Strengthening linkages

Putting information to work for better interventions

Appropriate technologies for livelihoods, enterprise development & conservation
K
eystone has been working in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (NBR) over the last 20 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.


 

Welcoming the new IFOAM World Board members

Mathew has been re-elected to the World Board of IFOAM at its General Assembly held alongside the Organic World Congress, in Istanbul, just last week – a proud moment for all of us here in Keystone. In his previous term, being part of the Board was a huge learning curve for him – the skills, experiences, depth of understanding of various subjects – from different Board members enabled IFOAM to grow visibly as an organization. He hopes that the confidence reposed by the members (70% have been re-elected), will enable IFOAM to lead the organic world in a meaningful manner. Added to this excitement was the fact that India won the bid for hosting the next Organic World Congress in 2017. Pitted against Brazil, Russia and China, OFAI (Organic Farming Association of India) made an excellent pitch.  A huge responsibility but also a great opportunity to showcase the diversity and richness of the organic agriculture world in India. Looking forward.. World Board

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Protection of Gaurs in Nilgiri Biosphere

To enable a conflict-free existence between humans and gaurs (Bos gaurus) in the region, the Keystone Foundation with assistance from Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) has started a Rapid Action Project (RAP), supported by Charities Aid Foundation India (CAF India), in areas in and around Kotagiri, an important refuge for the gaur. Reports of gaur sightings have been increasing in the upper plateau of the Nilgiris. Sightings have also become common in the tea/coffee plantations and agricultural fields. Growing urbanisation has led to a massive degradation of habitat of the gaur and recent times have seen a rise in reports of negative interactions with humans, especially by vegetable farmers. Further explaining the need of the project, Radhika Bhagat the Head of Wild Aid Division, under which the RAP is being carried out, said, “Gaurs are large bovines and will naturally go to the first available food source. In an area like the Niligiris, when you have a high density of the species in a vastly fragmented habitat and they have to inevitably share the same space as humans, chances of conflict increase especially in the agricultural lands. While so far there have been no fatal retaliatory attacks on the animal, a few people have lost their lives in conflict situations. To nip the problem before it escalates to a bigger level, we are lending our full support to the Keystone Foundation as they go ahead with various mitigation measures.” Some of these measures include identifying potential gaur safe havens within the landscape and identifying gaur corridors with technical advice from WTI, installing signages at critical crossing zones and developing multi-lingual information and awareness material for gaur conservation in human dominated landscapes. “It is good that there is an attempt being made to assess the habitat of gaurs and make plans to locally conserve them, particularly by anticipating a possibility of retaliatory killings. The species has also been long targeted for its meat, contributing to the dwindling numbers,” said Jose Louies, Regional Head of South India for WTI. A two-day Doddu Habba or Gaur Festival was also organised by the Keystone Foundation at Kotagiri, in August. The event was being organised in collaboration with the Wildlife Trust of India, the Hill Area Development Programme, CAF India and the Rufford Foundation. The motive behind the festival was to spread awareness on tolerance towards wildlife among the local populace. The festival brought together artists, musicians, theatre artists and storytellers from the Nilgiris, Kerala, Odisha, and North East India in support of the majestic animal. It celebrated the gaur, not only as a wild animal, but also as a symbolic representation of man’s coexistence with nature. “The Gaur is a symbol of coexistence between humans and nature. While they are not yet considered a species of concern in an urban landscape, frequent and sometimes prolonged interactions with gaur have generated a buzz in town. We would like to use the buzz to spread awareness and get people to participate in the conservation of the charismatic species,” added Sumin George, of the Keystone Foundation. The Western Ghats and their outflanking hills in South India constitute one of the most extensive extant strongholds of the gaur, with good numbers in Wayanad – Nagarahole – Mudumalai – Bandipur complex, with an estimated population of 12,000-22,000 in the country (Ranjitsinh 1997), although there is no confirmed data. According to IUCN Red List, which lists the Bos gaurus as Vulnerable, the global population is estimated to be around 13,000–30,000 animals, indicating a total of 5,200–18,000 mature individuals. This Article was published in Wildlife Trust of India

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Celebrating 50 years of The IUCN Red List

The IUCN Red List is the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of wild species and their links to livelihoods. Far more than a list of species and their status, it is a powerful tool to inform and catalyse action for biodiversity conservation, critical to protecting the natural resources we need to survive. Watch our video to find out more about The IUCN Red List and our goal of assessing at least 160,000 species by 2020 to make The IUCN Red List a more complete ‘Barometer of Life’. Read More

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A Sweet Golden Steal

Honey! sounds simple when we say the word, but has a complex background Usually associated with health, and taken as medicine to relieve colds and coughs, honey has lately become a favourite breakfast item in most homes. It is eaten with cereal and chappatis, dosas and toast. Read the full article by Snehlata Nath published in Down to Earth

