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Incentives ensure long term co managment and protection to habitats and biodiversity in legally unprotected forests in north Western Ghats.



 Deforestation is one of the major drivers of biodiversity loss and a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions globally. However, satisfying the energy and livelihood needs of forest dependent communities in an environmentally sustainable manner is the single biggest challenge for conservation of forests and biodiversity. This holds very true for the community managed forests of the Northern Western Ghats of India- a global biodiversity hotspot. The forest landscapes from Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts in particular with average forest cover of 50% (6800 Sq. Km) face major brunt of the indiscriminate felling of trees on account of fuel wood and livelihood needs. Importantly, about 90% of this vast forest region is owned and managed by local communities.  It is with a dual purpose of avoiding deforestation and saving biodiversity in this region that AERF launched India’s first ever incentive based private forest conservation initiative in 2008. The trigger was provided when AERF team observed indiscriminate cutting of globally threatened tree species e.g. Sarca asoka, Hydnocarpus pentandra for a paltry compensation. Socio-economic and ecological assessment of community forests, along with prioritization of forests for conservation using internationally accepted methods viz High Conservation Value Forests (HCVF) criterion and Important Plant Area (IPA) methodology were important pillars of success of this initiative. In last seven years, the initiative has spread to 25 villages across three districts in the North Western Ghats saving 2500 acres of community forests and providing income generation opportunities to over 600 families. Development of FAIRWILD certified supply chains for sustainable biodiversity use at scale and engagement with indigenous communities for social inclusion, financial sustainability and conservation are some of the innovative approaches so far adopted by the initiative. 

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How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

 AERF knowing the potential of the community forests from North Western Ghats in sequestering and storing carbon carried out carbon stock assessment of large and contagious patches of forests. These carbon stock assessments were presented to different stakeholders including private sector in form of opportunities to offset their carbon emissions. This strategy fulfilled two objectives- it brought the North Western Ghats in to focus of wider audience and generated revenue to support conservation of these forests. In this manner, AERF managed to engage with 7 private sector companies which include 4 Indian companies and 2 multinational banks viz HSBC and Credit Suisse. In absence of REDD mechanism, such local level engagement will highlight the role of forests in climate protection. 

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