Kodagu Model Forest is part of a Global Environment Facility (GEF) initiative aiming to reduce land degradation and conserve biodiversity in agricultural landscapes in two states of India. Within the Kodagu Model Forest, the villages of Thithimathy, Mukkodlu and Porad are amongst the 20 micro-landscapes selected for the project.
Agriculture is the main source of livelihoods in rural India with over 90 million smallholder farmers across the country. As the country faces a steady growth of human and livestock populations and coupled with economic and trade liberation policies, farmers are encouraged to increase their agricultural productivity. While access to fertilizers is generally straightforward, smallholder farmers often confront challenges such as: limited access to technical and financial services; a poor connection to supply chains; a decline of the size of their land plots; and a dependency on irregular rainfall for water supply. These challenges lead to a decline in rural family income, loss of biodiversity (mainly through the loss of habitat), soil impoverishment and pollution (caused by excessive use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers). While agricultural productivity depends on the health of natural ecosystems, the numerous pressures on land resources often prevail.
To support farmers in the search for alternative low-input sustainable agricultural practices and to secure incomes, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), through continued work with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Rainforest Alliance, Kodagu Model Forest Trust and many other stakeholders, launched the project “Transforming agricultural systems and strengthening local economies in high biodiversity areas of India through sustainable landscape management and public-private finance.” With a duration of five years and a budget of US$6,226,883 (with co-financing of over $US 68 M), the initiative aims to “reduce land degradation and conserve biodiversity in agricultural landscapes in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, by promoting sustainable agricultural production, supply chains and public – private finance”.
The project will take place in 20 micro-landscapes in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, where the need for restoration of degraded land and biodiversity conservation actions are urgent. Three of these micro-landscapes are located in Kodagu Model Forest (which covers the entire district of Kodagu in the Western Ghats): Thithimathi -a forested landscape, in which monoculture, invasive species and human-wildlife conflict are priority issues; Mukkodlu- a degraded landscape, heavily impacted by weather events, including landslides; and Porad- a strategically located riverine community in the Cauvery catchment, where new planting along the river bank is needed.
Kodagu Model Forest Trust, recognized for its considerable work and expertise in the fields of sustainable development, community participation and mitigation of human-wildlife conflict, is the local implementing body for the activities taking place in those 3 landscapes. Efforts will focus on: mobilizing and providing technical services to coffee growers in Kodagu district; strengthening the existing Farmer Producer Organizations; strengthening market linkages; implementing micro-landscape activities through participatory process building on existing local stakeholder governance structures; strengthening the conservation of Sacred groves (classified as protected forests and important for biodiversity protection); and working on the mitigation of human-wildlife conflict at farm and landscape scales.
The International Model Forest Network Secretariat would like to extend our congratulations as this very interesting initiative begins and the strengthening of partnerships within India and beyond continues.
With information from the Global Environment Facility.
 Human-wildlife conflict in the region is a growing problem and involves human and elephants. Elephants are facing a loss of their habitat, which is accelerated by invasive species and forest fires. This conflict can lead farmers and their families to abandon their farmlands and consequently to loose their livelihoods. The conflict also generates injuries and deaths, for both animals and humans.