Regenerating biodiversity in India's degraded habitats
The SEEDS Trust is a non-profit based in Tamil Nadu, India, founded in 1997. Standing for Social Education and Environmental Development Scheme, SEEDS works at a community level to address social issues and improve local biodiversity and species’ status, by acting in degraded habitats and the communities around these. Their environmental activities focus on improvements to both livelihoods and habitat status to ensure greater benefits for both nature and local communities. They take a strong participatory approach that responds to local needs and informs, involves and empowers the local stakeholders.
SEEDS's work covers habitat restoration work such as cleaning invasive species, reforestation actions in coastal and inland ecosystems and regular monitoring campaigns. In parallel, the promotion of sustainable ecosystem usage combines environmental education with training farmers in techniques for sustainable agriculture and exploration of forest products with a long-term perspective. This is complemented by the development of community tree nurseries and the promotion of agroforesty, with tree planting in farms and private lands, to reduce human pressure and provide useful alternatives.
The following key projects detail SEEDS' integrated approach:
- Tamil Nadu Biodiversity conservation and greening project (1'200ha restored): this project has so far involved over 400 villages and 4'200 small and marginal farmers in the Dindigul and Karur districts of Tamil Nadu (figures below for Dindigul alone). For each village, there is a first a Participatory Rural Appraisal to assess the situation, needs and best approach. A Micro Plan is created, to be agreed with and implemented by the farmers. Next, participants in each village are organised in Farmer interest groups and women self-help groups. A pillar of this project is the Tree Cultivation in Private Land, which aims for the greening of small and marginal farmers holding less than 2 ha of land. Trees that are suitable to the environment, drought resistant, useful for timber purpose and helpful to conserve biodiversity in the long run are selected for plantation. Community nurseries are established, where the saplings are cared for by the women groups. In addition, farmers are trained in methods that can improve their food security, with a particular emphasis on natural farming methods and the promotion of organic agriculture. (Project description in SEEDS Trust website).
- Regenerating Mangroves in degraded estuaries (180 ha restored): the same approach has been applied to regenerate lost mangrove species in a river estuary along the Tamil Nadu coast, near Kanyakumari. Mangroves and associated species were planted with the support of community, to regenerate a model estuary and help to recover habitat, coastal protection and fisheries. At the same time, SEEDS Trust is promoting alternate income generation options based on the mangrove trees (like honey production in artificial hives) so that communities will get income benefits from the regenerated estuary and will be motivated to protect the same for long-term benefits (Project description in SEEDS Trust website).
- Conserving the Grey Slender Loris species and habitat in the Ayyalur forest of Tamil Nadu (120 ha restored): The habitat of the Slender loris is shared with native tribal communities and their livelihood activities impacts the loris habitat negatively due to unsustainable use, pesticide use in farming and by grazing of cattle in the forest. The mortality rates are very high and the Loris is endangered in this endemic location, one among the very few in India. In this context, SEEDS Trust is promoting sustainable harvest of non-timber forest products to ensure better regeneration (like holiday periods, rotational harvest, controlled grazing, etc.), value addition of forest products for better income from smaller harvests, pesticide free production in the fringe villages, tree planting in farms to provide utilities received from forests (like fodder, fuel, etc.) so that pressure on habitats is reduced while the new trees planted provide better food and space for the Loris. Such measures have so far covered 20 villages, reduced mortality rates and generated wide attention amongst state stakeholders, which is important for replication elsewhere (Project description in SEEDS Trust website).
Overview of current results for 3 key projects, end of 2018.
|Project||Location||Planting period||Type of trees||Nb of trees planted||Survival rate||Area restored (ha)|
|Tamilnadu Biodiversity conservation and greening project||Dindigul district, with around 1200 farmers||2011 to 2019||Multipurpose tress in the agro forestry model||750'000 plants||420'000 (56%)||1'200 ha|
|Rajakkamangalam estuary regeneration programme||Kanyakumari district||2017-2019||Mangrove species, Mangrove associates||245'000||210'000 (86%)||181 ha|
|Slender loris conservation programme||Ayyalur, Dindigul district||2017 - 2019||Fodder, fuel, green manure & fruit trees||65'000||47'000 (72%)||120 ha|