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Evaluation of a Participatory Resource Monitoring System for Nontimber Forest Products: the Case of Amla (Phyllanthus spp.) Fruit Harvest by Soligas in South India

R. Siddappa Setty, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE)
Kamal Bawa, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE); University of Massachusetts
Tamara Ticktin, University of Hawaii at Manoa
C. Made Gowda, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE)

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Abstract

Enhancing incomes from the sustainable harvest of nontimber forest products can help to maintain local livelihoods and provide local communities with economic incentives to conserve biodiversity. A key feature of a successful enterprise approach to the conservation of these products is a sound monitoring and evaluation program that involves all concerned stakeholders and leads to adaptive management. However, few studies have presented any of the approaches, successes, or challenges involved in participatory monitoring initiatives for nontimber forest products. We present our experiences using a participatory research model that we developed and used over a 10-yr (1995–2005) period for the wild harvesting of Phyllanthus spp. fruits (amla) by indigenous Soliga harvesters in the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary, South India. We describe the establishment and evolution of our participatory resource monitoring activities, compare some of the results of our activities to those obtained from monitoring using standard ecological approaches, and evaluate some of the successes and challenges associated with our participatory resource model. An initial step in this work was the establishment of Soliga-run enterprises for the processing and value addition of amla and other nontimber forest products. Participatory resource monitoring activities consisted of participatory mapping and assessments of fruit production, fruit harvest and regeneration combined with pre- and postharvesting meetings for sharing information, and adaptive management. Over the years, harvesters rejected, changed, and adapted various participatory resource monitoring methods to select those most appropriate for them. Visual estimates of fruit production made by harvesters at the forest level were very similar to estimates obtained using standard scientific monitoring protocols. Participatory research monitoring techniques that were effective included strategies for participatory resource mapping, fruit productivity estimation, and promotion of improved harvest techniques. Major challenges involved ensuring adequate incentives for monitoring activities that lead to benefits only over the longer term, such as monitoring of extraction and regeneration rates. Maintaining long-term participation and interest in the latter requires ensuring resource tenure.

Key words

amla; fruit harvest; Soliga; participatory resource monitoring; nontimber forest products; Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087