Fostering eco-friendly plantations

Linking sustainable agriculture and conservation in plantation landscapes

How can one extend conservation into landscapes such as commercial plantations outside protected areas? Conservationists around the world are trying to connect productive agriculture and plantations with markets for products certified as coming from farms that follow sustainable and ecologically-friendly practices.

  • Retaining remnant forest patches is vital to conserve wildlife in plantation landscape

  • Fostering better cultivation practices and use of native shade trees in coffee plantation

  • Making space for wildlife in a plantation landscape

  • Good working conditions, housing, schools, and welfare are integral to sustainability

For better land-use practices in plantations

Protected areas are cornerstones of conservation, but are  increasingly isolated in landscapes as fragments surrounded by agriculture and other developments. These surrounding landscapes have significant value for conservation, particularly if favourable land-use practices are adopted. Still, fostering such practices in land-uses such as commercial tea and coffee plantations may need the provision of incentives for planters and plantation companies.

To promote better land-use in plantations, NCF joined hands with the Rainforest Alliance and the Sustainable Agriculture Network, leading international non-profits working for sustainability. Plantations that adopted sustainable agricultural practices were linked to markets for certified produce carrying Rainforest Alliance's trademark frog seal. The SAN Sustainable Agriculture Standard, a comprehensive set of standards and criteria that includes natural ecosystems and wildlife conservation, formed the basis for the certification process. NCF worked to include relevant criteria in the SAN Standard, create a dedicated website and visual guide to help planters, and develop detailed local guidelines to assist tea and coffee growers in improving social, environmental, and agronomic practices in plantations in the region.




  • Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund
  • Ecosystem Alliance - Both Ends
  • IUCN Netherlands Ecosystems Grant Programme


  • Book Chapter
    Expanding nature conservation: considering wide landscapes and deep histories.
    Pages 249-267 in G. Cederlöf and M. Rangarajan (editors), 'At Nature's Edge: The Global Present and Long-Term History,' Oxford University Press, New Delhi. 331 pp.
  • Journal Article
    Bats in the Ghats: Agricultural intensification reduces functional diversity and increases trait filtering in a biodiversity hotspot in India
    Claire F R Wordley, M Sankaran, Divya Mudappa, J D Altringham
    Biological Conservation 210: 48-55.

    The responses of bats to land-use change have been extensively studied in temperate zones and the neotropics, but little is known from the palaeotropics. Effective conservation in heavily-populated palaeotropical hotspots requires a better understanding of which bats can and cannot survive in human-modified landscapes. We used catching and acoustic transects to examine bat assemblages in the Western Ghats of India, and identify the species most sensitive to agricultural change. We quantified functional diversity and trait filtering of assemblages in forest fragments, tea and coffee plantations, and along rivers in tea plantations with and without forested corridors, compared to protected forests.

    Functional diversity in forest fragments and shade-grown coffee was similar to that in protected forests, but was far lower in tea plantations. Trait filtering was also strongest in tea plantations. Forested river corridors in tea plantations mitigated much of the loss of functional diversity and the trait filtering seen on rivers in tea plantations without forested corridors. The bats most vulnerable to intensive agriculture were frugivorous, large, had short broad wings, or made constant frequency echolocation calls. The last three features are characteristic of forest animal-eating species that typically take large prey, often by gleaning.

    Ongoing conservation work to restore forest fragments and retain native trees in coffee plantations should be highly beneficial for bats in this landscape. The maintenance of a mosaic landscape with sufficient patches of forest, shade-grown coffee and riparian corridors will help to maintain landscape wide functional diversity in an area dominated by tea plantations.

  • Popular Article
    Restoring the fabric
    Sanctuary Asia, June 2015, 35(6): 53.

    PNG, 339 KB

  • Book Chapter
    Restoring nature: wildlife conservation in landscapes fragmented by plantation crops in India.
    Pages 178-214. In Nature Without Borders (Eds. Mahesh Rangarajan, MD Madhusudan & Ghazala Shahabuddin), Orient Blackswan, New Delhi.
  • Popular Article
    How green is your tea?
    Blink: The Hindu Business Line, 27 September 2014, pages 10-11.
  • Popular Article
    Perils of oil palm
    Newslink (Aizawl), 20 August 2014, page 2.

    PDF, 710 KB

  • Journal Article
    Bats in Indian coffee plantations: doing more good than harm?
    Claire Wordley, John Altringham, T R Shankar Raman
    Current Science 107: 1958-1960.

    PDF, 3.64 MB

    Many bat species occur in Indian coffee plantations and despite sporadic reports of damage to commercial coffee crops, the literature shows little evidence for these claims. Measures that have been proposed to ‘control’ fruit bats are likely to be ineffective and even counter-productive. Instead, insect-eating bats should be encouraged by planters as they help control herbivorous and disease-carrying insects, while fruit bats pollinate flowers and disperse seeds of many useful plants and shade tree species. More research is needed to quantify any crop damage caused by bats and to look for sustainable solutions where necessary.

    PDF also available here:

  • Journal Article
    Our backyard wildlife: Challenges in coexisting with uneasy neighbours. [Guest Editorial]
    Mewa Singh, M Ananda Kumar
    Current Science 106: 1463-1464.
  • Popular Article
    காப்பிநல்லதா?டீநல்லதா? (On best practices in sustainable agriculture of Coffee and Tea)
    புதிய தலைமுறை. 6 செப்டம்பர் 2012. Puthiya Thalaimurai. 6th September 2012.

    Available here:

    காப்பிநல்லதா? டீநல்லதா?. காக்கைக்குருவிஎங்கள்ஜாதிதொடர்-9. புதியதலைமுறை. 6 செப்டம்பர் 2012.[Jeganathan, P. (2012).Kappi nallatha? Tea nallatha?. Kakkai Kuruvi Engal Jathi-Series, Article No.9. Puthiya Thalaimurai. 6th September 2012. (On best practices in sustainable agriculture of Coffee and Tea)]

  • Popular Article
    One Earth,One Chance: Conserving a Connected World
    The Hindu Magazine 5 June 2011, page 1 and 4.

    World Environment Day on Sunday is an occasion to assess where we stand in making this planet a more liveable place for us and future generations. Wildlife scientists and conservation experts on the choices we can make today before it becomes too late... A consumer picking a product off a shelf has an immediate impact on distant species and natural ecosystems. And that link brings with it both an environmental peril and opportunity. 

    Available here:

    or here:

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