Oran- a Traditional System of Conserving Biodiversity and Protecting Livelihoods
An update from KRAPAVIS
(Chief Coordinator KRAPAVIS)
Alwar, Rajasthan, India
KRAPAVIS “Krishi Avam Paristhitiki Vikas Sansthan”, an ecological and agricultural grass-root based organization, has actively been engaged since 1992, in the exploration and development of strategies for promoting sustainable livelihoods for the rural communities living in the semi-arid and arid areas of Rajasthan (one of the biggest state of Republic of India); where severe degradation and loss of traditional grazing lands, shrinking water sources, and relentless deforestation have all eroded the economic base of rural communities that depend on their environment to sustain them. Millions of pastoralists (livestock-dependent people) in Rajasthan are struggling to survive, and as they make their way into the cities in search of work, their communities are being fractured and the social fabric of rural areas gradually torn.
In Rajasthan, traditionally village people depended on their ‘Orans’ to support them. ‘Oran’ meaning literally the place where land, water and jungle peacefully cohabitate—were at the center of rural life, a land resource for all to share in equally, and for all to protect under a communally enforced code. Orans used to be the source of natural wealth for fodder, fuel, timber, berries, roots and herbs. Following independence, however, the government launched a policy of co-opting the Orans. The Land Settlement Act designated most of these areas either reserve forests or revenue lands. The reserve forests were “protected,” often as wildlife parks, and the revenue lands were open for exploitation by the government. In both cases, the people who had for generations nurtured and lived off these lands lost any rights to them. But despite its nominal ownership, the government was often unable to control access to the Orans, and the villagers soon began plundering them. Denied their sense of ownership and responsibility, and faced with declining resources elsewhere, they took as much as they could get, regardless of the long-term consequences. The result has been rapid depletion. And, the poor have been particularly hard hit by the loss of the Orans. Thus KRAPAVIS addresses the above environmental management and sustainable livelihood problems by undertaking conservation and management measures on these lands (Orans) by reviving water harvesting structures, checking soil erosion, plantation as well as tree nursery raising, sowing grass seeds and plant samplings of those that used to be present in Orans, also make communities the prime actors in the conservation of the Orans.
With the financial assistance from the GlobalGiving, a small tree nursery is being grown with 5000 saplings of suitable agro-forestry species. The priority is given to such species which are declining rapidly. Local people particularly the older ones will be helpful in telling about those species used to be found. Reviewing records, gazetteers and published/unpublished material would also be helpful in giving the idea about such species. KRAPAVIS criteria of selecting trees species is that encourage such trees that could provide more than one benefit to the communities (multi purpose trees e.g. fodder and fuel). These benefits are 4E driven:
Another important aspect of identifying the correct species is that species should be indigenous, local specific suits to the semi arid climatic conditions of ours. Local people are helpful in identifying such trees and grass species. Some of those species are such as Mahua Madhuca indica, Aam Mangifera indica, Khajjur Phoenix sylvestris, Khakhra Butea monosperma, Imli Tamarindus indica, Jamun Syzygium cuminii, Neem Azadirachta indica etc. A baseline of existing species to be carried out that will be following up with a documentation of latter plantation activities on the Ornas land. This process involves the communities themselves who take leadership in doing both the processes. KRAPAVIS has available technical expertise in terms of technical operations themselves and their management scale. Once Nursery is ready plantation will be done on Ornas lands.
Orans used to be the source of natural wealth like fodder, fuel, timber, berries, roots and herbs. Many species are found within the Orans, local societies use them for a variety of livelihood needs: to provide traditional non-timber forest products and subsistence goods to the people; nesting, roosting and foraging sites to the pest-controlling cavity nesting birds and other wild animals; protecting the species that offer sites for beehives and enhance the availability of honey; developing seedling orchards and seed production areas of ethno-silvicultural species and sustaining the essential ecological processes and life support systems. Some of the plant species have preserved or planted on Orans’ land for pharmaceutical uses/ herbal medicine like Adusta is used for cough syrup, other species such as ber, satavari, kuri, saava and other wild grains are valuable for home consumption and market sell. Minor forest produces that are non-timber forest products, like honey, ber (fruit), baskets and pottery are sold in the market, which is an essential part of their overall livelihood strategies. Annual fairs are organized at each Oran site where thousands gather. KRAPAVIS also strengthening market opportunities by establishing self- help groups (SHGs) of women. There are now 70 SHGs developed by KRAPAVIS working in the different villages.
Please click below to see photographs!
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