Collective conservation is more efficient, beneficial and impactful in most cases. Encouraging communities to conserve the pristine habitat that has helped them sustain for centuries is crucial in our present world.

In the first session, Amos explained the basic framework of building Conservation Agreements (CAs) with communities, during which he mentioned that a CA is a two-way process which requires both parties (implementers & communities) to stick to what has been decided upon in order to make it successful. The agreement should always ensure fair distribution of burden and benefits – a give and take policy.

Later, during the second half of the session, participants were split into groups and were tasked with an exercise to practically work on building an agreement. Each group was assigned with forest areas that were subject to different challenges, such as – core zone, buffer zone and a rural tribal settlement etc. The exercise helped participants to analyse – the ongoing concerns in the given area, the existing threats, actions that can be implemented and what the final outcome could or will be.

There are four key parts that are important while drafting an agreement. They are: Conservation Actions – agreeing on what should be conserved depending on the ongoing concern in the working area. Benefits – negotiating on the benefits that will supplement the community for the conservation action. Monitoring – feasible ways of surveying the conservation actions and its impact on the habitat and Penalties – Agreeing to terms of action in case there is non-complaint in the conservation actions. On the second day, each group was asked to work on framing all four key parts in the assigned area they will be initiating the agreement in.

Though the model has its pros and cons, Conservation International has struck 51 agreements in 14 countries since its inception in 2005. Implementing this in Tiger Reserve areas will be challenging, but it is definitely viable. As these communities face restriction in accessing the forest for unsustainable use, CSP monitoring results can invalidate the claim. CSP monitoring can boost the recognition of Community Forest Rights (CFRs) under the Forest Rights Act (FRA).

With the willingness of the community and secured rights, CA’s can facilitate in conserving the key habitats from further depletion. On International Forest Day it was ideal and informative to learn new ways to impel communities to choose conservation to benefit both the environment and themselves.