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This post is by Shaina Sehgal, second year student of the Master’s programme in Environment and Development. Her poster (view here) won the students’ choice prize at the Student Conference on Conservation Science in Bangalore.

Impact of economics on conservation

The poster illustrates the impacts of market driven and other developmental changes in the livelihoods at Sagnam, the largest village adjoining Pin Valley National Park in Spiti (Himachal Pradesh). These are part of the findings that emerged from my fieldwork carried out in June 2011, as part of an internship with the Nature Conservation Foundation and Snow Leopard Trust.

Sagnam is an 18 hour car ride from the state capital of Shimla. It has an estimated total of 463 residents in 73 households (source: Prerna Vinod, fellow researcher). I conducted semi-stuctured interviews in 38 households in Sagnam and often annoying extensive interviews around Spiti. Further insights emerged from participant and non-participant observation.

Sagnam has traditionally relied on the Park for its life and livelihood – fuel, fodder and summer cultivation. However this picture has changed in the last 20 years with state-led development in health, education, transportation, telecommunication and energy; which coincided with (and encouraged) cultivation of the Green Pea cash crop. Surplus income therefore is only accelerating the pace of change. So while villagers are still dependent on the National Park for fodder, fuel and cultivation, its pattern and quantum has changed.

The take-home from the poster is that a keener understanding and appreciation of diversity in rural livelihoods (as embodied in say, the Sustainable Livelihoods framework) can assist identifying trends in an intrinsically dynamic landscape. This locates interventions, such as conservation, within a wider network of the inter-linked spheres of life.