Forests and Communities as a central theme for conversations on the second day of the 6th edition of the Eastern Himalayan Naturenomics™ Forum 2018

Guwahati, 2 nd November 2018: Following on the solutions for Organic Growth and Rural Futures, the second day of Eastern Himalayan Naturenomics™ Forum 2018 began with Saurav Malhotra, Balipara Foundation, emphasizing on partnering to create forests to create rural villages that are capable of urban areas and generate revenue for the communities and forest fringes. Stating that “we need to work towards a future, where the land belongs to the people and people have Universal Basic Income”, he shared the journey of Balipara Foundation under the new vision of Rural Futures.

The Forum began with an ode to Bittu Sahgal, Founder Editor, Sanctuary Asia, who began by quoting Charles Darwin “it is the most adaptable that will survive. This is true for humans too – and human institutions like corporates and NGOs, to highlight that in order to fight climate change we need to find ways to deal with climate change and preserve our forests.

Rolf Von Bueren, Founder from Lotus Arts De Vivre, spoke about the contribution of west and east towards building societies and economies, the dominance of the West and highlighted the shift of power to the East ,with India and China flourishing in various spectrums of globalisation. He raised questions on the management of natural resources by leaders in these countries to benefit local communities and conservation- stating that “A very important question is how will capital and the shift in capital from hands of the giants will have an impact on who will be shaped as the new superpower”. And emphasized on the importance of creating awareness on local knowledge, knowledge on the nature capital, local dialect, local skills and local plants to preserve our bio-cultural heritage.

Prof. Jianchu Xu, Kunming Institute of Botany, China presented his thoughts on Mountain Futures for mountain landscapes and mountain people and an Indo-China Partnership for community conservation. Yoji Natori, Conservation International Japan, spoke about ‘Bringing Landscapes and Seascapes with people to the center of conservation’.

An interactive session with Praxis Institute of Participatory Practices, India on “Understanding and Adopting Participatory Practices” demonstrated tools and methods for making communities inclusive of conservation goals to highlight the importance of listening to local communities. Chitranjan Kaushik and Pragyan Kalita from Ecofirst Services Limited, India presented their thoughts on driving the creation of sustainable communities by developing and delivering India specific solutions.

Professor Nellie Ahmed Tanweer spoke about “nature as our classroom” as a driving force of initiatives for Marias Public School, Guwahati, which is the first to send its students to the UN Conferences to present on conservation and to have an Eco-Club “Srishti” to foster conservation awareness and education. Biswajit De, Creative Director of the school added, “We started introducing the concept of citizen science to our students. We took them to the forest, introduced them to the Nature and made them aware of their responsibilities towards it. We introduce them with technologies and tools like GIS, ICT during nature treks and field trips”. He also spoke about partnering with schools in rural villages and cities to imbibe in minds of every school to become organized tasks force.

Jatin Bavishi, APPL Foundation, India shared his views on how small tea farms of Udalguri district can envisage making itself a part of a smart rural future. Mike Korchinsky, Wildlife Works, U.S.A, chaired the session on Rural Futures: Transformation of Tea. The panellists for the 2 session were Ketan Patel, Jalinga Tea Estate, India; Conrad Dennis, APPL, India; Disha Barooah, Haroocharai Tea Estate, India and Lisa Mills, University of Montana, USA.

Disha Barooah spoke about the role of storytelling for carrying forward the legacy of Assam Tea. Lisa Mills, University of Montana, who works toward protecting Asian Elephants said that “tea plantations have traditionally not been elephant friendly, as they pose a lot of obstacles to the animals” but through innovative solutions such as Elephant Friendly Certification, we can drive change in the tea industry as a landscape conservation goal. “Tea gardens attract these pachyderms and at Hathikuli we have been able to exemplify human elephant coexistence”-said Conrad Dennis, APPL, India

A session on developing clean renewable energy based on sustainable management practices was led by Richard Leitch, UK and Prokash Datta, India. Dr. Kamal Bawa, ATREE, was present at the Forum for the ‘Launch of Application – Orchids of Eastern Himalayas’. The app is a one of a kind digital knowledge platform on orchids in the Eastern Himalayas that documents information on orchids.

The first part of the day ended with concluding remarks by Balipara Foundation highlighting resolutions and outcomes of the two day conference - 1) Shifting mindsets towards a localized, organic and decentralised economy, 2)Community ownership and decision making is crucial for achieving conservation goals, 3) Empowering women in communities to drive these changes through education, awareness and financial independence, 4) Conservation must impact both communities and biodiversity positively, 5) Cross-border partnerships to strengthen forest fringe communities and empower alternative livelihoods, 6) Changing narratives towards broader focus on the kinds of stories we tell about wildlife, conservation, communities and heritage, 7) Implementing the idea of Universal Basic Income for socio-economic quality.

The Event was followed by the Balipara Foundation Awards for applauding 16 new Earth Heroes who put into action innovative solutions for ecological restoration and inspired others.

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