Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, Honolulu, HI 96822, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
The Kerala region of South Western Ghats has been declared a bio-diversity heritage site by the UN for its rich endemism. It is an important source of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) to indigenous communities for their livelihood and subsistence. There is also a major market for NTFPs due to the presence of the Ayurvedic (a traditional system of medicine in India) industry, valued at USD 5.5 billion annually. Market pressures and institutional inefficiencies are rendering the NTFP sector weak, with increasing concerns of bio-diversity loss and poor livelihood returns. International experiences (e.g. Latin America), recent studies on NTFP and related sectors in India and policy provisions emphasize certification of NTFP as a market strategy to meet sustainable outcomes. Thus the goal of this study is to assess the potential of implementing NTFP certification in Kerala, focusing on one of its five indigenous communities-the Kadars, categorized as a particularly vulnerable tribal group by the Government of India. Study results are discussed in the context of the ongoing implementation of the Forest Rights Act 2006. This study has 3 objectives. I) An overall assessment of the socio-economic and political status of the Kadar respondents, their preference for NTFP certification, and under what conditions they are likely to adopt certification; 2) Evaluate the "instrumental benefit" from adopting NTFP certification by the Kadars using an economic model and identify conditions under which compliance to certification standards can occur; 3) Employ the certification framework developed by Bhattacharya et al. (2008) as a model and assess the "legitimacy" of the NTFP certification standards and the three "external contextual factors" that motivate stakeholders' compliance to certification standards. Stakeholder reactions indicated a preference for certification. Key variables such as gender, market knowledge, private trade partnerships and income influence these preferences. Compliance assessments indicated positive outcomes provided institutional support in the form of collaborative partnerships with an emphasis on accountability are in place. Stakeholder feedback expected to contribute "legitimacy" to the certification framework is also gathered and recommendations are provided to enhance likelihood of compliance.