Communities And Conservation RuFu
Communities and conservation, as the title suggests, go hand in hand. There is no conservation without local communities. One may ask why. It is because the people who share space with nature, i.e., the forest-fringe communities, know best how to protect and conserve nature. Many nature conserving and preserving NGOs make the mistake of working around the local communities. But we at the Balipara Foundation, recognise the importance of joining hands with the local communities and working with them towards conservation and preservation of nature.
The forests of the Eastern Himalayas is rich in biodiversity. We are talking about 10,000 types of plants, 300 mammals, 977 birds, 176 reptiles, 105 amphibians, 269 freshwater fish ref. But this is also the same region which is most vulnerable to climate change and other such natural factors as well as human factors. The flora and fauna in this region needs to be protected, because when there is even a slightest imbalance in the biodiversity, it affects the entire ecosystem. At Balipara Foundation, we aim to protect and restore Eastern Himalayan region and seek to preserve a balance between conservation imperatives and human development through the creation of ecologically compliant assets.
But, as mentioned before, we do all these with the help of the local communities who share space with nature. These forest-fringe communities need aid to safeguard these forests, this is where Balipara Foundation comes in. We make them able by building them upward social and economic mobility. We foster awareness through education. We create rural livelihood through eco-tourism. We are also working on a project of water 24x7 to ensure safe and hygienic water and sanitation to local communities.
Udalguri Landscape Mission is our endeavour towards “conservation through social mobility”, driven by the communities, addressing the people and their challenges. One of the many challenges is the water problem, from which The Water 24x7 Project came into being, through which we envision that every household in Sathgoria village shall have running tap water.
The Khalingduar Joint Forest Management Project is another such project for which, to be successful, is of outmost importance that they be owned, operated and managed by the communities that live alongside these project sites. And that is exactly how the project is being delivered. 12 forest fringe communities coming together, organizing themselves as the Khalingduar Eco Development Committee (EDC) and undertaking a 6 year project to reforest 500 Hectors of land by planting 1 million saplings.
The Udalguri District in Assam reports the highest Human-Elephant Conflicts and the affected communities deal with damage to crops, infrastructure, homes and life. To mitigate this problem we figured enabling timely compensation would be a meaningful intervention. Besides, the only thing worse than your house being broken by an elephant would be to get compensation 5 years later!
Our social enterprise, Wild Mahseer, Heritage Bungalows allows visitors to experience a serene life close to nature away from the fast paced busy life. Here the visitors are looked after by 300+ staff members who are from local communities in and around Wild Mahseer. The visitors can also visit the different local villages each of different tribe and experience their way of living. At Naturenomics™ Store, these indigenous people sell handicrafts made by them which is one of their sources of income.
Communities and conservation are not separate entities. They have a symbiotic relationship, both depend on one another.
By Annanya Choudhury,
intern at Balipara Foundation,
contemplates her learnings at Balipara Foundation