Forests are symbiotic eco-systems where biological communities as well as the physical environments interact. These are natural habitats where human-animal-forest interdependence is most significant. Protection of these unique and fragile habitats in order to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem health is crucial especially because loss of forest habitats threatens thousands of species of wildlife with extinction. The Western Ghats, designated as one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots are one of the most densely populated areas in the world. At Aaranyaa, we believe that to achieve greater progress toward biodiversity conservation, especially in such areas as the Western Ghats, we need to strengthen response options that are designed with the conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem.
Conserving bio-cultural diversity underpins our primary objective of biodiversity conservation. Humans living in, or close to natural habitats depend on them to support their livelihoods. At Aaranyaa, our aim is to work with people of local communities helping them take initiatives to conserve their environment and establish long-term sustainable community participatory programs. Aaranyaa is keen on learning more about their traditional values, beliefs, knowledge and practices to provide a long-term perspective of ecosystem dynamics, based on their ancestral contact and interaction with their habitats and species.
Aaranyaa recognises that most schools lack the resources to implement conservation/environmental education curricula, engage teachers or organise field trips for children to learn about wildlife or their environment. Aaranyaa believes that programmes that help children learn environment friendly values and gain knowledge and skills to build and nurture ecologically sustainable communities are crucial towards the sustained conservation of our environment and fragile ecosystems. Thus one of our chief areas of work is to enable access to such programmes for both rural and urban children alike.
The most effective and long-term solutions to safeguarding threatened species, habitats and local cultural knowledge lie in local hands. By providing support to build technical, institutional and leadership capacity, communities can access resources, protect their surrounding environment, their cultural knowledge, practices and language and develop peripheral skills and tools to conserve biodiversity and bio-cultural diversity effectively. Our community partnerships projects aim to promote environmental stewardship, efficient use of natural resources, improve the condition of local natural resources, strengthening educational efforts and address the root causes of forest degeneration by involving local communities in the southern Western Ghats, Karnataka, India.