Strengthening community livelihoods through nature capital as the core of conversation on the second day of the 7th edition of the Eastern Himalayan Naturenomics™ Forum 2019
Guwahati, 6th November, 2019: Following the discourse on identifying and capitalizing on our natural capital to deliver universal basic assets and facilitate socio-economic mobility in the local communities of the Eastern Himalayas, the second day of Eastern Himalayan Naturenomics™ Forum 2019 began with keynote speaker Krishan Varma, Special Secretary (Rtd.), Govt. of India delivering a talk on “Sustainable Tourism in the Eastern Himalayan Region: Opportunities and Challenges.”
Shortly after a conversation between Vance G. Martin, Wild Foundation, USA, Devanshi Vaid, India Development Review and Bittu Sahgal, Founder Editor, Sanctuary Asia, on “Wilderness: The Nature based Solution for Life, Livelihood, and Love” followed.
Quoting Vance G. Martin:
“In the face of apartheid, two people, black and white, worked together with a team, to save the White Rhinos of Africa from extinction. There were challenges every day but they overcame them and now there are about 25000 of them. Back when they started, in 1959, there were only 800 of them. So, the issue is not wildlife, but people. The World Wilderness project, is our flagship project to develop community prosperity, because that’s the wholeness that life has given us. We are at a historic moment now, when earth’s people need, more than ever, the protection of Earth’s wilderness.”
A short documentary, Heroes of the Wild Frontiers, that highlighted some of the most riveting narratives and experiences of the forest guards manning the Eastern Himalayas, was screened, which was immediately followed by an interesting panel discussion on the same by Anish Andheria, Wildlife Conservation Trust, Krishnendu Bose, Earth Care Films, Rohini Ballave, DFO-Kaziranga, Tana Tapi, DFO- Pakke, Kime Rambia, Ranger-Pakke, Santi Ram Chetri, Kaziranga, and Tangru Meiji, Pakke.
Anish Andheria on existing issues of the forest lands:
“There is a 50% vacancy in the forest departments of India and 15 to 16 permanent posts to protect acres and acres of forest areas. While people are often hired from the local communities to protect the forests, they are not provided any job security and they often don’t get daily wage, for months. Yet they cover 200 kilometers a month, through very difficult terrains to protect the forest. For instance, there are very few anti-poaching camps in all of Pakke Tiger Reserve. Yet highways and other infrastructures are being built regularly across India in the name of development.”
A panel discussion conducted by Lt. Gen Arun Kumar Sahni took place, on “Community Autonomy & Governance of Nature Capital”. The panelists were Biswajit Chakrabarty, FICCI, Mehdi Arif Hussain, Tambor Lyngdoh, Khasi Hills REDD+, Sarath Davala, Basic Income Network, Kaushik Deka, India Today, and Kartik Shukul, Sanctuary Asia. The session aimed to address the question of how we can envision a community run ecological civilization and what capacities will need working on to build autonomy.
While Tambor Lyngdoh walked the audience through the traditions of the Khasi community and the importance and environmental impact of the REDD++ Project for the community, Kartik Shukul spoke about the Forest Rights Act— Although it is a central government act, the state governments often exploit the ambiguities in the act, making it beneficial for some while reducing others to being outcasts.
A quick talk was delivered by Hasina Kharbhih, of Impulse NGO Network. She spoke about “Sustainable Livelihood Initiatives through ‘Empower.’”
Quoting Hasina Kharbhih:
“We realized economic market access gives women a choice from migrating. Through ‘Empower’, we are giving women livelihood opportunities. We centralize raw material distribution, market access to women, to encourage them to be independent. The women working with us are artists, they work for two to three hours because we do not want to dissociate them from the agro-economic culture either.”
Hakuei Kosato on “Rural Health” said, “India can learn a lot from Japan, when it comes to rural health. There’s universal access to healthcare in Japan. But it is essentially the minimalist Japanese food culture and exercise that should be adopted in India.”
The second day of the Forum 2019 saw an Earth Day Network publication being launched– Pathways to Green India Innovative Ideas to Protect Our Species Vol 3. by Karuna Singh, Earth Day Network. The stories are written in an effort to change misconceptions about certain animal species and encourage their conservation instead. The book is available online.
An interactive session on “Nature Capital: A New Financial Economy for the Eastern Himalayas” saw Sarath Davala, Basic Income Network, Saleem Khan, British Asian Trust, Anirudh S Singh, Rakesh Shejwal, Yes Bank, and Vijay Yagnamurthy, Tata Trust, India, share their views on what a nature capital based financial system is going to look like. The panel aimed to find a solution to how we can ensure appreciation in the worth of natural assets.
The last panel discussion of the day, on “Conservation Beyond Borders”, was significant in decoding how heritage could function as a connecting link in the Eastern Himalayas. This was a collaborative session, with the support of UNESCO Category 2 Centre on World Natural Heritage Site Management
& Training for Asian & the Pacific region at Wildlife Institute of India. Sonali Ghosh, Niraj Kakati, and Persis Farooqy were the moderators for the session. The panel also comprised of Rita Banerjea of Green Hub and NEN, Shiela Bora of INTACH, and Bibhuti Lahkar of Aranyak and Anjali Tirkey, PAJHRA Foundation.
Eastern Himalayan Naturenomics™ Forum was closed with the screening of Rising, a documentary of Samvaad, a pan India Tribal Conclave by Tata Steel, principal partner for this event with the Balipara Foundation.
The 7th Balipara Foundation Social Recognition Awards was opened by the Tezpuria Thespian, playing a soulful instrumental ode to nature.
Two short documentaries Nature is Speaking: Shailene Woodley is Forest and Mother Nature were screened in the latter half of the day.
The 7th Rabindranath Barthakur Memorial Lecture this year hosted Vance G. Martin, an innovator and leader in the non-profit sector and the current President of WILD 11, USA
Angaarag Papon Mahanta, with his music, proved once more how music transcends reality. Balipara Foundation’s first Rural Futures publication, Rural Futures: 21st Century Transformation for the Naturenomics™ Future was also launched at the event.
The 7th Balipara Foundation Social Recognition Awards applauded the new Earth heroes who put into action innovative solutions for ecological restoration and inspired others.