Environmental governance in the coffee forests of Kodagu, South India

Place-specific cultural institutions regulate the relationship between coffee planters and the natural world in the Kodagu district of the Western Ghats, a global biodiversity hotspot in South India. Many planters have retained native trees for shade on their plantations, such that these cultivated areas, together with formal protected areas and community-managed sacred groves, constitute a mostly contiguous forested landscape across the district. The integrity of this broader landscape, and the enrolment of coffee planters as environmental stewards, is essential if conservation efforts are to be effective. This paper argues that the required participatory approaches to landscape conservation in this region actually contrast with global certification schemes currently being promoted to enhance sustainability in the coffee industry. The critical issue raised here is the changing scale at which environmental governance systems are being constructed through the corporate re-regulation of global supply chains.

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