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Strengthening Community Institutions for Sustainable Livelihoods

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Understanding the unparalleled service offered by pollinators in Nature


K
eystone has been working in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (NBR) over the last 21 years (since 1993) with indigenous communities on eco-development initiatives. During the last couple of years, seven thematic areas have taken form, derived from the original idea of a holistic approach to the issues of livelihoods, conservation & enterprise. These areLivelihoodConservationOrganic Market DevelopmentCulture & PeopleEnvironmental GovernanceTraining & Information and Finance & Administration.


Videos
 

How the farmers of Semmenarai came back to their Thenai Kadu

Amidst the green tea fields as one drives up to the hills of Kotagiri is the small village of Semmenarai and 20 Irula families are hard at work in the traditional Irula land called Marikadu. It is but a small clearing in the majestic hills stretching up from the Bhavani Sagar but it is a rare community spirit that drives these families. These families have started a process that used to be a common sight in the district about two decades ago but is now a rare sight. They are preparing a thenai kadu – thenai kadu is a mixed cropped field with an astonishing range of crops including Ragi(Finger millet), Samai(Little millet), Thenai(Foxtail millet), Keerai(Amaranthus), Macca Cholam(Maize), Kadugu(Mustard), Varagu(Kodo millet), Milagai (Chillies), Pusinikai(Pumpkin), Togari(Pigeon Pea), Mochai(Lablab) and Suryakanthi(Sunflower). This diversified crop system not only offers a variety of foods to the family diet but is a carefully evolved system with ecological considerations for pollinator and pest management and one that also factors in labour availability and efficiency through staggered harvesting practices. The thenai kadu has a special significance in the cultural lives of the Alu Kurumbas and the Irulas who inhabit the Nilgiris Slopes. It is the traditional subsistence crop that yielded food and small surplus and along with forest produce collection, formed the two important pillars of indigenous livelihoods. Traditionally, the village elders called the Gowda(village headman), Urali(leader), Jathi(clan leader) and the Mannukaran (keeper of seeds)are important players in the formation of the thenai kadu and officiate at decisions of when to start land clearing, when to sow, start harvest etc. Over the years, increasing wildlife raids, uncertainties of rainfall, unavailability of seed, difficult manual processing and poor marketing facilities have taken a toll on many small agricultural communities and many families have moved to small scale tea and coffee planting while others leave their lands fallow and work on nearby tea estates as daily labour. The thenai kadu is as much a social mobilization as it is an agricultural activity. Rotational fallows are practiced by several families to help the land regain its fertility. The fallow cycles usually range between 3-5 years. And in the interim, the forest quickly returns to the land and to tap into the fertility of the land, the family must work hard to clear the bushes and weeds. Many forest animals have also made the fields their home during the while. So of necessity, the land clearing activity prior to creation of the thenai kadu is a community effort. It is very difficult to undertake it as one or two individuals. Of the total effort required to cultivate one crop, land clearing expenses account for a third. This is an important deterrent for communities like Semmanarai when they decided to start millet agriculture. As we sit on a fallen log talking about the fertile land around us, Lakshmiamma says, “we used to do millet cultivation here in and in 2003-2004, we have grown ragi and thenai and mochai here. Even though it is an yanai kadu – elephant land, we have worked this land and they(the elephants) have not affected us because we have maintained the respect and decorum that the thenai kadu requires. Speaking of why they stopped millet cultivation, she says that in between we had lost the seeds required and then when Keystone helped us with seed and soil and water conservation work support we recultivated the land till the Special Task Force(in search of bandit Veerappan) started patrolling these fields. Raman says “we have to buy thenai from Karamadai even for our ritual uses and what kind of farmers are we that we cannot even grow our own thenai?”It was this sentiment that lead Balan, Raman, Lakshmiamma to resolve to start millet cultivation this year. And the biggest obstacle in front of them was the land clearing activity.   Who would be able to support them in clearing the bushes and weeds and making then land fit for cultivation again after more than an decade? They came to Keystone with this question and we advised them that the Tamil Nadu Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme had land development, especially for tribal communities, in its mandate. We helped them represent the case to the District Rural Development Agency and its Project Director moved swiftly to instruct the Block Development Officer. A survey of the land was done and an estimate for land clearing and soil and water conservation measures drawn up. Job cards were issued to the people who did have them and the families went back to work on their own lands with the support of the government. It was a pleasant surprise to the people to see that the government had moved so quickly in response to their request. Too much delay would have meant that the lands could not have been made ready by the Aadi pattam(the sowing season in the tamil month of Aadi). At the time of writing this, 28 members belonging to 20 families have worked between 75-100 days on their own fields and estimate a requirement of a further 50 days of work per family. The average farm size per family is about an acre. This one strategic support has multiple outcomes – agricultural renewal on fallow lands, people working on their own lands, enriched family diets, ecologically appropriate land use and strengthened community initiatives. This instance of millet cultivation in Semmenarai is a powerful example of how a government scheme can route public investment to support crucial livelihood activities among the most vulnerable populations. Indeed, with scaled up support and widespread replication, it can restore a lost agriculture and a dying food system to the indigenous people of these hills. Download Note

