Securing Forest, Land and Biodiversity by indigenous Karbi Tribes in a key corridor in the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong Landscape, Assam, India.

Participatory Natural Resource Management improves quality of life and livelihoods Indigenous Karbi Tribes and restore degraded ecosystems.

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Eligibility Criteria

  • I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge and that I am eligible to apply.
  • I am 18 years old or older.

Initiative's representative name

M Firoz Ahmed

Initiative's representative date of birth

01 May 1975

Initiative's representative gender

  • Man

Headquarters location: country

  • India

Headquarters location: city

Guwahati

Where are you making a difference?

Kohora River Basin, Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong, Assam, India. (The project covers four villages inhabited by Karbi Tribes within the Kohora River Basin in Karbi Anglong District of Assam)

Website or social media url(s)

www.aaranyak.org https://www.facebook.com/aaranyakindia/

Date Started

June/2018

Project Stage

  • Start-up (first few activities have happened)

Yearly Budget : What is your current yearly budget for the initiative?

  • €50k - €100k

Organization Type

  • Nonprofit/NGO

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.

Experience of working with deprived Bodo tribes for 4yrs led to initiating natural resource management (NRM) work in an area not restricted by wildlife protection laws. Knowing Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong for long, the villages within the Kohora River Basin seemed ideal and started experimenting with conservation livelihood models. Initial description of elderly villagers how nature was thriving fifty years back at a time when the Kohora River was flowing in full followed by rapid forest, land and water degradation over time overwhelmed. Challenges would be high and multi-dimensional. Aha! We love challenges. Believed in Participatory NRM and appropriate livelihood interventions could change the life of the villagers and restore the ecosystem.

2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Indigenous Karbi tribes mostly practice slash and burn (Jhum) cultivation. Over time, land has degraded and production from Jhum declined, giving only 6-8 months of subsistence. Thus people go to middlemen who lend cash in return of agri products at throwaway prices. e.g. ‘Bhut Jalakia’ (Hottest Chili on Earth) is sold at half the market price. Most products have the same fate. Low income, debt, poor nutrition, health and education are striking issues of Karbis being addressed by this project.

3. Your solution: How are you working to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

By giving a fair price to the products the farmers can have better quality of life and sustainable livelihood. Started in 2018 the Karbi NRM project promotes community based natural resource management and implements interventions mixing traditional knowledge and expertise with modern knowledge and innovations. Eco-cultural tourism using homestay, value addition to handloom items and agricultural products are main interventions. Most importantly, one of our interventions addresses food security and financial security. Experiments with farmers showed good earning from homestead agriculture. Sustained income from homestead agriculture can secure the forests and land by minimizing Jhum. We are working with communities from understanding their issues through consultations, creating awareness, making them understand the issues and find solutions that are locally feasible to implement, implementing ideas that need appropriate mix of traditional knowledge and modern innovations, developing their skills and hand holding them to succeed in their micro-entrepreneurship that would lead to social and financial empowerment of families particularly the women in future.

4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?

Firstly, Community Based Natural Resource Management- institutionalized through Village Natural Resource Management Committees which is involved in participatory local resource base analysis and issues identification based on tool of Participatory GIS, willingness assessment, planning and collaborative implementation; Secondly, Biodiversity Business where communities identify resources for value addition, sustainable harvesting, and marketing. A biodiversity and community development chess on price is invested back into communities as decided by the community. Last but not the least, value traditional knowledge and blend it with appropriate modern innovations.

5. Collaboration: How does your initiative seek to bring key players together to preserve biodiversity?

The project already collaborates with different government agencies, academic institutions, village institutions, religious institutions and suitable donors. We are working with academic institutions to conduct eco-cultural-tourism in village homestays giving a suitable earning to families offering the accommodation and food. The Agriculture Department is providing in kind support to the project beneficiaries that is likely to grow in 2020. The Soil Conservation Department, that invests in small projects in the villages are taking our suggestion and implementing small projects for community benefit. Our startup project is already supported by US Fish and Wildlife Services for two years 2019 and 2020. We plan to engage with few other government agencies as well as suitable donors to continue the project so that we can go to an expansion mode in five years (Jan 2023) as the micro-models are successful and then implemented across the villages in the Karbi Anglong Landscape.

6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far — in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?

Impacts: >Eco-cultural tourism revenue in homestay has increased with growth of homestays from 3 (10 bed) to 8 (30 bed) families since 2018. >Seasonal vegetable production in homestead increased from initial 6 families to 41 in 2020. Participating women earn INR450 avg/week from vegetable sales to none in Jan 2018. Communities planted 2700 saplings of fruit plants from the nursery developed by the project. Measuring Impacts: >Social indicators: i. Participation of women and marginal farmers, ii. increase in resource literacy among the villagers on natural resources, sustainable harvesting, conservation and management, etc. >Economic Indicators: i. Increase in family earning, ii. Regular flow of income, iii. Women contributing to family income, iv. Banking and savings practice. >Ecological Indicators: i. Water Quality and Quantityof discharge of the river are regularly monitored, ii. Creating floral and faunal diversity indexes of the area to monitor changes in future.

7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

>Implementing and understanding how current models impact the communities and tuning those to succeed. >Support Biodiversity Business model through micro-entrepreneurship and form trading cooperative and Skill development of communities to exit by 2030. >Create brand value of the products so that market identifies the brand and stories associated. >Ensure policy changes so that communities get fair benefits from the forest and agricultural products reducing control of crony business on price. >The models in these project villages remain as focused models for capacity building of communities from other villages so that it acts as center for excellence in sustainable community based natural resource management practices in the region.

8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for society? Or different stakeholders?

>Preventing loss of bio-culturalism, traditional knowledge of indegenous tribal communities strengthening sustainable natural resource management and biodiversity conservation. >Highlights importance of Traditional Knowledge on bioresources and bio-cultural practices by linking biodiversity business in eco-cultural tourism, homestead agriculture, value addition to ethnic herbs and handloom. >Promote natural and organic farming among the women for food and nutritional nutritional security while preventing land and forest degradation. >Increasing value of women in society and also value of Karbi tribe and their traditional knowledge based agriculture among other communities.

9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

Short Term: Investment from suitable donors and contribution of government departments will help the business models take shape over 5 years (2018-22). Medium-Long Term: Chess from Biodiversity Business will be invested by the community for innovations in NRM practices and community development interventions. Long Term: Government invests to implement such models with minor adaptations in wider areas having similar ecological and anthropogenic signatures.

10. Team: what is the current composition of your current team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

M Firoz Ahmed, PhD, Conservationist with knowledge base on northeast India, team leader, manages project activities and performances. Jayanta Kumar Sarma, PhD, Environment and Development expert with knowledge and experience on traditional knowledge and conservation livelihoods will focus on social and livelihood aspects. Sarlongjon Teron, MA, Karbi youth with knowledge on the tribe and communication skills. Neeva Dutta, MA, Intern with experience of working on women issues and ecotourism.

11. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media

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