5.2.3 The study team has also built rapport with members of the village council and concerned officials such as the Divisional Forest Officer and the Wildlife Warden. It also interacts with locally active rural development NGOs such as Dharmasthala Grameena Abhivriddhi Yojana and Nagarika Seva Trust.
5.2.4 There has been a long process of gradual build up of contacts and links with the local society through a series of individual and group discussions, partnership in programmes such as school nature study project, involvement in social functions such as formal handing over of the PBR report to the Village Council and so on. In other localities where the group of technical experts is making a new entry, rapport with local society will have to be built up through deliberate efforts, identifying local leaders and individuals with extensive knowledge of ecosystem goods and services and getting to work with them.
Compiling Secondary Data
5.3.1 At an early stage in the study it is necessary to put together all pertinent secondary data such as survey maps indicating land ownership, topographic maps, aerial photographs and satellite imagery, district gazetteers, human and livestock census data, landuse, cropping patterns and crop production statistics, forest working plans, fish landing statistics, statistics relating to commercial and industrial establishments, information maintained by pollution control authorities, rainfall and river flow statistics. It is also necessary to acquire reports and publications of any previous investigations that relate to study locality or other neighbouring areas.
Ecosystem Goods and Services
5.4.1 A workable definition of ecosystem goods and services could be “those goods and services which undergo relatively little transformation in the hands of people, that is, conversion from the form in which it is provided by nature to the form in which it can be used by people involves relatively little capital investment.” Ecosystem goods and services could be available as a result of human modifications of ecosystems including use of industrial goods, such as agriculture or plantations with chemical pesticides as an input, or could be more direct gifts of nature such as wild fruit or fishes. It may require significant and arduous human effort to access certain ecosystem goods such as honey or toddy but the form in which they are tapped from nature would usually be directly of use to humans without the need of any capital-intensive transformation. For the purpose of the present exercise, we would also include in this category simple products which are results of local value-addition not involving any major external input, such as large serving spoons made of coconut shells, since these products illustrate basic links of local people with their ecosystem.
5.4.2 For many ecosystem goods and services, market institutions for exchange do not exist, which means that it is difficult to use price as a proxy for their value as perceived by the user, although valuation can still be attempted through indirect means. Locally collected and used firewood, for example is not exchanged through markets and hence, not priced from the user’s viewpoint, though one could theoretically value this ecosystem good in terms of opportunity costs, for example of the labour involved in the collection, but this would be an outsider perspective.
5.4.3 We may illustrate these definitions further on the basis of some concrete examples of ecosystem versus industrial goods and services
Ecosystem good: Locally available medicinal herb (Relatively little transformation, no well-defined market, labour-intensive collection process)
Industrial good: Commercially produced drug capsule (High degree of transformation, well-defined market, capital-intensive production process)
Ecosystem service: Pleasure and health benefits derived from staying in or visiting a naturally green area (Little transformation, not necessarily priced from user’s viewpoint)
Industrial service: Pleasure and health benefits of a gym session (Heavy use of artifacts, definitely priced from user’s view-point)
5.4.4 Goods and services are defined with respect to their use-values to an individual, a group of individuals or a community. In almost every case, many of the ecosystem goods and services of an area (in our context, a well-defined watershed) are used by people living outside. They may access these through the market (e.g. a marketed NTFP such as Garcinia fruit), by virtue of locational advantages (e.g. watershed benefits in downstream areas) or by physically accessing the ecosystem (e.g. collecting firewood or enjoying scenic beauties). There would also be certain ecosystem goods and services, which yield benefits to a much larger community (beyond those with access through the above means). Forests, for example, provide carbon sequestration benefits to the global community at large with impacts potentially reaching a small island nation or a low lying delta facing threats of submergence thousands of miles away. These benefits will typically have no significance for the local people.
5.4.5 We provide below an indicative list of ecosystem goods/bads and services/disservices, as perceived by various groups of local people of Mala cluster study site (Table 2).
Table 2. Ecosystem goods and services and bads and disservices as reported, by people of Mala study cluster