Given the trend of increase in interactions between Humans and Wildlife, it has become crucial to understand the point at which these interactions become conflict. Keystone Foundation, has been working on Human Wildlife Conflicts over the past year, and is planning on conducting a series of stakeholder workshops across the Western Ghats in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, to better understand the problem(s) as well as to provide a platform where different stakeholders would be able to express their views and concerns regarding the current trend of wildlife interactions.
Representatives of farmer groups, local administration, and the forest department participated in the 3-hour long workshop. The tone for discussion of the workshop was set by Mr Pramod Krishnan, IFS, Conservator of Forests (Northern Circle), who delivered the keynote address, highlighting the importance and need for better engaging with and understanding the multiple dimensions of conflict. He also called for sharing of knowledge and opinions between various stakeholders, to increase co-operation and collaboration between them; as he believed a collaborative effort is required to better handle human wildlife conflict.
The workshop featured a presentation by Sumin George, identifying certain key areas influencing our perception and understanding of Conflict. The presentation was followed by an open forum, where farmers, representatives of local administration, residents and representatives from the forest department, shared and discussed issues key to handling human wildlife conflict in the region. All stakeholders present had a chance to share their grievances as well as ideas as to how conflict could be avoided. It was a good start to a dialogue between the stakeholders of the Wayanad region!
Some of the major outcomes of this workshop:
1. Increased understanding between Forest Department and and the farmer groups: Greater clarity in understanding how compensation mechanisms work, availability of information concerning the rates fixed by Central Government, in the context of amount of compensation paid. The Audience also lauded the Forest Department for being more approachable, friendly and prompt when it came to dealing with conflict situations.
2. Need for for Stronger Mitigation Measures:
Representatives from the local administration, farmers, and residents urged the Forest Department to implement stronger mitigation measures to prevent the increasing number of instances of Human Wildlife Conflict. Erecting a stonewall along the boundary of the forest, was an idea that garnered a lot of support.
3. Greater Collaboration Required:
Representatives from the Forest Department, expressed the need for the local administration to become an active participant in dealing with conflict situations. While the Forest Department believed it might not be possible for the local administration to actively manage Human Wildlife Conflict, they were of the opinion that better planning, and more efficient waste management could also help mitigate conflict.