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Urban Policy Dialogues

The Indian Institute for Human Settlements (http://iihs.co.in) organised Urban Policy Dialogues 2015 on 20, 21st September. The meeting had participation from people from all walks of life concerned with urban development. Designers, architects, engineers, planners, government officials, NGOs, practitioners from policy and implementation were present and completely engaged in debate. The issues dealt with concerned water & sanitation, transportation, land, housing and climate change & disaster risk reduction. The links between these, the making of a sustainable city and the growing challenge to address the fast speed of urbanisation in India were discussed. Sneh attended the Dialogues to learn and contribute about issues concerning natural resources, migration and local action. By the middle of this Century, India’s urban population is projected to double and touch approximately 800 million, accounting for half of the country’s total population. In 2050, India will have five megacities with populations greater than 10 million and more than 90 cities with populations that exceed a million. Urban India already accounts for more than half of the nation’s GDP. The magnitude and momentum of this urban transformation presents huge challenges as well as unique opportunities to advancing equitable and sustainable development.

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Springshed Management, Shillong – 2015

Over 70 government staff and volunteers were trained on springshed management over a week long training in Shillong by MBDA and the Springs Initiative. This is part of a larger effort at capacity building for a springs management programme at the state level in Meghalaya. Gokul attended a training that was held from July 20th to 25th in Shillong on Springshed Management. It was meant as the foundation for a Training of Trainers contingent who will carry forward capacity building under the Meghalaya springs programme. It was attended by 70+ people from Soil and Water Conservation Department, Water Resources Department, volunteers working under the Meghalaya Basin Development Authority and its associated programmes. The participants included Junior Engineers, field animators, and MSW graduates from every district in the state.  It was organized by the Springs Initiative and the MBDA. Partners from Arghyam, Acwadam, PSI and Keystone Foundation lead and facilitated sessions. Four days were on the MBDA campus and two days were in the field. The campus days consisted of both theoretical and practical hands-on training sessions. The beginning of the training was about understanding springs and groundwater resources and the latter part was aimed at applying that knowledge to springshed management. Sessions were tailored to Meghalaya. See below for details of the agenda and a map of locations visited. The majority of time was spent on geology, hydrology and field techniques for mapping and monitoring springs as well as identifying springsheds – this was based on previous feedback and the background of the participants. Overall, the training went well and the feedback was positive. Despite a total lack of previous geology training the participants learned a lot about hydrogeology fundamentals, field methods and applied springshed management. Several volunteers were able to lead aspects of the training by the end of the week, particularly the use of the tracer, measurement of discharge, GPS and field sheets and to some extent, use of a compass/clinometer for geologic mapping. Participants requested more field time at the next training as well as a review of the geology and more time on using google earth and the field instruments. Consensus was that we should meet again with the same group in a different part of Meghalaya later in 2015 and early in 2016. Participants were given goals of identifying the geology of their area, and monitoring at least 1 spring every month before the next training.  