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Appreciative Inquiry

Wasundhara Joshi & Sankar Subramaniam, Change Works – a Organisation Development Consultants firm from Mumbai were here for four days to facilitate an Appreciative Inquiry workshop with Keystone and LFE. In 2007, we had called them and their ideas, perspectives on using an Appreciate Inquiry towards Organizational Development & Human Resources Development helped a great deal. It was felt that seven years down the line, especially with the 20 years completion, there was a need to call them and have an internal look at the our destiny, dreams and future design in the coming 10 years. A similar exercise we had done with Bharat Krishnan with the communities during the 20 years celebration and what are the future trajectories. This is more to look at oneself and see how we do things and how we need to change doing things. There is excitement and positive feeling all around in the campus with the 2 organizations – both done separately. Visioning and placing the priorities for the next 10 years has started to be drawn. Gallery

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Doddu Habba Celebrations

As part of the International Day ofthe World Indigenous Peoples this year, Keystone Foundation hosted a two-day festival called DodduHabba or the Gaur Festival on 8th and 9th of August 2014 in the Nilgiris in Kotagiri. On day one, the Gaur Festival was inaugurated by the District Collector Dr. P. Sankar followed by an introduction to the theme of the festival by Robert Leo, Deputy Director, Keystone Foundation. Day two saw the inauguration of World Indigenous Peoples Day by Mr Srinivasa Reddy, Project Director, Hill Area Development Programme – Nilgiris. The idea of a Gaur Festival was conceived from our admiration for this wild animal, with which many of us have had frequent close encounters, here in the Nilgiris. Doddu Habba will celebrate the Gaur, not only as a wild animal, but also as a symbolic representation of our co-existence with Nature.The motive behind the festival was to spread awareness on tolerance towards wildlife among the local populace. There was also traditional culinary food from the Nilgiris. The two-day festival brought together artists, musicians, theatre artists and storytellers from the Nilgiris, Kerala, Odisha and North East India. A display titled ‘Get to know the Gaur’ shared information on the distribution of Gaur in the Nilgiris and the country and on how to deal with situation of encounter with the animal in towns and around.Some of the groups that performed were the  indigenous people of the Nilgiris such as the Todas, Irulas and Kurumbas, the Acoustic Traditional from Darjeeling, Karinthalakkoottam and Oorali from Trichur, and Kaananam from Attapadi. The Muramkulukki Shaman from Peechi forests with his ritual was one of the rare performances staged in the gathering. Funding support for the festival and the Gaur information displays at the event were offered by the Hill Area Development Programme – Nilgiris, Wildlife Trust of India, CAF India and the RuffordFoundation. The festival was a free public event and over 500 people participated, including local people, school and college children. Over 200 people from 10 indigenous communities across the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve were a part of this celebration. Gallery Day 1 | Gallery Day 2

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Mixing science and traditional knowledge in forestry

