Journal Article
The global village: linkages between international coffee markets and grazing by livestock in a south Indian wildlife reserve
Conservation Biology 19: 411-420

PDF, 216 KB

India’s heritage of natural habitats and wild species is under growing threat from its biomass- dependent rural peoples and its consumeristic urban economy. As the mainstay of its wildlife conserva- tion effort, then, India’s wildlife reserves continue to face a range of extractive uses. The Indian conserva- tion/development discourse has, however, drawn a distinction between traditional subsistence use and modern commercial use of natural resources in wildlife reserves. It has also been suggested that subsistence use must be accommodated within Indian wildlife reserves because it caters exclusively to local consumption for livelihood, whereas commercial use warrants greater restriction because it furthers profit-based goals of distant interests. How valid is such a clear distinction between subsistence use and commercial use? I address this question using the village of Hangala on the boundary of Bandipur National Park in south India as a case study. Hangala’s livestock were reared primarily for their inputs of dung and draft power into local agriculture, and customarily grazed in the forests of Bandipur. This practice qualified as subsistence use because all goods and services obtained from livestock grazing in Bandipur catered exclusively to village-level consumption. In the last two decades, major upheavals in the global coffee markets dramatically boosted profit margins of coffee growers in the hill districts abutting Bandipur. The profits enabled coffee growers to afford expansions of their resource catchment for dung, an important farm manure in short supply in the coffee districts. When this demand reached Hangala, it resulted in large-scale export of dung, which transformed it from locally produced and locally consumed manure for village agriculture to a high-value organic fertilizer for commercial export to coffee plantations. Following the dung export, livestock numbers in the region increased, aggravating graz- ing pressures on the forests. This case study thus challenges politically correct notions that subsistence use is distinguishable from and preferable to commercial use in the context of protected-area management in India.

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