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India Biodiversity Portal Organizes Invasive Species Campaign

The India Biodiversity Portal is organizing an invasive species campaign through the month of August 2015: Spotting Alien Invasive Species or “SPAIS”. India Biodiversity Portal (IBP) is an online, open-access repository of information on India’s biodiversity. It has already conducted several campaigns involving citizens in documenting, contributing and sharing biodiversity information from diverse parts of the country. With the SPAIS campaign, IBP and its partners aim to create awareness about, and to map the occurrences of, a set of widespread invasive species in India. The campaign will be conducted online at: http://indiabiodiversity.org/group/spotting_alien_invasive_species/show The SPAIS campaign will be conducted in association with WIKWIO (Weed Identification and Knowledge in the Western Indian Ocean), IISER-Kolkata, University of Kashmir, Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development at Banaras Hindu University, the G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, Dakshin Foundation, Nature Conservation Foundation, Keystone Foundation in Kotagiri, and several others. The success of this campaign depends on participation by citizens. What is the significance of studying and mapping invasive species? The rapid proliferation of numerous exotic invasive species of plants and animals poses a threat to native biodiversity, the structure of valuable wildlife habitats, and the survival of vital water bodies, and can have severe impacts on the country’s agricultural economy. In India we still know very little about invasive species, let alone where they occur or the full extent of their ecological and economic impacts. Through this collaborative effort between researchers and citizens to map the distributions of these intruders, the Spotting Alien Invasive Species (SPAIS) campaign hopes to obtain important clues to the management and control of these problem species. Such information could potentially enable us to collectively answer questions such as: Are there certain habitats that are particularly vulnerable to species invasions? And, in time, to answer questions such as: How might a particular alien invasive species be expected to spread under a scenario of future climate change? Ecologist, Dr Ankila Hiremath, from Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), has worked on invasives for over 10 years and is one of the organisers of the SPAIS campaign. She says, “Humans have always moved plants, animals, (and inadvertently, diseases) around the globe. But with growing global trade and travel, the rate at which species are being introduced to new region – whether deliberately or accidentally – is unprecedented. Not all these species are useful. Some of them, those that become known as ‘invasive alien species,’ can have serious impacts on the environment and on human wellbeing. Costs of invasive species due to losses in agriculture and forestry alone are estimated on the order of billions of US $ per year. It is much harder to quantify less tangible costs due to the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.” Participate in this fun activity with friends and neighbours, with students, teachers, and colleagues; take a SPAIS walk, upload a photograph, tell a story! Sign up  at http://indiabiodiversity.org/group/spotting_alien_invasive_species/show and register now. For more information, write to spais@indiabiodiversity.org Images of common invasives available at http://indiabiodiversity.org/group/spotting_alien_invasive_species/page/98 Steps for participating shared at http://indiabiodiversity.org/group/spotting_alien_invasive_species/page/100

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Invitation for a meeting on ‘Consolidation and Devolution of Climate Finance in India’

