Wilderness Conservation Exchange

Wilderness Conservation Exchange(WCE)- A vision for IWC

-Susan Sharma

With only 2.5% of the land area, India accounts for 7.8% of the recorded species of the world. This resource has to meet the demand of a population of 950 million (16 % of world) people and around 450 million (19 % of world) cattle.  Forest ecosystems in India are in a state of degradation mainly due to over-grazing, unregulated mining, fragmentation, invasion by non-native species, pollution, man animal conflict etc. 

What can an online Club do to help Conservation of forests and wildlife?

The unique strength of is a -12 year in the making Community of Practice of nature lovers.  IWC has strong community ties and cultural sensitivity.    Can we extend our network to local field workers for our educational and outreach activities? 

The survey on Wilderness Conservation Program  which is now online at

is an attempt to find solutions to the questions raised above. 

376 potential volunteers have so far showed  willingness to pledge their time upto one year with NGOs/Government agencies involved in conservation work on a volunteering basis.  Concerns expressed by many potential volunteers we surveyed included lack of transparency in recruiting and deployment of volunteers and lack of follow up action on work done by volunteers.  The Implementing agencies (45 responses) were also keen to formalise volunteering in a professional way.  Bringing complete transparency in recruiting, deployment and documentation is a need felt by one and all. 

We are in the process of finalising a project called "Wilderness Conservation Exchange"(WCE).  Using applied technology, WCE can create and operate a live exchange which will monitor and document the work done by the volunteers in preselelected projects of NGOs/Government departments.   WCE will also take care of deployment of funds by funding agencies who come forward to support the project.   IWC members will be encouraged to visit project sites to motivate and report on the work done.  Besides keeping the volunteers enthused this will add valuable content to our portal in the form of current reporting from remote areas.

Training programs will be organized to build local capacity by training local people to take ownership of the conservation of their habitat.

 WCE intervention will be at the levels of

Knowledge Inclusion: Act as Knowledge connector across experts, society & local change agents through opinion sharing, communication & advocacy using a common platform.

Increased Pie of Social Investment:. To Overcome the free rider problem of society (“sole responsibility forf conservation lies with Govt”), change in mind set from “National property” to “Social property” is required. For this, besides capital investment, social investment has to be there by investing in people.

Recognition of Neglected/Unidentified/Unprotected Biodiversity: An international study says biological diverse countries tend to spend less on protected areas than the less diverse countries & it’s true of India. The situation can be improved only through effective community engagement and awareness through bottom-up & top- down strategies.   

Our solution is based on the premise that protecting forests can be done by investing in people.  The problems facing conservation stand to gain tremendously from the active involvement of volunteers.  India has always had good environment laws and wildlife laws but the implementation on the ground has been lacking.  Government departments and most NGOs are widely known to be acutely short of trained ground level staff.   Paid volunteerism in India is not well documented or followed up.  Our solution preselects implementing agencies working on conservation issues.  WCE connects volunteers with institutions working in the wilderness conservation area and provide them with a steady stream of trained volunteers.

Our investment is in people who are the real change makers of society.  A major focus of our WCE program is to create citizen reporters out of the volunteers so that their work is broadcast, gains from peer evaluation and is archived for future follow-up action.  As transparent pan –India platform for recruiting, training and placing volunteers is preselected projects; WCE is open to continuous assessment online for impact studies.
The environmental impact of our solution will be felt in conserving wildlife and the forests which is home to all living beings.   The first level of assessment for impact will be measured at the level of the implementing agencies. A simultaneous assessment can be carried out at the WCE level based on reporting by volunteers.

WCE volunteers will be trained in environment laws; forest rights act and community reserves.  WCE helps empower and educate people who live in close proximity to wilderness and wildlife and gives them a stake in conservation by documenting their problems, available local skill sets, skill-gaps, thus paving the way for creating opportunities for improved livelihood solutions and economic tie-ups. 

WCE project is a logical extension of our community of practice, which will extend our club to ground level projects in a big way.  IWC has over 5600 members, more than 40% of whom are from small towns and rural areas close to protected areas.   Our volunteers will act as citizen reporters documenting their efforts on the portal of IWC.  This will give visibility to a wide section of population which is now untouched by mainstream media.  This visibility can lead to economically beneficial tie-ups for the local community the volunteers are serving. The economic impact for the conserved area can be supplemented by the possibility of claiming carbon credits for the area conserved.

We are hoping to raise funds from equity investors for the WCE exchange.  Any suggestions from members are welcome.

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