Can farming in wildlife corridors benefit people and biodiversity?

Wildlife corridors are critically important spaces that can be incredibly diverse. Some wildlife corridors have lots of people, large agricultural spaces and infrastructure, while others have very few people and healthy forests. No two wildlife corridors look the same.

In tiger landscapes, wildlife corridors provide connectivity between protected areas for tigers who roam large distances to find food, a mate, or new territory. In the Central Indian Landscape, the Satpura-Pench corridor, farmers and communities have long coexisted with tigers. More recently, farmers and wildlife are benefitting from a regenerative agriculture project.

Regenerative agriculture looks to rehabilitate and enhance a farm’s entire ecosystem, focusing on soil health, water management, fertilizer use, and more. It's a method of farming that improves the resources it uses, rather than destroying or depleting them. As a result, farming is more sustainable, and biodiversity is protected.

Aerial view of a community in the Satpura-Pench corridor.

Cotton taken from the plant shown above has a wide variety of uses, for example clothing, cord and rope, and livestock feed.

The Satpura-Pench corridor is a mosaic of farm and forest land, where agriculture accounts for almost 40% of land use. The average landholding size is less than 5 acres (about twice the area of a Manhattan city block) per person and cotton farms are prevalent. Cotton is the backbone of the economy here, as India is one of the largest producers of cotton in the world.

Ensuring these crops supply a reliable income for communities but also help biodiversity across the wider landscape is challenging, but possible. A regenerative agriculture project is underway to make cotton farming in the Satpura-Pench corridor more profitable and sustainable for local communities. In collaboration with partners, WWF-India works with cotton farmers to support their transition to regenerative organic cotton farming practices.

An organic cotton farmer, who is partnering with WWF-India to implement new regenerative agriculture practices, harvests their crop.

An organic cotton farmer, who is partnering with WWF-India to implement new regenerative agriculture practices, harvests their crop.


The process starts by collecting baseline information from each cotton farm. WWF-India works with farmers to assess soil health, pollinator status, crop production, and overall income. With this data, farmers set achievable and realistic targets that over time will regenerate the soil, supporting better crop growth and increased production year over year.

Increased sustainable cotton production means more money for farmers and other benefits, including biodiversity. For instance, with global insect populations in decline, greater soil diversity can support insect conservation. Regenerative agriculture enhances biodiversity from the soil all the way up the food chain.

Organic cotton has been collected and is being processed and packed for shipping © WWF-India

Organic cotton has been collected and is being processed and packed for shipping.

With a secure economic foundation and commitment to regenerative farming practices, farm and forest lands are more secure and less at risk of land-use conversion. This mosaic nature of the Satpura-Pench landscape gives tigers and other species viable corridors between protected areas while productive farming continues. As forests within the mosaic are protected, carbon sequestration increases, helping to fight climate change.

It’s a huge leap for communities to change the farming practices that support them and their families. On half of her three-acre farm, Ramwati cares for her family of six by growing organic cotton. She was cautious when she first heard about the project and decided to change her farming methods only after seeing others from her village benefit from it.

Communities in Satpura-Pench prove it’s possible to farm, live alongside wildlife, and improve your income. But there are also challenges in the coexistence between people and tigers. Managing human-tiger conflict is still a high priority for WWF-India, with a focus on ensuring communities benefit from living in tiger landscapes and that they are included in tiger conservation discussions.

The success of the Satpura-Pench corridor is encouraging other cotton farmers to join with WWF-India within the region as well as projects in south and west India. Beyond India, we ask that businesses and consumers see the opportunity to improve the livelihoods of cotton farmers and biodiversity. To sustain this momentum, more companies must make real commitments to buy cotton from regenerative sources and translate interest into action and impact.

“Due to regenerative agriculture, my farm’s soil has become soft and the input cost has been reduced by more than 25%. I do not have to go to the market to buy fertilizers and pesticides as I can make them at home. Now, other farmers from my village also come to learn on my farm.”

- Ramwati Bai Dhurve

Ramwati Bai Dhurve on her organic cotton farm in the remote Nandudhana village in the Chhindwara district of Madhya Pradesh.