There have been a number of national and international developments on climate change finance recently. While allocations for climate change have been made in the last few budgets in India, internationally, the Green Climate Fund is expected to start disbursing funds from later this year. In this context, Keystone Foundation and Oxford Climate Policy recently undertook a review of climate finance arrangements in India, specifically from the perspective of channelling adaptation finance to poor and climate-vulnerable communities, who are likely to be the worst impacted by climate change. The resulting paper, Consolidation and Devolution of Climate Finance: The Case of India, identifies existing gaps in the climate finance architecture, and in readiness to channel national and international funding to vulnerable communities. We would like to invite you to a meeting on 7 August, that will bring together critical government actors, including those who already work with climate-vulnerable communities but are not currently part of the discussion on climate finance (such as the ministries of rural development, Panchayati Raj, water and agriculture, and State and local actors). The discussion will focus on: How to widen participation and ownership of climate finance and action, to include missing sectors and actors; How national and international climate finance can be consolidated to work towards common, nationally-determined, goals and targets; How climate finance can be devolved, to reach the most vulnerable; Latest developments under the Green Climate Fund, particularly with respect to a new modality of Enhanced Direct Access (EDA), and how India can leverage this new modality to benefit vulnerable communities and strengthen existing national programmes such as NREGA; and Mitigation-related climate finance in the context of channelling funds from the GCF™ Private Sector Facility to micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). (Based on another paper on Mobilizing MSMEs). The meeting will be restricted to a select group of government representatives from critical sectors, and take place in a round-table format to provide an opportunity for open debate.We hope you will be able to join us, first for lunch at 12:00 pm, and then for the meeting from 1:30-5:30 pm. We would also like to invite you to a drinks reception following the meeting at 5:30 pm, hosted by the European Capacity Building Initiative (ecbi). We will be happy to pay the cost of your travel, and boarding and lodging.   Date: August 7, 2015 Time: 12:00 pm – 5:30 pm, followed by a drinks reception Venue:  Seminar Hall 3, India International Centre, New Delhi

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Improving Livelihoods of the Indigenous Communities in the NBR

Keystone Foundation’s NRM programme, partly supported by SDC/IC NGO programme has 4 main facets – forest based livelihoods, biodiversity conservation, water resource management and reviving traditional agriculture systems. The NRM programme was initiated in 1995 in the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve (NBR) and works with 6 different indigenous communities (henceforth ‘Adivasis’). The objectives of this ongoing programme are – To improve livelihoods of Adivasi communities of the NBR, particularly the honey hunters and collectors of Non-Timber Forest Produce (NTFP). To conserve forest biodiversity through ecological monitoring of NTFP, sustainable harvesting systems and technology, trade and value addition. To study communities and their water management systems in hill areas and implement small drinking water projects. Conduct research and revive traditional agriculture systems towards improved food security and household nutrition of the indigenous communities. Download the full Article  

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Inauguration of Pattarai

Our newly constructed Pattarai is a training and creating centre which has three major sections – Carpentry, Metal & Masonry and electrical-electronic-plumbing section.  Pattarai is a traditional Tamil word meaning artisan’s working place (carpentry, blacksmith, bamboo craft, pottery etc). The building was inaugurated on the 15th of June. The construction of the Pattarai is supported and funded by the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation because Keystone won the award for outstanding contribution in the field of Science and Technology for Rural Development. The carpentry unit is equipped with a multi functioning wood work machine which has numerous functions like planning, grueing, cutting, grinding, drilling, battering and sizing.  This unit will work on production and training of making bee hives, wooden packing items, designing various displays etc. The metal work section is to handle honey equipment, driers, filters, pre- fabricated alternative construction items and water harvest-purification-storage systems. The electrical and electronic section is to train and work on assembling of solar light & energy equipment, repairing of water pumping and solar-electric fencing equipment for crop protection. Gallery | Related Story – Jamnalal Bajaj Award – 2013 Introductory Electrical plumbing training A three days introductory electrical and three days plumbing training was conducted to tribal youth from June first to the sixth. Eight Irula tribal youth from Sigur region participated effectively. The introductory electrical training curriculum included – one and three phase house wiring, fixing consumer meter board,  light points, 5-15 amp sockets, one way – two way controls, earthing, fixing water heater installation and problem solving. During the plumbing training, demonstration on cold & hot water lining, solar cum electrical water heaters, pump set mechanism and erection was conducted. The stay and food was arranged during the training and Rs.100 per day was supported as stipend. Some of the participants have expressed interest to undergo a three months complete training in the future.        

