Kinship Conservation Fellows recently returned from Karnataka, India, where it hosted its first regional workshop for 2018. Participants gathered in Nandi Hills for five days to learn firsthand from experts about how market tools can be used to better protect biodiversity, with an emphasis on the opportunities for incentive-based conservation in India.
The idea to expand training beyond the Fellows program came about after many conversations with Fellows who are challenged to scale their work in certain parts of the world where an understanding of market-based conservation remains limited. It became clear that to get conservation solutions to scale, training needs to target more practitioners and be delivered in a local context.
“We chose India as a location for our workshop, because our analysis had shown that there is great potential for the use of market tools to help conservation,” said Nigel Asquith, program director for Kinship Conservation Fellows. “Although there are many committed, talented practitioners, much of conservation in India focuses on researching endangered species and habitats, rather than directly conserving them. As we expected, many of the workshop participants had solid training in research methods, and some had masters and even doctoral degrees, but few had used incentives or market tools in their conservation programs.”
This sentiment was echoed by those who attended the workshop. “There are not enough conservation initiatives that look outside of protected areas in the country, despite that there are areas of equal conservation importance,” said participant Arjun Kamdar, a student and a consultant at Naturenama. “I believe that the potential to set up economic and ecologically self-sustaining conservation projects in India is not utilized completely.”
The interactive regional workshop was organized by India-based Fellows, Arshiya Bose (2013) and Shashank Srinivasan (2017). Arshiya, who owns Black Baza Coffee, shared her experience developing incentives for coffee farmers to modify their farming practices to be more biodiversity-friendly. Her session sparked ideas among the participants. “For me, the energy and impact that the sessions had on the participants was palpable. Local trainings like this are so useful in India simply because they haven’t been done like this before,” said Arshiya. “This was a chance to connect with like-minded people and expand our networks. And Shashank and I have been discussing how to continue the conversation into other dimensions—conservation marketing, designing market-based projects, and mapping theories of change—scaling our impact beyond coffee-producing regions.”
Shashank helps organizations deploy technology solutions for wildlife and environmental conservation and presented a session on the use of modern technology to enhance conservation. “I view conservation data as a resource in itself, which can be used both to inform market-based conservation, or traded with entities in other disciplines. For example, I recently worked on a project where I created a tool that aggregated data from multiple sources to create an interactive map of biodiversity along highways in India. This was a decision-support tool for potential investors in road expansion projects, informing them as to which segments of road they should and should not invest in, based on the risk to the biodiversity. These kinds of ideas have not been explored because many conservation practitioners in India have been suspicious of incentive-based conservation. I believe that a regional training model can help their understanding because it is set in the local context. I was pleased to see the same enthusiasm among the participants here that I saw during my time as a Kinship Fellow in Bellingham in 2017.”
Other Fellows presented at the workshop as well, including Siddharth Rao (2015), director of ecology at Timbaktu Collective, who organized a field trip to the Kalpavalli Community Conservation Area. Timbaktu developed a cooperative model along with rural communities from 10 villages, resulting in the regeneration of over 9,000 acres of Savannah Grasslands and Tropical Thorn forest in the region. The participants also visited Timbaktu Organic, a cooperative of 2,000 organic farmers who produce, process, and market biodiversity-friendly food. “Community engagement and leadership are key factors to the conservation of biodiversity so that the process is just, fair and inclusive,” said Siddharth. “Our model of conservation uses market-based tools to address critical conservation issues such as chemical farming, habitat and species protection. Our success is the ability to facilitate marginalized rural communities to engage with the market from a position of strength.”
“Over the course of the week-long workshop, we had many lively discussions about when markets can and cannot be used in conservation. Participants departed with a series of new tools to use, and a heightened awareness of the potential of the use of market-tools for environmental protections,” said Nigel.
“It was extremely comforting to be in a space where one can freely express their views on market incentives and the link with conservation,” said Naren Sreenivisan, a conservation biologist at the Wildlife Association of South India. “I experienced this space while studying abroad, but it was amazing to have it in the Indian context.”
About Kinship Conservation Regional Workshops
Kinship Conservation Fellows has been developing and delivering training on market-based conservation since 2001. As of this date, its flagship Fellows program has trained 264 conservationists around the world. With the expansion to include regional workshops, Kinship Conservation Fellows continues to deliver on one of its core strategies: to build the capacity of conservation practitioners by providing real, innovative tools to solve environmental challenges. In 2018, Kinship Conservation Fellows will host regional workshops in India, Kenya and Mexico.
Photo credits: Arjun Kamdar, Amar Kunwar and Shashank Srinivasan