Mixing science and traditional knowledge in forestry By Joel Winston Local knowledge mixed with scientific enquiry lets indigenous community enterprises profit from forests, reports Joel Winston. Spanning over 650 million hectares globally and boasting plentiful resources, community-run forests provide important income for 400 million indigenous people who generate up to US$100 billion annually, according to a recent report by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). [1] They provide a variety of opportunities and products, from fruits to herbal medicines, but to make the most of what they have to offer some communities are now combining their traditional practices with new technologies. So how can Community Forest Enterprises (CFEs) best mix modern scientific practices and indigenous knowledge so they thrive as sustainable alternatives to private and government-owned logging companies? Indigenous brain drain The Keystone Foundation works with indigenous communities in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, India. The Foundation started by supporting honey gatherers, but soon expanded to other forest products including coffee, spices and grains. T Balachander, Keystone’s programme coordinator, says one problem is that indigenous people are leaving the forests, both to find urban employment and because of government forest control — amenities, salaries and development opportunities are better for those who move out of the forests. “Indigenous knowledge is lost because people’s connections with forests have been systematically reduced,” explains Balachander. “So not everyone necessarily knows all the sustainable harvest practices. We realised we needed to work on reviving knowledge.” “The idea is to ask ‘what is the technology that can work there?’, and then develop it appropriately, using relevant ideas and locally-available materials.” T Balachander, Keystone Foundation The first stage in reviving traditional knowledge, he suggests, is working with neighbouring communities to share teachings. “But when we find that there’s a gap, then we try and plug in other world views and bring in scientific methods,” says Balachander. Scientific approach For example, Keystone and their communities have scientifically analysed methods for extracting resins from trees, examining how different incisions and timings affect harvests. And for honey harvesting, which involves hanging by rope ladders from cliffs surrounded by thousands of bees, communities tested methods that leave some colonies untouched, to ensure a sustainable supply. Ensuring sustainability is a common theme for many CFEs, and the IIED report on investing in locally controlled forestry shows how community forests help slow deforestation, protect biodiversity, and could be an important tool for mitigating climate change. Keystone’s efforts to integrate new knowledge into traditional practices may also make indigenous communities more resilient to climate change. “People are finding that the old harvesting methods no longer work,” says Balachander. “Changes in rainfall affect plant flowering and the anticipated readiness of a honeycomb for harvest. So the things we assume as constant are now changing, and it becomes important to review and reflect.” Beyond the harvest Efforts to modernise community forest enterprises are also applying knowledge and technologies to the manufacturing, processing, and marketing processes. The Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) Exchange Programme for South and Southeast Asia operates in Cambodia, Indonesia,  Malaysia and the Philippines. Working with indigenous communities that manufacture textiles, it uses the latest market research to add value to CFE resources, for example suggesting new products such as notebooks, bags and tablecloths that appeal widely on an international market. The programme has also introduced new manufacturing technologies, including looms that provide easier, faster and finer weaving. And sometimes new manufacturing technologies have even revived traditional processes. Dying and drying “Years before, communities would produce natural dyes for their products, but they soon forgot how to do this once chemical dyes became more well-known,” says Ruth Canlas, an NTFP facilitator. Canlas and her colleagues worked with the government’s Department of Science and Technology in the Philippines to develop a new formula for natural dyes, and reintroduced this to communities. “Because it’s natural, it’s very easy for them to find the resources to manufacture it, for example, from guava leaves, or even the bark of trees.” For Keystone’s communities in India, post-harvest drying urgently needed modernisation. Many perishable forest products, including fruits, are traditionally sun-dried in the open, often leading to contamination and lost quality and value. However, modern drying machines were clearly not suitable. “Half of technology is the people that use it,” explains Balachander. “If you have a fancy machine that nobody knows how to operate, then it won’t be used. And if you bring in a machine that requires a three-phase electricity connection, flowing water, or needs to be carried by vehicle, then it won’t even get there in the first place.” So Keystone needed a local solution. Working with the communities, they designed and built ‘solar rooms’ with roofs made from semi-transparent plastic greenhouse sheets sourced from a local town. Good air circulation meant the building was capable of drying up to twenty tonnes of gooseberries a year. That volume opened up opportunities for more products using preserved gooseberries, increasing the value of products between three- and eight-fold. Balachander believes that introducing new technologies into indigenous communities needs care, and should respond to specific requirements, using a gradual process similar to software versioning. “The idea is to ask ‘what is the technology that can work there?’, and then develop it appropriately, using relevant ideas and locally-available materials,” he explains. “And good technology isn’t a gadget with twenty different functions. It should just do one thing, and do it well.” Traditional wisdom Sometimes, the old ways are the best. “You can’t just force something new onto [CEFs],” explains Canlas. “It’s about building trust and making clear that you know there’s also knowledge from their own practices. So you’ve got to find that first.” Silverius Oscar Unggul is vice-president of Telapak, an Indonesian organisation helping community enterprises convert illegal loggers to more sustainable practices. In just eight years their community-logging programme has grown from seven participating families to 45,000. Unggul says that modern sustainable forest management depends on scientific investigation to discover the best practices for reintroducing indigenous plants lost to […]

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Report from Moth Night

Moths are an impressively speciose group that comprise around 160000 known species globally (about 8 to 10 times! the number of butterflies). Despite this diversity, the reasons for this taxon to remain little known could be attributed to various reasons such as their nocturnal or crepuscular habits, their impressive adaptations such as camouflage as a defense mechanism and well, the misconception that they are not as charismatic as their cousins, the butterflies. To make a change in the latter notion, a “Moth Night” was organized at Keystone Foundation on the evening of July 19, 2014 as part of the Annual Moth Week – a small first step towards inculcating interest among people on Moths. As expected, the idea of “moths” did not draw a huge crowd but there were about 20 interested participants who were open to know more about these unique insects. There was a small introduction given about moths and how they differ from the better known butterflies, following which a 2002 French movie, Le Papillon (A butterfly) was screened. The night ended with Mothing or Moth watching where light traps were set up to attract moths. Although only a handful of moths were spotted due to the unfortunate chill of that evening, it was still an interesting experience coming across some beautiful representatives of the Family Geometridae among the others which are yet to be identified. Gallery

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Moth Night – Get Bedazzled

Moths appeared on Earth in the Jurassic period, nearly 195 million years ago and since then, have diversified into an astounding array of shapes, colours and sizes. Despite being one of the most speciose groups among insects, moths have always remained in the shadow of their cousins, the butterflies. Globally, of the approximate 1,80,000 species of butterflies and moths that comprise the Order Lepidoptera, moths account for about 1,60,000 species while butterflies account for less than 20,000. The Annual Moth Week, celebrated in July, was initiated to create interest among people about the immense diversity of moths. This year, we, at Keystone will be joining with enthusiasts around the world in cataloguing moths in our neighbourhood. Our event is registered with the National Moth Week Global Citizen Science initiative (http://nationalmothweek.org/) and the photo documentation will be uploaded in the India Biodiversity Portal – Indian Moths user group. So, come join us for a glimpse of the amazing little nocturnal friends around us! What: Movie screening of ‘Le Papilion’, a French movie, followed by Light trapping and Sugaring for Moths and photo session! DO BRING YOUR CAMERAS. When: 6pm, Saturday, July 19 2014 Where: Keystone Campus, Plaza or outside Mandare

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Reach Us

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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