The following is a postcard from Neeharika Tummala, GlobalGiving's In-the-Field Representative in India and Bangladesh, about her recent visit to Krishi Avam Paristhitiki Vikas Sansthan (KRAPAVIS).
Of the 50 odd organizations I have visited, KRAPAVIS has a unique mandate of community development. They closely understand the relationship of people to the environment and how preserving one can benefit the other. Like millions of people in rural India, people are dependent on agriculture and raising cattle. But with lack of understanding and neglect, several grazing lands are being eroded and spoilt. As a result, birds don’t nest there, animals leave and biodiversity decreases. KRAPAVIS showed me that the damage is not permanent and with effort, grazing lands can be restored. I visited several such restored sites and my guides were two local KRAPAVIS ladies who have now become informal biodiversity experts! They showed me the nursery, where new plants are grown and then sold at nominal prices, taught me the names of certain plants and even showed me how to protect ants. No species is ignored! In one of the restored areas, I was told that tigers come at night to drink water, something that did not happen before and a great sign of conservation success. Conservation includes things like building bunds so that rainwater is conserved and available for community use.
The founder Aman would walk me through a site and would say ‘can you hear that?’ and I would say ‘what?’ and he said ‘the sound of birds chirping!’ I took these sounds for granted but realized what a disturbing world it would be if I woke up to hear silence instead of birds in the air.
The impact of restoring these grazing lands is that cattle have food and access to water which provides herders with increased access to milk and therefore income. One of the best examples of sustainable development that I have seen!
During the reporting period, ‘Johad’, a traditional rainwater harvesting structure has been built in ‘Oran’ sacred forest of Binak village, located in Sariska Tiger Reserve of Rajasthan (India). Intervention in a Oran depends upon its topography and villagers’ consensus. Also the amount of rainfall has been an important deciding factor. KRAPAVIS, the project organization follows a holistic approach of conserving flora and fauna in Oran, making livelihood sustainable for pastoralist communities of Binak village. Oran protects watershed and is of utmost importance as vital source of water. 'Johad' in Oran in turn stop soil erosion, recharged groundwater, nurtured vegetation in orans, and provided grazing and resting places for wild and domesticated animals.
Restoring sacred groves strengthens ethno-veterinary practices
In the project area of Rajasthan (India), the major livelihood of rural communities is rearing livestock and followed by agriculture. Due to lack of animal health care facilities in rural communities, people depend on locally available medicinal plants. Thus the project communities are engaged in restoring their sacred groves, which locally known as Orans. These Orans are also good micro biodiversity reserves; more importantly are good refuge for wildlife in an otherwise densely populated landscape. The people depend on these lands to procure access food, fodder and medicinal plants. In many cases, they are used for community gatherings during festivals.
In an in-depth investigation on medicinal plants in Orans, revealed that about 37 species of plants belonging to 32 genera under 24 families have been noticed which they use for veterinary health care. A total of 27 healers and herbal practitioners were interviewed during the study. Total of 47 remedies were recorded for 19 veterinary disease conditions of which 21 remedies were recorded under digestive disorders. Precisely, this project “Restoring sacred groves” strengthens the ethno-veterinary practices.
A group of community leaders from the project villages participated in the Sacred Grove Festival at IGRMS Bhopal, from 31st December 2013 to 1st January, 2014. Ritualistic activities and cultural performance were the main features of the two days programme. The festival highlighted the rich tradition of protecting and conserving Orans. The Festival provided a platform for the community managers of sacred groves and communities associated with natural resource management for a dialogue on alternative eco-conservation theories and practices. Aman Singh, the Project Leader addressed the gathering that the project has been protecting trees and sowing grass seeds in the Orans, as well as raising saplings in nurseries and then transplanting them into Orans. This contributes to saving endemic and endangered species of trees, thus bringing about greater livelihood security for the rural poor, who depend on such trees for livestock feed, traditional medicine, marketable commodities and, to a lesser extent, timber. KRAPAVIS project also takes into account the changing nature of pastoralism in these areas, and the recent shift towards preference of water buffalo and goats as livestock over cattle, working to ensure that the flora in the Orans is better able to meet the needs of the new livestock. Part of the work done by KRAPAVIS is focused on water conservation within the Orans. This is imperative due to the serious reliance of local people on the water sources found in Orans, both for their livestock and themselves. This maintenance is realized through the use of water harvesting structures and checks for soil erosion.
On 24 September, a group of 13 leaders from different countries visited the project village ‘Bera’ in order to learn from the community who lived in the sacred forest of Sariska, and who were struggling to maintain a traditional life increasingly encroached upon by modernisation. They set about restoring natural biodiversity and implementing resource management practices, blending old philosophies with current know-how to create a sustainable community. In the village they met project team, the village elders and farmers in Bera, which lies at the bottom of rolling hills where there no concrete structures, cars, telephone services or electricity. The ‘Leaders Quest’ group learnt about the project work to boost community empowerment, education and self-sufficiency. They spent time in communities’ homes and join them in their daily tasks, milking water buffalo, herding goats and making food, then visited village Oran site. They tried to understand the following themes:
• What does it mean to live in harmony with nature?
• What has enabled KRAPAVIS project to show this kind of lifelong leadership, and to create diverse and sustainable eco- and social systems?
• Is it better for people to live in ignorance of the outside world, with no TV and no external influences? Or is this a western fantasy?
• What lessons can they learn from our day in Bera, and how will they affect our everyday lives?
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