Nature-based solutions are defined by IUCN as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits.” Nature Corridors fall in line with this concept and are an effective solution to connect natural habitats separated by road development, human settlements, and farming. The strategy will allow threatened endemic plant and tree species to migrate between habitats leading to ecological restoration and increased biodiversity and wildlife species to move between habitats.
Endana Nature Corridor
Dilmah Conservation’s Endana Nature Corridor was initiated in January 2018. It paved the way for Iharakanda and Walankanda Forest Reserves that were separated by tea plantations, to be connected through a 3 km long nature corridor.
Several baseline surveys were undertaken to ensure sustainability and assess the future right impact of the project. The first baseline survey began under the supervision of Professors Nimal Gunatilleke and Savithri Gunatilleke of the University of Peradeniya to determine the soil profile and biodiversity. Through this, endemic species of plants and trees were selected for planting. By the end of the year, 24.3 ha of Endana Tea Estate land were allocated for the nature corridor. Notably, 0.87 ha of these were from active tea plantations, while the remainder was taken from abandoned tea estates.
Through the second baseline survey completed in 2019, 201 species including 34 endemic species and 20 listed in IUCN red list as threatened, were discovered. That same year two tree planting events were organised to facilitate the ecological restoration and reforestation of endemic species. The initial planting was facilitated by Dilmah as a CSR initiative for business organisation Booking.com. The subsequent tree planting was organised by One Earth Nature Club. The event was combined with an education and awareness-building program for community and plantation members.
To anticipate the long-term sustainability of the nature corridor, a socioeconomic survey was completed by a research team from the Rajarata University of Sri Lanka in March 2020. The survey evaluated responses of 102 estate worker households and households within the corridor and near Endana. Information was further obtained from six influential figures in the community. Survey objectives were to evaluate how the livelihood of the local community and sustainable use and preservation of forest resources could be improved. Species diversity in their home gardens was further evaluated.
Supporting Communities in Endana through the Bee Apiary
The success of the nature corridor will depend on the engagement of local communities and providing ways to enrich their home gardens and generate alternative sustainable sources of income. One of the initiatives that began following the findings from the socioeconomic survey was community-level bee-keeping in Endana. The beekeeping program commenced in January 2021, with 10 bee colonies translocated into home gardens within and outside the nature corridor. The goal is to ultimately establish a livelihood supporting the beekeeping cottage industry. Meanwhile, the communities engaged in beekeeping are supported through education and awareness programs facilitated by the Endana resource centre. In future, this will evolve to a beekeeping cottage where there will be honey collection, processing the honey, and crafting unique flavour profiles for honey.
Fully Fledged Plant Nursery for Endemic Species Planting
A plant nursery was established in 2019. Since then, it has been developed into a nursery housing over 1000 saplings. The goal is to increase nursery saplings to a further 5000 in the months ahead. Once they reach a suitable stage for planting, a tree planting event will be organised to plant the saplings in the nature corridor, promoting ecological restoration and biodiversity of the area. To sustain home gardens, plans are being made to supply villagers with vegetable plants to generate and maintain interest in home gardening.
Dilmah Tea is a family business with strong values, including a firm belief that humans and nature are interdependent. Through its dedicated conservation arm, Dilmah Conservation, innovative conservation interventions promoting nature-based solutions are initiated to create a sustainable future.
For more on the work they do, please visit: https://www.dilmahconservation.org/initiatives/