AERF started working with Credit Suisse for building capacity of CS staff in biodiversity conservation and forest based livelihoods through the ‘Employee Engagement Program’ in 2013. Since then, this collaboration has developed exponentially in scale to having Credit Suisse support AERF’s other initiatives as well in order to have a long-term holistic impact. This is being done through a 3 year project to promote green entrepreneurship efforts for biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation.
Since the beginning of the programme in 2013, 171 employees have attended the programmes held at Bhimashankar and Alibaug sites. Through socio-cultural enquiry based surveys, all the participants worked in groups understanding the local livelihoods in Alibaug and Bhimashankar and problems associated with them and forest conservation. The aim of the exercise was often to dig deeper into the barriers to adoption for sustainable lifestyle alternatives which decreased the local community’s dependence on the forest and looking into efficient pricing strategies to make these alternatives attractive to them. The findings were presented by the volunteers stating their understanding of the problems and proposing solutions for improved and sustainable tribal lifestyle at the end of each event. These engagements helped them in getting deep insights into the forest dependent livelihood and challenges of forest conservation. To many of the volunteers those visits proved to be a perspective gaining experience,with new-found understanding on the lifestyle of the rural communities - more so, the tribals. Many myths were broken with a first-hand glimpse into the daily lives of the tribals and a better understanding of their financial situations came forth as well. The most important learning was probably that ‘affordability’ is not the only or even one of the reasons for barrier to adoption of sustainability mechanisms which work so well on paper, but are harder to execute on-ground. Consumer preferences within the tribal communities were a surprise and and eye-opener. This was challenging and in turn encouraged an ‘out of the box’ thinking when it came to drafting recommendations.
Green Entrepreneurship for biodiversity conservation, climate security and sustainable livelihoods
In 2015 Credit Suisse and AERF took their alliance a step further by launching a 3 year project to promote green entrepreneurship efforts for biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation. The specifics under this project are as follows:
Creating markets for local produce , promotion of sustainable biodiversity use and income generation. These will include sustainably collected and locally processed wild honey, Haritaki fruits and bio-pesticides.
Value chain development and branding
Skill building of local communitiesCapacity building and training for empowerment, professional management of social enterprise and social sustainability.
Conservation AgreementsA tried and tested strategy for avoiding deforestation and biodiversity conservation in Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary and Ratnagiri district.
Climate change mitigationPromotion of Improved cook stoves supported through sustainable fuel supply chain for reducing pressure on forests for fuel wood collection in the North Western Ghats. Here too, enterprise will be used as delivery mechanism. Local community representatives will hold stock of standardized fuel for uninterrupted supply of fuel to the stove users. This will result in reduced demand for fuel wood from the forest furthering conservation.
Volunteer engagement linked to the projectAERF conducted first volunteering engagement linked to the CS supported project in Bhimashankar in August 2016. 53 Credit Suisse staff members participated in different activities related to ecosystem services mapping, green entrepreneurship and biodiversity surveys.