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Ecological Sustainability for Non-timber Forest Products

Ecological Sustainability for Non-timber Forest Products Dynamics and Case Studies of Harvesting There is growing knowledge about and appreciation of the importance of Non-timber Forest Products (NTFPs) to rural livelihoods in developing countries, and to a lesser extent, developed countries. However, there is also an assumption on the part of policy-makers that any harvesting of wild animal or plant products from the forests and other natural and modified ecosystems must be detrimental to the long-term viability of target populations and species. This book challenges this idea and shows that while examples of such negative impacts certainly exist, there are also many examples of sustainable harvesting systems for NTFPs. The chapters review and present coherent and scientifically sound information and case studies on the ecologically sustainable use of NTFPs. They also outline a general interdisciplinary approach for assessing the sustainability of NTFP harvesting systems at different scales. A wide range of case studies is included from Africa, Asia and South America, using plant and animal products for food, crafts, textiles, medicines and cosmetics. More Details & Purchase Text from Routledge Taylor & Francis Group    

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3rd Springs Initiative Partners Meet, Bhimtal – 2015

The Springs initiative is a network of organisations working on revival and conservation of Springs by understanding the geo-hydrology and looking at Springs as ground water. The initiative is supported by Arghyam and Technical support by ACWADAM. Training of Trainers The first four days of the meet was to disseminate or share the knowledge vested with each partner to the other partners. The four day programme had various sessions facilitated by various organisations. ACWADAM– Himanshu and Kausthubh trained the participants on Geology and understanding the various rock types and their structures. Keystone Foundation and Grampari (Representing Western Ghats) – Gokul, Selvi and Jared Presented about the Importance of looking at the Spring and the ecosystem around the Springs and its catchment. Selvi presented the case study from Keystone about the ecological restoration done in the Happy valley Spring Shed. Vishaka Jilla Nava Nirmana Samithi (Representing Eastern Ghats) – Siva and Rao presented their work on gravity fed water supply system (GFWSS) and slow sand filters in the Eastern Ghats. People Science Institute – Ankit presented about the various quality parameters and their affects on human health. Himalaya Seva Sangh (Himalayan Range) – Manoj spoke about the Himalayan springs and the pressure and exploitation due to various factors affecting the ground water. CHIRAG – Chirag hosted the event and also shared their knowledge on Springs. Transerve Technology – ODK App for Springs data collection. India Water Portal and Hindi Water portal – The 2 media partners documented the whole event and made a few movies on the field. Field Day The first day in the field, we spent time in one of the working areas of CHIRAG where we were divided into groups to put theory into practice. The groups mapped the geology, rock types, dip direction, slope aspect and spring type. We were also able to talk to the villagers in Kulgaud. The women were explaining the rock types and the importance to understand the geology of the area before doing interventions. They also explained about how the community took efforts to convince the neighbourhood village for doing recharge interventions as the recharge area of Kulgaud spring was in the village upstream and on the other flank of the valley. The spring type was identified by the participants and data was collected on springs, discharge and quality. The Application was tried in the field and feedbacks for development were given. The Fourth Day ended with an Advocacy Workshop with the Uttarakhand government. The Meghalaya and Sikkim Government attended the workshop and spoke about the springs in Sikkim and Meghalaya and the importance of springs conservation with a scientific approach. After the Training of Trainers, the partners met to discuss about the plans by each partners for the next quarter. Keystone Foundation presented the vision statement for the Springs Initiative. It will go through a few changes as suggested by the partners. Keystone will also be doing a research on “The Economic of Supplying Drinking Water to Off-grid Habitations”. Keystone also committed to take up the Research on water and sanitation by roping in other partners from the network. A group from the TOT will go to Meghalaya by the end of July or the beginning of August to train the Meghalaya government on various specialised aspects. The 4th Springs partners meet was proposed to be held at Keystone Foundation. Gallery

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Keystone Foundation
Keystone Centre, PB 35
Groves Hill RoadKotagiri 643 217
Nilgiris District, Tamil Nadu India

Telefaxes: +91 (04266) 272277, 272977, 275297
Email: kf at keystone-foundation dot org

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