Creating value from standing forests for healthy business, climate and communities in India

Conservation of biodiversity rich forests by establishing scale-able community based certified value chains

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Eligibility Criteria

  • I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge and that I am eligible to apply.
  • I am 18 years old or older.

Initiative's representative name

Jayant Sarnaik

Initiative's representative date of birth


Initiative's representative gender

  • Man

Headquarters location: country

  • India

Headquarters location: city


Where are you making a difference?

1) Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary, Tal-Ambegaon, Dist-Pune 2) Devrukh, Tal- Sangameshwar, Dist.Ratnagiri 3) Mahajane, Tal -Alibaug , Dist-Raigad 4) Taleran, Junnar block, Dist-Pune

Website or social media url(s),

Date Started

July 2012

Project Stage

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working toward the next level of expansion)

Yearly Budget : What is your current yearly budget for the initiative?

  • €100k - €250k

Organization Type

  • Hybrid

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.

While tackling challenges of biodiversity conservation, we always felt the absence of business community as a key stakeholder. We worked on quite a few models starting with creating a private reserve through purchase of forests, however it was difficult to raise capital. So we looked at options to maximize the value of non-timber forest produce, it is at this point that we met Sebastian Pole- Founder of Pukka Herbs - leading herbal tea company in Europe. He was keen about setting up sustainable supply chain for his products in India. In one of the field visits , we saw Giant trees of Terminalia bellirica with a pair of Great hornbill. Quite a few products were made from fruits of this tree. We looked at each other and the deal was struck!

2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Avoiding deforestation for saving biodiversity in the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot is the problem we are trying solve. This problem exists due to poor understanding of role biodiversity plays in human well being. It is critical to stop deforestation due to role forests play in regulating climate as carbon sinks and other services they provide such as freshwater, pollination and clean air. All these services are of fundamental importance for every living being on the planet.

3. Your solution: How are you working to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

We have been working to address the challenge of deforestation using economic tools. For farmers it is a very simple equation to understand. The money they get from logging contractor for clearing the forest needs to be either matched or it should be higher. Understanding this we launched India's first incentive based forest conservation initiative in the Western Ghats in 2007. Through this initiative, we sign a conservation agreement with the forest owner for not cutting the forests for a period of 10 years in lieu of direct monetary incentive and a year around employment to at least 2 persons in the village. Though we struggled with the initiative initially due to perception issues and small support, it took off in year 2010 and now has reached 22 villages resulting in conservation of 7000 acres of private forest. However this was only the first step in solving the problem. We realized that ensuring sustainability of this initiative is critical. In absence of functioning carbon market, we needed alternative mechanisms to generate revenues to sustain conservation of these lands. Thus we formed a conservation enterprise-Nature Connect for building a business case for biodiversity.

4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?

The innovation in our approach is at 5 different levels 1 ) investing in the foundation of the supply chains - forests to keep them healthy . 2) Making communities key stakeholder in the business model 3) Making supply chain transparent , inclusive and ecologically sustainable 4) Using flagship species as ambassador of the conservation enterprise 5) Using international certification protocol for maximizing the value of forest resource. Our research showed that large trees that provide nesting habitat to Hornbills were chopped down due to lack of understanding about the value creation potential its fruits have. Our study indicated that a certified value chain based on sustainable collection of fruits would save the trees and the hornbills.

5. Collaboration: How does your initiative seek to bring key players together to preserve biodiversity?

We work with local communities who own large tracts of the forests in Western Ghats which is global biodiversity hotspot. We invest significant amount of time and resources for building their capacity in understanding the critical role of biodiversity in improving human well being at large. The value chain approach helps them understand the economic importance of biodiversity. Collaboration with local people also help us understand the history of resource use and its abundance. Both are critical to conserve biodiversity. Our other collaborators are our supporters and buyers. We make sure to organize their visits to our collection areas so that they can appreciate the role of biodiversity in sustainability of the business model. As our model expands, we will be engaging with public health experts, impact investors and citizens. We want them to clearly understand the relation between health of our environment and our health and the need to invest for improving the health of our forests

6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far — in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?

Our project has made difference at various level 1) It has resulted in improved management of biodiversity rich old growth forest fragments 2) Local communities received higher economic returns from sustainable collection and guaranteed employment during the lean period 3) More importantly, as the scale of the business is growing, it is resulting in bringing larger areas under certification and conservation management. It is probably first such initiative which creates positive impact on biodiversity at scale along the growth of the business model. The project established first FAIRWILD certified operation in entire South Asia and brought visibility to the biodiversity rich forest areas among the business and investor community. More importantly, the initiative used the provisions of biodiversity act as regards access and benefit sharing and empowered the Biodiversity Management Committees at local level in sustainable use and conservation management of the certified resource area.

7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

We will be bringing more high conservation value species under certification as we scale up our business model. Secondly, we intend to develop innovative approaches such as branding to mainstream the cause of forest conservation in the market place. We would be bringing out novel products for maximizing the reach yet keeping the consumption levels of raw material for production reasonable. We would certainly expand our geographic focus to bring new areas under conservation management. Last but important, we would invest significantly in order to create a powerful narrative which will help change the perception of the investors about forests and biodiversity.

