Photo: Nikhil Tambekar
Community Owned Community Operated Nature (COCOON) Conservancies are critical rewilding initiatives undertaken outside India’s Protective Area Network. The project is based on an innate belief that communities living closest to our most biodiverse wonderlands deserve to be the primary beneficiaries and custodians of our vanishing biodiversity.
The effect of this initiative is to expand the size and improve the quality of habitat available to wildlife by encouraging local communities to convert their own marginal and failed farms back to its natural wild state. The land-holding will continue to be in the hands of the community but would serve as biodiverse nature refuges capable of offering communities assured livelihoods and economic security in an era of climate change.
COCOON Conservancies serve to act as effective buffers to absorb the biodiversity that spills over from protected core areas, thus reducing human-animal conflict. By locating such conservancies in corridors, the objectives of widening and refreshing the gene pool is also met.
Photo: Ripan Biswas
Recognising that poor land and water management practices have resulted in a slew of failed and marginal farmlands, and shrinking forests, the Sanctuary Nature Foundation has pioneered the rewilding of aggregated farmlands just south of Nagpur, on the periphery of the Umred-Karhandla-Paoni Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra.
This has been designed as a social upliftment programme in one of the world’s most farmer-stressed geographies in a village called Gothangaon. Here in tiger country, we are in the process of guaranteeing farmers a better life and livelihoods, whose collateral benefit involves enhanced biodiversity, reduced human-animal conflict and improved health and education for their children.
It has been three years now that nature has conspired to restore biodiversity to a 100-acre parcel of farmland, which continues to be owned by the farmers and has already begun to support a bewildering diversity of plant and animal life forms, including tigers. We are now in the process of creating infrastructures to enable visitors to stay in well-appointed rooms, again owned by the farmers, but run by some of the best hospitality professionals in the world. The Gothangaon COCOON Conservancy has already achieved biological, social and financial proof of concept and is poised to act as a model project that is ready to be replicated and scaled up in varying ecosystems across India.