There are innumerable examples of community based conservation initiatives through unique governance and management systems along with the use of traditional knowledge across the world. These efforts have gained recognition at the international level by IUCN, UNEP-WCMC and ICCA Consortium but there is still a huge gap that exists in bringing visibility to ICCAs (territories and areas conserved by indigenous peoples and local communities), especially in the context of South Asia.
Kalpavriksh, the South Asia regional coordinator for ICCA Consortium, in collaboration with Seva Mandir, and Metastring Foundation, have developed a web portal (www.communityconservedareas.org), with the objectives of bringing recognition and visibility to CCAs, providing a space for learning exchanges between communities and creating an analysis tool to impact policy change. Development of this portal was detailed in an earlier report and it was also introduced at the 2nd Asia Parks Congress in Sabah, Malaysia earlier this year.
This open access participatory platform was officially launched on 27th August 2022 in a virtual event by five eminent speakers: Dr. Vinod Mathur (Government official and the Chairperson of National Biodiversity Authority, India), Malika Virdi (Community leader and Sarpanch of Sarmoli Jainti Van Panchayat, Uttarakhand, India), Mr. G Thong (Community leader from Sendenyu village, Nagaland, India), Mr. Aman Singh (leads the civil society organisation KRAPAVIS, a member of the ICCA Consortium) and Terence Hay-Edie (Programme Manager for UNDP Small Grants Programme).
The panelists spoke about the relevance of the portal from the perspective of the people or institution they represented and brought different dimensions of the CCA portal to light. For instance, Dr. Mathur mentioned that developing features supporting interoperability in the portal, which would allow for information exchanges between platforms, would help in expanding the spaces for conservation data and dialogue. He also spoke about the 30×30 target as articulated under the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, and how the information on the portal should be integrated with information on OECMs.
Terence Hay-Edie viewing the portal through a global context and responding to Dr. Mathur’s comments mentioned that one challenge in attempting the cohesion of various platforms would be the differences in how the data is collected. For instance, the CCA Web Portal is an open platform whereas OECMs would require verified or peer reviewed data.
Malika Virdi, speaking from the community’s standpoint stressed that “conservation eventually has to happen between landscapes and people” and that it is important that we build spaces on the portal where stories of resilience by the communities are showcased along with exploring ways of building synergies with the communities and understanding how they talk to the portal.
Mr. G Thong and Aman Singh echoed similar thoughts about the role of the portal in facilitating peer to peer learning exchanges and thinking of the portal as a space that can bring them closer to the conservation community of the world. The need to populate it with data and information and popularise the platform at all levels was a common point that was resonated by all the speakers.
Following the address by the panelists, there was a rich Q&A session between the facilitation team and the audience where questions around issues such as data verification, dynamism in data updation, accessibility in more local languages and collaborations for knowledge exchanges between projects and platforms were discussed.
The CCA Portal team, having built a steady foundation, would now look to expand towards collaborating with other countries in the South Asia region in addition to making the platform more useful by populating it with more data, especially data that is garnered through community participation. Future plans also include developing map overlays, building a resources section containing laws and policies relevant to CCAs, and developing aggregation tools that gives an overview of the state of CCAs and helps in evidence-based advocacy.
Member, Kalpavriksh Environment Action Group (ICCA Consortium Member)
First Published by ICCA Consortium