When people work for forests: understanding ecological and social outcomes of community-based conservation

@ATREE, 9 May 2014, Friday, 4pm

The ecological outcomes of community-based conservation have been much debated, particularly in the context of linking poverty alleviation with biodiversity goals in developing countries. The speaker will share new research on the ecological and social aspects of the van panchayats (forest councils) in the Uttarakhand Himalayas, which attempts to understand their role in sustainable forest management. Local norms, regulations, extraction patterns and functioning of van panchayats has been studied in a cluster of six villages in the mid-altitudinal oak-pine forests (1500-2500 m asl) from 2011-2013. Preliminary results indicate that the functioning of VPs is patchy with only one out of the studied six, meeting the basic functions of protection and patrolling, sanctioning, resource allocation and common decision-making. Many of the local regulations on extraction are not followed, with considerable inter-village transgressions. Study of forestindicators related to vegetation structure, diversity and regeneration of dominant tree species suggests intense extractive pressure which may not be sustainable. Findings also suggest stalling of natural succession of pioneer pine into multi-species oak forest, and ‘invasion’ by pine into oak forest, encouraged by government plantations and local extractive activities. Findings on the role of elite capture, urbanization, development, biomass shortages and markets in the decline of van panchayat as an institution will be discussed.

About GhazalaShahabuddin
GhazalaShahabuddin works on ecological issues at the interface of human society and biodiversity conservation in India and South Asia. She has a PhD in conservation biology from Duke University (USA) in 1998 in which she studied the ecological processes involved in butterfly extinction in a fragmented landscape (Venezuela). She has published extensively on habitat fragmentation, avian ecology in human-dominated landscapes, community-based conservation and conservation-induced displacement. In 2010, her book 'Conservation at the Crossroads: Science, Society and the Future of India’s Wildlife' was published by Permanent Black. She is currently on the faculty at the School of Human Ecology at Ambedkar University, Delhi. Her current research has been carried out with collaboration with the Centre for Ecology, Development and Research (CEDAR), Dehradun.