What is the need for a research program within an NGO one may ask? The opportunity to start a research program within an NGO is a way to get researchers closer to reality and to allow for questions to rise from the ground, answers to which, will have a bearing on the people and environment. The program has to be a process of evolution – not one that can be forced.

Action research is an integral part of Keystone’s work and has helped us improve our approach and methods of work along the way. We have also engaged with the practical application of science and implemented systematic inquiries whether it be in the field of Non timber forest products (NTFP) or ecology of wild bees or sustainable agriculture. Today the research group in Keystone is poised to carve out a space for itself within the organisation.

Since September 2014, the research program has started essentially by focussing on the community based ecological monitoring program or Barefoot Ecology, as it is commonly referred to. The project funded by CEPF through a small grant was completed on 31st January. The team of barefoot ecologists completed a 12 months of primary information collection about the quality of forests around their village and also processed data to produce result charts and tables. These results were then taken to various villages and discussed with the people. Finally, Forest Department staff from Coimbatore, Sathyamangalam, Erode and Nilgiris under the leadership of the Conservator of Forests, hosted a one day workshop on Barefoot Ecology. At the workshop, we were able to share the methods and results of our work. This was an interesting session where 56 forest officials were able to hear and interact with the barefoot ecologists directly. The workshop had a high impact and was well appreciated by the department. They have requested Keystone to share the methods with their staff and to train them to undertake this activity. As a follow up action point, Keystone Foundation has been asked to offer a field ecology course to the field staff of the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve. The modules have been worked out and will be implemented over April, May and June. We have also been asked to start the Barefoot Ecology work in forest villages of Sathyamangalam. All discussions about this have been completed and the work will begin from May.