Towards A Wildlife-friendly Land Use

New research findings indicate that landowners preferred wildlife-friendly land-use over their ongoing farming practices.

Planet Outlook
July 13, 2021
Towards A Wildlife-friendly Land Use

India is a mega diversity country with dense human populations and changing land use, with less than 5% total land cover under protection. There is considerable concern over how the new global biodiversity targets being set in the post-2020 framework could be met. One of the biodiversity targets of achieving 30% protected land area, could come at the cost of people’s livelihood requirements in India. There is a need for land management practices that aim to expand wildlife habitat beyond wildlife reserves through the local stakeholders participation needed to address the conservation issues being faced.

In a new research paper titled, “Benefits beyond borders: Assessing landowner willingness to accept incentives for conservation outside protected areas” scientists explored private landowners' willingness to participate in an incentive-based, wildlife-friendly land-use program, and their interest in undertaking tourism activities in this land. Wildlife-friendly land use involves a portion of land used for growing native, fruiting, and medicinal trees. While the landowner continues the current land management practice, like agriculture, in the rest of the land.

Between April to July 2019, the team of scientists and citizen science volunteers conducted interviews with farmers who resided in a 5-km buffer area of Bandipur and Nagarahole National Parks in Karnataka. The scientists adopted a choice-based approach where a landowner was presented with alternate wildlife-friendly land-use program options and an option to continue current land management practice. The research examined how landowner’s socioeconomic, demographic, and geographic factors influenced the inclination to participate in such programs.

The research highlights that there is more willingness among landowners to modify their ongoing agricultural practices and adopt more wildlife-friendly land-use in Karnataka. The scientists found that 81% were interested in adopting wildlife-friendly land-use over ongoing land management practice. Landowners were likely to adopt programs that required them to enrol smaller proportions of land, for a shorter period of time, and the ones that paid them higher monetary incentives.

Research findings also highlight that this program preference varied with the landowner type. For example, the landowners who have been living close to the parks for a longer period of time, those who had larger landholdings, and the landowners who grew fewer commercial crops were likely to enrol larger portions of land. They also found that the landowners who grew more commercial crops were likely to enrol in long term programs.

Scientists estimated that the monetary incentive to be paid to the landowner for enrolling in the program should be INR 64,000 (US$ 914) per acre per year. “Our study is a first step towards understanding the potential for wildlife-friendly land-use practices. For better implementation of these practices, cooperation among the landowners is important, and dialogue needs to be initiated in this direction. We hope that this novel approach for creating more wildlife-friendly land-use will provide the missing link between landowners and conservation managers. There are very few studies in India that measure the potential for wildlife-friendly land-use practices, particularly in private lands outside protected areas that involve local communities", said Dincy Mariyam, lead author of the study.

“If we are serious about global and Indian conservation goals of securing viable livelihoods and increasing land for conservation, new conservation incentive programs have to be designed and implemented in partnership with local stakeholders. Business as usual will not benefit wildlife nor the people living alongside wildlife,” said Dr. Krithi K. Karanth, co-author of the study.

The study concludes that wildlife-friendly land use could be a potential conservation strategy that can supplement rural incomes and expand critical wildlife habitat in India.