Applied Environmental Research Foundation (AERF) is an Indian NGO that works with local communities to conserve community owned forests; establishing projects which derive an income from standing forest rather than an income from felling trees.
AERF prioritise educating communities about the value of biodiversity, engaging local people in conservation activities and working with them to develop income based on the sustainable use of forest resources.
AERF’s main aim is conservation on the ground allowing a tangible difference at the grassroots level through maximum action and through engaging with range of stakeholders.
Since its founding in 1994, AERF has been engaged in creating a link between conservation research and its actual use in the practices of sustainable development. AERF believes that establishing this link would aid not only ecosystem protection but also contribute in poverty alleviation.
AERF has been working in areas where no other conservation mechanisms exist i.e. legal protection is not available for the open access forests from Northern Western Ghats of India . While treading this lesser-travelled path, the foundation has been able to identify core areas of work in order to achieve maximum impact and ensure that the forests and its people thrive through a symbiotic relationship.
World Land Trust (WLT) became partners with AERF in 2015 following a site visit to India by WLT programmes staff and a following visit to the UK by AERF joint-Director Jayant Sarnaik.
In 2018 AERF and WLT signed the first 10 year conservation agreement in the Kuyle-Phansavale corridor to protect 43 acres of forest habitat in the Western Ghats.
With WLT funding, AERF carry out the following research and implementing activities to achieve conservation targets in terms of areas secured and biodiversity:
- Conduct spatial, biodiversity and social surveys
- Conduct stakeholder meetings
- Protect corridors spread over ~ 1000 acres for minimum 10 years through drawing up incentive based conservation agreements with landowners
- Run capacity building sessions with local communities
- Improve the management of old growth forest fragments through monitoring and drawing up a management plan
- Study the potential of forests for green enterprises based on medicinal and other useful trees.
- Conduct the feasibility studies of forests being protected with Conservation agreements approach for carbon finance and biodiversity finance
AERF has undertaken livelihood based projects that contribute to conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems, eg. Promoting Eco challahs, promoting deforestation free value chains, using international certification for sustainable use of biodiversity .
AERF has been working for revival of traditional forest conservation systems known as sacred groves. Rewarding conservation stewards and Champions, building capacity of stakeholders also form part of AERF activities.
AERF has been engaged in protecting Giant trees in the NWG landscape for over five years and protected more than 8000 giant trees of various RET and sacred species.
CEO/Executive Director: Dr Archana Godbole