stakeholders who can then use it to make decisions for positive action.”
WILD and Nityata provided communities with training to increase awareness about the importance of conservation and build capacity to protect their environment. The project engaged students and youth in nature clubs to identify and report threats in the region, and introduced sustainable technological solutions, including mobile phone applications, to encourage the sharing of information.
In addition to allowing individuals to network, this project empowered local populations to safeguard their natural resources, as well as species found only in the Western Ghats.
A community member participating in data collection. © CEPF-ATREE/photo by IoraPro
Anup Prakash, project manager with WILD
Raising awareness and disseminating biodiversity conservation information to local communities is a challenge in India, where the variety of languages spoken is a major barrier to communication. Without raising awareness about the importance of conservation, and engaging local communities, governing bodies and other stakeholders, conservationists cannot be successful.
Over the course of five years, CEPF supported WILD, the local partner for a CEPF grant to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), to assess the global status of 292 reptile species found in the Western Ghats. As a follow-up to this project, CEPF provided WILD with additional funding to create momentum for the conservation of globally threatened reptiles and freshwater species among local stakeholders and policymakers through education, training and follow-up of assessment projects.
B.A. Daniel, a scientist with WILD
“Our objective was to disseminate the information to the people who live in the Western Ghats Region,” said B.A. Daniel, a scientist with WILD. “We have a big problem with language barriers, where the communication is almost not happening, especially with regard to the transformation of the scientific information to the local community.”
A variety of local-language education materials were developed, including a teaching guide on freshwater biodiversity and reptiles, packet materials (booklet, placard, sticker, friendship band and masks), species posters and pocket field guides. Many of the education materials developed are available online here.
WILD also created a partnership among local educators and environmental journalists, and this network will continue to promote freshwater and reptile conservation. Altogether, more than 650 people were trained in a series of education and awareness programs, reaching more than 10,000 people on the ground. Read about all of the project results here.
As demonstrated in these two projects, bringing partners together and disseminating information to all stakeholders can create a momentum for conservation. This allows outreach to continue beyond the end date of a project, helping ensure long-term conservation sustainability.
Marsh crocodile (Crocodylus palustris), a CEPF priority species in the Western Ghats. © CEPF-ATREE/photo by IoraPro