8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for society? Or different stakeholders?

All our products are based on sustainable practices of collection and processing. We conduct business in a manner that is socially acceptable , economically viable and ecological sustainable. Thus it creates value for the society right from the beginning of the supply chain till the consumer. Moreover, our products are mainly intended to improve the health of its users using holistic approach. Thus at one level the initiative delivers value beyond money to the society- communicating importance of ethical values.

9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

The fact that our enterprise is the only supplier of FAIRWILD certified products in India puts us in a unique position. All our production is sold every year. For sustainability, we will be increasing our production capacity so that we are able to cater to other buyers/ markets. Increase in turn over will help us in improving the bottom line and spread the risk across different products. Launching the products using brand strategy on Amazon will improve the visibility of the products and increase demand. In addition, we will be launching products that will give us the numbers in terms of potential users of our products across the world and also establish a robust business case at scale. It will help us attract investment and grow business.

10. Team: what is the current composition of your current team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

We are team composed of field researchers, forestry experts, social scientists, chemical engineers and entrepreneurs. We draw upon the expertise and credibility of our associate non-profit- Applied Environmental Research Foundation. Most of our team members work full time but are paid partly. As we grow we will hire professionals from the fields of management, e-commerce , finance. The innovation in our processes and products will be always driven by our passion to conserve biodiversity.

11. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media

Evaluation results

8 evaluations so far


Yes, absolutely! - 75%

Yes/maybe - 12.5%

Maybe - 12.5%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%


5 —Absolutely! It’s crystal clear how the solution is directly contributing to preserving and/or restoring biodiversity. - 25%

4—Yes, it establishes a clear connection to biodiversity. - 62.5%

3—Somewhat, the entry speaks to biodiversity but the direct impact is not well established and/or it is focused on a single species without considering its impact on the broader ecosystem - 12.5%

2—Not really, the connection to biodiversity is weak - 0%

1—No. The entry does not reference the solution’s impact on biodiversity. - 0%

3. 3) Is this entry IMPACTFUL?

5 -Yes, absolutely! - 50%

4- Yes, I think so. - 50%

3- Maybe. - 0%

2- Probably not. - 0%

1- No. - 0%

4. 4) Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

5 -Yes, absolutely! - 25%

4- Yes, I think so. - 62.5%

3- Maybe. - 12.5%

2- Probably not. - 0%

1- No. - 0%

5. 5) Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

5 -Yes, absolutely! - 12.5%

4- Yes, I think so. - 75%

3- Maybe. - 12.5%

2- Probably not. - 0%

1- No. - 0%


5 -Yes, absolutely! - 37.5%

4- Yes, I think so. - 50%

3- Maybe. - 12.5%

2- Probably not. - 0%

1- No. - 0%

7. 7) Does this entry value COLLABORATION WITH OTHER STAKEHOLDERS in its approach?

5- Yes, absolutely! - 50%

4- Yes, I think ko. - 37.5%

3- Maybe. - 0%

2- Probably not. - 12.5%

1- No. - 0%

8. 8) FEEDBACK – Highlights

INNOVATION: You have a great understanding of the problem, have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful new solutions - 50%

IMPACT: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) and you have a plan for measuring impact - 83.3%

GROWTH & LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL: You have a thoughtful plan for growth and your founding team has a strong combination of leadership and knowledge-based skills - 100%

VIABIBLITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work from a financial perspective in the present and future - 50%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: You value thinking around how to activate changemakers and empower them to innovate through your product or programming - 83.3%

POTENTIAL TO CREATE SHARED VALUE: You have a clearly defined plan on how to maximize shared value across multiple sectors and stakeholders - 83.3%

WRITING STYLE: Your writing style is concise, descriptive, clear, and specific - 16.7%

Other option - 16.7%

9. 9) FEEDBACK - Areas for Improvement

INNOVATION: Be more specific in your description of the research you have done into the past solutions to this problem and focus on how your solution is unique and innovative - 75%

IMPACT: Provide specific instances of your social impact and how you plan to measure impact – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, products and programming, and provide evidence of (or plan for) how to measure impact - 100%

GROWTH & LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL: Your plan for growing the organization can benefit from more specifics. How can you round out the various skills of your current leadership team to make the project a long-term success? - 25%

VIABILITY: Make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 75%

POTENTIAL TO CREATE SHARED VALUE: your plan can benefit from more thought on how to create value for all stakeholders, not just immediate beneficiaries - 0%

WRITING STYLE: Try to be more concise, descriptive, clear, and specific. Avoid jargon. - 0%

Nothing – I thought everything was great! - 0%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: Try to provide more insights into how you are activating changemakers and empowering them to innovate through your product or programming - 25%

Other option - 50%

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Attachments (3)

Certificate MoMo finalists '18_Nature Connect India.pdf

The certificate is evidence that the Nature Connect's business model has found appreciation among the impact investor community at global level.


It is an article published in a journal of American Botanical Council about how the conservation enterprise- Nature Connect is helping save threatened giant trees and Great hornbills- famously known as farmers of the forests- in the Western Ghats through its business activities.


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