Biodiversity-friendly Spice Cultivation and Upscaling

22 Sep, 2021

Adapted from the PBAB-India Case Study

Compiled and edited by Neha Owaisy, Junior Communication Officer, GIZ

A growing number of farmers, collectors and companies across the world are working towards conserving and restoring biodiversity. By improving awareness and knowledge on biodiversity and biodiversity management instruments, a global project aimed to bring promising examples for biodiversity-friendly spice production to scale. As a result, leading companies in this sector have set goals to make spice production more sustainable. In this article, we cover the findings on promoting biodiversity-friendly spice production in India.

One of the most important regions for spice production in India are the Western Ghats, which are also among the world‘s most important biodiversity hotspots. The main spices in this region are black pepper, cardamom (green), nutmeg and cinnamon. The increasing demand for these spices has led to an intensification of production escalating the ecological pressure on this region.

A promising approach towards sustainability in the spice sector is promoting biodiversity-friendly production and commercialisation. This approach was a part of the global “Private Business Action for Biodiversity” (PBAB) project that was further validated by examples from the Western Ghats (project pilot site) that showed how biodiversity-friendly spice production is possible i.e., spices were cultivated in mixed cropping systems; with reduced use of chemical pesticides or by completely replacing them with sustainable alternatives.

The global “Private Business Action for Biodiversity“ (PBAB) project was commissioned from November 2016 – August 2021 by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety (BMU) as part of its International Climate Initiative (IKI) and implemented jointly by GIZ, Global Nature Fund (GNF) and Union for Ethical Biotrade (UEBT). The pilot approaches were tested in three partner countries – Brazil, India and Mexico with the support of the respective national partner

Within the pilot projects in the Western Ghats, the project saw encouraging achievements in the last four years:

  • The project saw high opportunity and potential for awareness generation on the importance of biodiversity in spice production. This was achieved through field visits, training sessions and group discussions which offered better learning opportunities to farmers and company staff. The training of trainers helped disseminate the approach within partner organisations. Over 89 per cent of the participants stated that they can use what they learned in their daily work.
  • Around 2500 farmers have implemented biodiversity measures in their fields. Biodiversity Action Plans were implemented on a total area of 3000 hectares. Nearly 34,000 hectares of land was indirectly but positively influenced by the project, as this area is cultivated by producers who were linked to the participating companies.
  • Seven spice companies have increased awareness of the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem services, conducted assessments and adopted action plans, to integrate biodiversity into their existing processes or frameworks and enable easy adaptation to biodiversity-friendly production and commercialisation.
  • Three spice companies have started implementing Biodiversity Action Plans.
  • Key recommendations have been included in India’s National Sustainable Spice Programme that was jointly developed by the Spices Board of India, World Spices Organization (technical arm of All India Spices Exporters Forum with over 200 member companies) and the Sustainable Trade Initiative-IDH.
  • Instruments and training materials developed and promoted by the project have been adopted by important stakeholders in India.
  • On the international level, the instruments are being used and promoted by actors such as the Union for Ethical Bio Trade (also in cooperation with Rainforest Alliance) and Global Nature Fund.

For integrating biodiversity-friendly practices into value chains hands-on instruments are required in planning, implementing and monitoring biodiversity-friendly practices and countering biodiversity loss. Therefore, in the project preparation phase, it was important to analyse the pressure points within the value chains in a holistic manner. Lessons learned include:

  • To target the whole value chain, as all companies along the chain can bring in the motivation for change and provide important conditions to drive it.
  • Link biodiversity to ecosystem services, while analysing the company’s impacts and dependencies on both.
  • To look at the costs of biodiversity measures and identify mechanisms to compensate farmers for the costs and efforts of implementation.

The farmers benefitted from these measures with the improved provision of ecosystem services, crucial for spice production, which consequently also sustain the economic viability of farm operations; the diversification of crops provided new opportunities for increasing and diversifying farm incomes. Moreover, long-term relations between companies and farmers will lead to fair payments and engagement in shared actions for learning and improvement. Companies experienced the reduction of risks, such as operational risks related to the availability of production factors and climate change, reputational risks, and risks related to market access, regulations and laws owing to an ensured continuous supply of sustainably produced spices. As the PBAB project draws to an end, it opens doors to two new projects with private partners in the form of develop public-private partnerships with GIZ on spices in India in the states of Kerala, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.


About the project

The global PBAB project promotes promising methods and instruments for biodiversity-friendly production and commercialisation. It tests and enhances them and systematises the experience gained in a way that enables both private and public actors to use them. In India, the project addresses spice cultivation in the Western Ghats, a mountain range in southern India that is known for its great biodiversity. The PBAB project is commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). It is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI). Read More

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