Environmental Governance in the Coffee Forests of Kodagu, South India

Jeffrey Neilson


Place-specific cultural institutions regulate the relationship between coffee planters and the natural world in the Kodagu district of the Western Ghats, a global biodiversity hotspot in South India. Many planters have retained native trees for shade on their plantations, such that these cultivated areas, together with formal protected areas and community-managed sacred groves, constitute a mostly contiguous forested landscape across the district. The integrity of this broader landscape, and the enrolment of coffee planters as environmental stewards, is essential if conservation efforts are to be effective. This paper argues that the required participatory approaches to landscape conservation in this region actually contrast with global certification schemes currently being promoted to enhance sustainability in the coffee industry. The critical issue raised here is the changing scale at which environmental governance systems are being constructed through the corporate re-regulation of global supply chains.


coffee, environment

Full Text:

full article PDF


Arjunan, M., Holmes, C., Puyravaud, J-P., Davidar, P. (2006) 'Do developmental initiatives influence local attitudes toward conservation? A case study from the Kalakad–Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, India'. Journal of Environmental Management 79(2 ): 188-197. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2005.06.007

Bhagwat, S.A.; Kushalappa, C.G.; Williams, P.H. and Brown, N.D. (2005) 'A Landscape Approach to Biodiversity Conservation of Sacred Groves in the Western Ghats of India', Conservation Biology 19 (6): 1853-1862. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1523-1739.2005.00248.x

Blaikie, P. (2006) 'Is small really beautiful? Community-based natural resource management in Malawi and Botswana', World Development 34(11): 1942-1957. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2005.11.023

Brown, J. and Fraser, M. (2006) 'Approaches and Perspectives in Social and Environmental Accounting: an Overview of the Conceptual Landscape'. Business Strategy and the Environment 15(2): 103–117. https://doi.org/10.1002/bse.452

Chandrakanth, M.G., Bhat, M. G. and Accavva, M. S. (2004) 'Socio-economic changes and sacred groves in South India: Protecting a community-based resource management institution', Natural Resources Forum 28 (2): 102-111. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1477-8947.2004.00077.x

Charveriat, C. (2001) Bitter Coffee: How the Poor are paying for the slump in world coffee prices. London: Oxfam International.

Coffee Board of India (2006) Database on Coffee. Bangalore: Economic & Market Intelligence Unit Coffee Board.

Damodaran, A. (2002) 'Conflict of Trade-Facilitating Environmental Regulations with Biodiversity Concerns: The Case of Coffee-Farming Units in India', World Development 30 (7): 1123–1135. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0305-750X(02)00037-2

Ferraro, P.J., Uchida, T. and Conrad, J.M. (2005) Price Premiums for Eco-friendly Commodities: Are 'Green' Markets the Best Way to Protect Endangered Ecosystems? Environmental & Resource Economics 32 (3): 419–438. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10640-005-7962-6

Friedmann, H. (2005) 'From Colonialism to Green capitalism: Social movements and emergence of food regimes', New Directions in the Sociology of Global Development (eds. Buttel, F. and McMichael, P.). Oxford: Elsevier.

Garcia, C., Marie-Vivien, D., Kushalappa, C. G., Chengappa, P. G., and Nanaya, K.M. (2007) 'Geographical Indications and Biodiversity in the Western Ghats: Can labelling benefit producers and the environment in a mountain agroforestry landscape?' Mountain Research and Development, 27 (3), pp. 206-210. https://doi.org/10.1659/mrd.0922

Graham, D. and Woods, N. (2006) 'Making Corporate Self-Regulation Effective in Developing Countries'. World Development 34(5): 868-883. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2005.04.022

Gresser, C. and Tickell, S. (2002) Mugged: Poverty in your coffee cup. Oxfam International Report, available at www.maketradefair.com

Hobbs, J.E. and Kerr, W. A. (2006) 'Consumer information, labelling and international trade in agri-food products', Food Policy 31 (1): 78-89. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2005.08.001

Kariappa, C.P., Dhunjeebhoy, H.D., Ramaswamy, V., and Datta, A. (2004) Planting Times, MacMillan and UPASI, Bangalore.

