Biodiversity and human well-being linkages across the agricultural socio- ecological systems of Sikkim
Culture influences the two mainstays of income and livelihood of the local communities: agriculture and tourism. For both the activities, biodiversity is critical. For organic agriculture, local biodiversity enables key services like pollination and acts as a source of manure and livestock feed. Sikkim also has a very rich diversity of wild edibles, many of which grow around existing farmlands and agri-fallows. About 90% of the tourism is centred around biodiversity – largely for aesthetics and watching birds, butterflies and plants. The remaining 10% are attracted by the Buddhist religious sites, in all of which biodiversity is a key element. For example, many such sites are located with sacred forests and lakes and mountains. Unfortunately, recent developments and centrally sponsored policy trajectories are pushing agriculture towards monocropping focused on high yields while promoting organic fertilisers. Tourism pressures are increasing almost exponentially, particularly following the disastrous COVID-19, after which the state has been highly aggressive in drawing more tourists. It creates a situation of high volume but negative feedback for local biodiversity and culture, which are the mainstays of tourism. Therefore, any interventions should strengthen the positive values and improve the negative feedback towards positive ones.