Sustainable livelihoods for local communities of the Western Ghats Rainforests
Local communities living in and around Western Ghats rainforests in Uttara Kannada depend of these natural habitats for timber which they use as firewood. Local villagers collect tree logs, branches, sticks and stems that are fallen on the forest floor in these rainforests. Fallen wood plays an integral role in the rainforest ecosystem helping create humus that supports several taxa of wildlife that inhabit forest floors. Removal of fallen wood was found to increase soil temperature and decrease soil moisture which could change the habitat of Salamanders (Crawford and Semlitsch, 2004). Although, these practices are not consider as detrimental as commercial logging companies, Aaranyaa aims to work with these local communities to encourage sustainable collection of firewood from these rainforests. We have collaborated with a local non-profit, the Tropical Research Development Centre to support the construction of Community Seed Dryers for local villages that use firewood to use seed dryers in their villages. We are also involved in helping build new modern boiling water chulas in these villages in the place of old chulas that use considerable greater proportions of firewood.
Village folk are also known to collect wild flowers, fruits and seeds (also called non-timber forest products or NTFP) for
domestic use. Some villagers market these forest products to economically support their families. A large number of native fauna such as non-human primates, carnivores, birds, insects living in these rainforests depend on wild fruits, flowers and seeds as a food source. For example, although they are regarded omnivorous, approximately 57% the wild lion-tailed macaques’ diet consists of wild fruits and seeds. Krishnamani and Kumar (2000), in their research on phyto-ecology of the lion-tailed macaque habitats in Karnataka, documented that NTFPs were harvested by local villagers from nearly 27% of the food trees of this species found in the study area. Overharvesting of these NTFPs could reduce food sources and detrimentally influence the lives of free-ranging wildlife populations. Aaranyaa aims to encourage these villagers to work with us on our habitat restoration projects which would support in sustainable harvest of NTFPs.