Objective: Upward Socio-Economic mobility through habitat-restoration & other ecosystem services in forest-fringe communities of the Eastern Himalayas
Location: This project is currently underway in the villages around the Khalingduar Reserve Forest in the Udalguri district of Assam. The aim would be to replication and upscale this model across the Indo-Bhutan transboundary conservation landscape and further across the Eastern Himalayas. We think that RuFu will serve as a blueprint for conservation efforts the world-over.
Rationale: A decade of experimentation in various aspects of conservation has led to the following key learnings.
For successful Landscape-Scale Conservation, it is essential to:
- Increase Community-Participation
- Employment through Ecosystem-based services
- Growth of Stewardship Behaviour within the forest-fringe communities
- Propagate of the value of indigenous knowledge
Funds for Socio-Economic & Environmental could be initially used to hire a community workforce dedicated to restoring degraded habitats through scientific afforestation. This initial economic impetus through the first in a series of ecosystem-related services generates upward socio-economic mobility which is a big non-rhetoric motivation for the forest-fringe communities. This, in turn, leads to a) improvement of habitats & b) propagation of sustainable community-managed forestry which would be a source of revenue & food over time. The funds generated in this process & sourcing funds dependent on direct measurement of social impact could be used for further development of social assets such as water access, education, healthcare in these areas. The urgency of social issues will be judged whilst living with & learning from the communities.
- Community-led Habitat-Restoration – promoting afforestation as an ecosystem-service to generate an initial economic impetus towards conservation
- The Water 24x7 Project – Leveraging traditional water-ways as a sustainable way of procuring water and furthering this by installing low-cast filtration systems
- Social Mobility Assets – Education, healthcare, housing, … urgency decided based on human-centred surveys & experiments
- Create a human-centred prototype for conservation efforts the world over
- Propagate the importance of socio-economic mobility of forest-fringe communities as key to survival of forests & wildlife
- Innovate & create customised sustainable experiments to ensure longevity of social assets such as water.
In the Future:
We have initiated the community-led habitat restoration project in the villages around the Khalingduar Reserve Forest & have realised that leveraging the traditional dong-bandh system is most suitable for sustainably sourcing water all year round. Over the course of the next 10 years, we will be developing and implementing action plans to ensure the creation of a holistic model for conservation and creating futures in Rural Eastern Himalayas --- RuFu.