Contributions of financial, social and natural capital to food security around Kanha National Park in central India

Abstract

The well-being of people living around protected areas is critical in its own right as well as for effective conservation, particularly in human-dominated landscapes. We examine the contributions of financial, social, and natural capital to household food access of 883 households around Kanha National Park (KNP) in central India over three seasons. We use regression trees and mixed effects models to identify associations between natural, social, and financial capital indicators and household food access (an indicator of well-being). We find that food access is low in the KNP landscape with over 80% of households indicating lower than acceptable food consumption scores, with a further worsening in monsoon season. Financial capital (e.g., salaried jobs and proximity to towns for all seasons) is most prominently associated with higher food consumption scores. Moreover, households supplement incomes by converting social capital (e.g., 28% of surveyed households access “food in lieu of work or credit” in monsoon) and natural capital (e.g., 14% of surveyed households sold forest products in summer) to financial capital seasonally. Financial capital dwarfs contributions of social and natural capital around KNP, in contrast to other studies, which suggest that gains from natural capital are essential for well-being of people around protected areas. Management interventions, such as kitchen gardens (borne from human capital) to supplement market-bought produce, could contribute to food security without high financial inputs. However, food insecurity in the KNP landscape primarily relates to the lack of financial capital. Food security of people around protected areas in other human-dominated landscapes is likely to be context-specific and counter to frequent assumptions particularly as livelihood strategies change with increasing economic opportunities.

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Acknowledgments

We greatly value and appreciate the support and openness of the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department, especially officials who manage Kanha National Park. We are also grateful for the National Tiger Conservation Authority and our colleagues at Wildlife Institute of India to be able to work in the buffer zone villages around Kanha National Park. We are deeply grateful to the respondents of our surveys to spare their valuable time repeatedly to provide data for our research. We also thank our survey team for their dedicated data collection even in tough field conditions during monsoons. We conducted our study under the IRB protocol number AAAN5603, exemption subsection 45CFR46. We finally would like to thank the reviewers of our paper.

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Neelakantan, A., DeFries, R., Sterling, E. et al. Contributions of financial, social and natural capital to food security around Kanha National Park in central India. Reg Environ Change 20, 26 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-020-01589-7

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Keywords

  • Food security
  • Livelihoods
  • Protected areas
  • India
  • Kanha Tiger Reserve