“Promote organic farming on the fringes of the jungle”: On the need for working with the communities to achieve long-term conservation goals – Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve

As fragmentation of forests, commercial plantations and uncertain weather conditions threaten the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve on the Western Ghats highlands in southern India, a community of indigenous honey harvesters say they know how best to conserve its biodiversity.

By Priyanka Shankar | Read the full article here >>

Kattunayakan honey harvesters Photo © Tarsh Thekaekara www.thesholatrust.org | Learn more about bees and honey on this website >>

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) observes World Bee Day on May 20, in a bid to “raise awareness on the essential role bees and other pollinators play in keeping people and the planet healthy, and on the many challenges they face today.” […]

“Leave the conservation to us,” said Shesha, a youngster hailing from Sajjehalli Hadi, a hamlet of Jenu Kuruba people nestled in the foothills of the Western Ghats in the district of Kodagu (erstwhile Coorg) in Karnataka. At Sajjehalli Hadi, people used to live in small huts covered with leaves, amidst bamboo bushes. Now, they have thatched or tin-roofed huts, which have electricity and are also furnished. “Our great-grandfathers grew up here and we know the forest very well.” Shesha belongs to an adivasi group known for conserving bees that are essential not only for their livelihood but also the growth of forests and farms. […]

The primary demand of the Jenu Kuruba people is to be allowed to plant forest trees in degraded patches and promote organic farming on the fringes of the jungle, where chemical-laced crops are keeping honeybees at bay. They say it is the best way to save the trinity they worship – forests, wild animals and people.

Idols of tigers, bears and human figures adorn places of worship on the edges of adivasi hamlets near Sajjehalli Hadi.

A recent NGO report notes that 1,353 families used to live in 45 villages within the Nagarhole Reserve and more on its peripheries, but many families were relocated. The villages belonged mainly to Jenu Kurubas, but also other communities such as Betta Kurubas, Yeravas and the Bedugas. There are also the designated sacred groves, ‘no-go’ areas hidden amidst around 25 different kinds of forestland, that they frequent for honey, soapnut, fungus, fruits and seeds.

The Jenu Kuruba people point at the remains of a resort project abandoned decades ago after their protest. Nilgiri forests have a recordof forced eviction, violence and resistance. Even last year, demonstrations were held by the same community, against a forced eviction from the tiger reserve.

Forest officials, however, insist that colonial conservation practices that excluded the adivasis are an old story. […]

Meanwhile, the Wildlife Conservation Society – India (WCS-India), an NGO working on wildlife conservation, had earlier assisted the government in shifting adivasis from the reserve. However, the NGO no longer participates in any pre-relocation work that involves people leaving their forest homes. “We are moving with the times,” commented Vidya Athreya the new director and head of science and conservation at WCS-India. “The old generation had its own style.”

The NGO aims to help the adivasis with post-resettlement paperwork, and also help those who intend to be shifted to new places. Athreya, an expert in human-animal conflict, states that they cannot leave people midway. “We need to work with the communities to achieve long-term conservation goals,” she added. […]

Source: “Adivasi honey harvesters demand forest control and criticise ‘unfriendly’ conservation measures”
URL: https://india.mongabay.com/2022/11/adivasi-honey-harvesters-demand-forest-control-and-criticise-unfriendly-conservation-measures/
Date Visited: 25 December 2022

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“National development and the development of tribal communities are linked to each other.” – Droupadi Murmu
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“Tribal communities are a standing example of how women play a major role in preservation of eco historic cultural heritage in India.” – Mari Marcel Thekaekara (writer and Co-Founder of ACCORD-Nilgiris) | Learn more >>

Report of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel 2011
Report of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel
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