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Sacred Forest Groves

 

Sacred Forest GrovesThe Western Ghats is a region of high biological diversity which is complimented by diverse local cultures and traditions. Traditional conservation practices such as sacred forests are an important component of the landscape here. With only about 0.6% of the land in the northern Western Ghats being formally protected for conservation, such traditional conservation areas are important in filling gaps within the existing regional protected area network. However, increasing demand for cultivable land, coupled with the erosion of traditional knowledge has had its effect on traditional forest conservation practices. Archana Godbole and her team at AERF has been working for the revival and restoration of sacred forest for over a decade. Although AERF has had success in 8 villages, its work has mostly been limited to a small area in the northern Western Ghats due to limited funding sources and team strength. Through funding from WildInvest in the form of a Whitley Associate Award, Archana aims to expand the team's on-going work to revive and restore sacred forests in priority sites within the northern region of the Western Ghats, and evidence the real value of this form of traditional community conservation,

Sacred Forest GrovesSacred Groves are relic forest patches traditionally protected by communities in reverence of a deity. In absence of statutory protected areas and in the wake of mass deforestation in some parts of India, Sacred Groves form important repositories of forest biodiversity and provide refuge to many plant and animal species of conservation significance. India has well over 13,000 documented Sacred Groves.

Almost every village in the Sahaydri-Konkan region (north Western Ghats) has at least one Sacred Grove ranging from just a few acres to hundreds of acres. Together these groves created a network of patches within the landscape often connected by seed dispersing birds such as the Great Pied and the Malabar Pied Hornbills.

Sacred Forest GrovesSacred Groves are not only important sites for regional biodiversity but also provide vital ecosystem services to local people. Often streams and rivers originate from Sacred Groves or wells and tanks are seen within or near the groves which form important water source for the rural population.

These community forests harbor valuable biodiversity and are under tremendous pressure and threats such as encroachments for agriculture, grazing, developmental activities like roads, dams, canals, urbanization and industrialization.

Sacred Groves are also culturally important. Various cultural and religious festivals are often arranged by local people within the temples of the Sacred Groves. Vital decisions relevant to the forests and natural resources of the villages are also discussed within temples of the grove.

Project Update

AERF launches new “Adopt a Forest” pilot website:

Indian NGO AERF have launched an innovative new website which allows sponsors from around the world to 'adopt' patches of rainforest in the highly endangered Western Ghats so fund conservation, with many follow-on community benefits. To read more, visit www.myforest.co.in.

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