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Assessing livelihood-ecosystem interdependencies and natural resource governance in Indian villages in the Middle Himalayas
- Everard, Mark, Gupta, Nishikant, Scott, Christopher A., Tiwari, Prakash C., Joshi, Bhagwati, Kataria, Gaurav, Kumar, Smita
- Regional environmental change 2019 v.19 no.1 pp. 165-177
- abandoned land, assets, biodiversity, case studies, ecosystem services, ecosystems, ecotourism, elderly, females, food availability, foraging, forests, governance, income, indigenous knowledge, interviews, labor, landscapes, livelihood, livestock production, men, monkeys, mountains, multicultural diversity, poverty, rivers, swine, villages, water supply, wildlife, Himalayan region
- Mountains host high biological and cultural diversity, generating ecosystem services providing benefits over multiple scales but also suffering significant poverty and vulnerabilities. Case studies in two contrasting village communities in the Indian Middle Himalayas explore linkages between people and adjacent forest and river ecosystems. Interviews with local people and direct observations revealed low food availability and decreasing self-sufficiency, under the combined pressures of increasing foraging by wildlife (primarily pigs and monkeys) coupled with seasonal to permanent outmigration by younger men seeking more secure income and alternative livelihoods. Much of the income remitted by migrants to their villages was not retained locally but flowed back out of the Himalayan region through purchases of food produced and marketed in the plains. This threatens the economic viability of villages, also placing asymmetric pressures on resident female, elderly and young people who concentrate labour on local livestock production to the neglect of crop agriculture, further compounding land abandonment and wildlife foraging. Significant traditional knowledge remains, along with utilitarian, cultural and spiritual connections with the landscape. Many beneficiaries of locally produced ecosystem services are remote from village communities (particularly water flows downstream to the plains), but no recompense is paid to stewards of the forested Himalayan landscape. Although local people currently perceive high biodiversity as a constraint to agriculture and other economic activities, the Himalayan landscapes could potentially constitute an asset with appropriate institutional development through promotion of managed bioprospecting, guided ecotourism and payment for ecosystem services (PES) schemes for water supply and under REDD+.