Karkkainen, B. C. (2004) 'Post-Sovereign Environmental Governance', Global Environmental Politics 4(1): 72-96. https://doi.org/10.1162/152638004773730220

Lockie, S. and Goodman, M. (2006) 'Neoliberalism and the Problem of Space: Competing Rationalities of Governance in Fair Trade and Mainstream AgriEnvironmental Networks', Research in Rural Sociology and Development (Vol. 12). Oxford: Elsevier: 95-117.

Mahanty, A. (2002) Conservation and development interventions as networks: The case of the India eco-development project, Karnataka, World Development 30 (8): 1369–1386. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0305-750X(02)00039-6

McCormick, R. (2006) 'A Qualitative Analysis of the WTO's Role on Trade and Environment Issues', Global Environmental Politics 6(1): 102-124. https://doi.org/10.1162/glep.2006.6.1.102

Meadowcroft, J. (2002) 'Politics and scale: some implications for environmental governance', Landscape and Urban Planning 61 (2-4): 169-179. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0169-2046(02)00111-1

Menon, U. (2005) 'Foresee 4c Foxy' (editorial), Planters Chronicle 101 (10) in Journal of the United Planters' Association of Southern India (UPASI): 1.

Mutersbaugh, T. (2005) 'Fighting standards with standards: harmonization, rents and social accountability in certified agrofood networks', Environment and Planning A 37(11): 2033-2051. https://doi.org/10.1068/a37369

Myers, N.; Mittermeier, R.A.; Mittermeier, C.G.; da Fonseca, G.A.B. and Kent, J. (2000) 'Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities', Nature 403 (February 24): 853–858.

Neilson, J. (2007) 'Institutions, the Governance of Quality and On-Farm Value Retention for Indonesian Specialty Coffee', Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 28(2), pp 188-204. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9493.2007.00290.x

Neilson, J. and Pritchard, B. (2007) 'Green Coffee: Contestations over global sustainability initiatives in the Indian coffee industry', Development Policy Review, 25(3), pp 311-331. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7679.2007.00372.x

Ninan, K.N. and Sathyapalan, J. (2005) 'The economics of biodiversity conservation: a study of a coffee growing region in the Western Ghats of India', Ecological Economics 55 (1): 61-72. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2004.10.005

Richter, G. (1870) Gazetteer of Coorg: Natural Features of the Country and the Social and Political Condition of its Inhabitants. Reprinted 2002, New Delhi: Low price Publications.

Robbins, P. (2003) Stolen Fruit: The Tropical Commodities Disaster. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Srinivas, M. N. (1965) Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India. Bombay: Asia Publishing House.

Swyngedouw, E. (2000) 'Authoritarian governance, power, and the politics of rescaling', Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 18 (2000): 63–76. https://doi.org/10.1068/d9s

The Hindu (2006) 'Meeting on tree rights a farce, says committee'. 12/11/2006. Available at: www.thehindu.com/2006/11/12/stories/2006111210920300.htm

Ukers, W. H. (1935) All About Coffee. New York: The Tea and Coffee Trade Journal Company.

UNESCO (2007) World Heritage Centre Tentative List, Reference No. 2203, Date of Submission 15/03/2006, Available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelist (accessed February 2, 2007).

United Planters of Southern India (2005) Year Book and Annual Report 2004-05. Coonoor (India): UPASI.

Uthappa, K.G. (2004) Land Tenure, Land Holding, and Tree Rights of Kodagu. Ponnampet: Kodagu Model Forest Trust.

Venkatachalam, L. (2005) Perspectives on Sustainability and Globalization and the challenges for the coffee sector. Proceedings of the 2nd World Coffee Conference, 23-25 September, Salvador, Brazil (available at http://www.ico.org/event_pdfs/wcc2/presentations/venkatachalam.pdf

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5130/tfc.v3i1.680