Protecting Nature's Hotspots for people and prosperity

Collaboration Between Civil Society and Government

Hidden within the evergreen forests of the Western Ghats Mountains is India’s most threatened ecosystem: the Myristica swamps. These fragmented habitats, which take their name from two tree species of this genus, face threats from conversion of the swamps to commercial spice gardens and diversion of their waters to farming.

Now, a multipronged approach to restoring the Myristica swamps has been developed by local organizations Snehakunja Trust, LIFE Trust, and Sirsi Forestry College, with support from CEPF, and is making a broad impact as the state of Karnataka adopts this community-based model. 

From the Western Ghats to St. Vincent in the Caribbean, CSOs like these, working with local, regional and/or national governments, are creating new models for conservation and templates for replication in larger regions or even entire countries.

Indian villagers, government officials work side by side

In the first phase of the Myristica swamp project, teams of local villagers worked alongside staff of the state forest department to map the swamp fragments and the micro-corridors linking them. Next, they developed decentralized nurseries for swamp tree species, managed by local communities. Finally, participants planted carefully chosen tree saplings in the most degraded swamp fragments.

When participants planted 15,000 saplings (most raised in the community nurseries) and restored six micro-corridors, the project’s success drew the attention of state officials. Among them was a former chair of the Karnataka Western Ghats Task Force. Invited to a few workshops held by the partners, “he was convinced about the importance of conserving the swamps … and the performance of this CEPF-funded project,” said the project’s director, Narasimha Hegde.

The upshot? The state has expanded the project in the 15 original villages and has added 10 more, and now the initiative includes such features as fences, additional plantings, and signs explaining the ecological importance of the swamps. Hegde credits the model’s results in part to its recognition that villagers viewed some swamps as sacred places. 

On a practical level, the project also furnished fuel-efficient ovens and driers, and cultivated 10,000 mango, cinnamon and other trees that villages can use for fuel, fodder, income generation and other purposes, reducing pressure on the swamps and surrounding forest.

Forest restoration benefits Caribbean community, ecotourism

On a smaller but meaningful scale, a CSO in a St. Vincent village of 3,000 in the Caribbean Islands biodiversity hotspot is partnering with the St. Vincent and the Grenadines national government to protect a rainforest, draw ecotourists and create sustainable livelihoods. The Diamond Village Community Heritage Organization is making the most of a geological mystery, the Bubby Stone, a huge rock pile on a mountain some 2,500 feet above sea level. 

Deforestation in the area—once a conflict zone between marijuana growers and traditional farmers—was contributing to soil erosion, flash floods and even landslides, as well as problems such as stream sedimentation and biodiversity loss. What’s left of the rainforest hosts three threatened species: the St. Vincent parrot (Amazona guildingii), the St. Vincent blacksnake (Chironius vincenti) and the Lesser Antillean whistling frog (Eleutherodactylus johnstonei).

Restoring the forest made sense for a host of reasons. So between September 2012 and June 2013, the CSO blazed a 2.5-mile trail to the Bubby Stone and planted saplings on an acre of adjacent land. It took years of work with the Forest Department, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Tourism and the Central Water and Sewage Organization to make it all happen.

“The critical thing was the funding from CEPF,” said Simeon Greene of the Diamond Village CSO. “That allowed us to rebuild the trail, plant another acre of land, and provide some livelihood to workers.” His group has trained 12 tour guides and 12 local women in culinary arts.

As for the future of the Bubby Stone Trail, he envisions “integrated ecotourism,” with Web promotion through the Ministry of Tourism, links to other trails, and at the trailhead, a refreshment stand where visitors could buy locally made foods. “We are in the position to take it to the next level,” said Greene.
Fast Fact
To date, more than 3,600 stakeholders—including local, national and international civil society organizations; government officials; and research institutions—have participated in the development of CEPF’s ecosystem profiles. These documents analyze the state of conservation in each biodiversity hotspot where CEPF invests and set priorities for CEPF and other conservation donors. ​