Musician, nature lover, and philosopher, Abhishek began his quest to find a source? for Environmental Ethics as he studied Philosophy at the University of Hyderabad. However, he soon realized that this would need applicable philosophies on environment-related issues and changes in governance.
Abhishek hopes to find the value of folklore as capable of possessing truths as an alternative to the dominating discourse of Science. This is reflected in his current research project regarding folklore. Abhishek works with the Conservation team and spends a great deal of time out in the field gathering required information.
To him, Keystone is a place that allows him to do work that also aids in his own philosophical journey, and he is eager to see how the learning and the unlearning goes.
Amsaveni is a native of Kotagiri. She holds a degree in M.com in Computer Applications. In her capacity of Accounts Assistant at Keystone, she handles the cash transactions and data entry for the organisation. Amsaveni has occupied this position for the past two years and the care and scrupulousness with which she discharges her duty is commendable.
Amsaveni can usually be found behind her desk in the Finance Department and says that she has very little spare time, but when that does come about she likes to browse the Internet.
Anita’s work covers a wide range of conservation issues with indigenous communities. Her interest in the linkages between conservation, enterprise and livelihoods makes her the perfect match for the work. She is also a main role player in the birth and running of the Nilgiri Natural History Society. She is currently hosting the research program that is keen to develop long term monitoring of forested landscapes along a human use gradient. The program will offer field courses and bring in collaborations with academics, managers and policy makers.
Anita received a doctorate in Botany from the University of Hawaii under the guidance of Prof. Tamara Ticktin. Anita is an alumni of the Salim Ali School of Ecology, Pondicherry University, where she received her Masters in Ecology. Her doctoral dissertation”Ecology, impact and traditional knowledge of resin harvest on the wild dammer tree-Canarium strictum Roxb. in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, Western Ghats, India” is available as a PDF in our downloads section.
Email: anita at keystone-foundation dot org
As nursery assistant Kuttan handles and organizes plantation and nursery of local and endangered species. The work is done together with indigenous people in the villages, and thereby helps to spread information and knowledge about the use of local crops and the need for shola forest species.
Resume: As a member of the Toda community, Kutten contributes with valuable knowledge and insight when working towards the communities. This is especially important when comes to nursery, due to that the work is done in collaboration with the indigenous communities
As a coordinator for information and communication, Bala has a supporting position in the team environment. Bala manages to work independently and is excellent with the computer database. Bala has a strong ability to recognize and attend to priorities which is especially crucial, as his work involves many project details at once. Bala may also need to keep track of the different project details including the budget.
Bala has an MA in rural management and a B.Sc in mathematics. Before he joined Keystone three years ago, he worked for Foundation for Ecological Security with projects in both Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat
Email: bala at keystone-foundation dot org
He is the Additional Coordinator, Livelihoods and Environmental Governance. His responsibilities include community mobilization around issues of traditional agriculture forest rights and forest based livelihoods and planning and monitoring of the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups Fund. A native of Kavalcombai, he now lives in Banagudi with wife Sreedevi and children Navaneetham and Sugandini.
Email: pchandran at keystone-foundation dot org
As programme coordinator for Finance, Eswaran handles the accounting work for the organisation’s programme areas. Having insight in the numbers of all areas of work at Keystone, Eswaran is a valuable resource person at the organization.
Resume: Eswaran has a degree in commerce. Before he joined Keystone, he was a trainee at an accountant consultancy in Coonoor
Email: accounts at keystone-foundation dot org
Elizabeth Prasanna is a native of Pudukottai district. She has completed her Bachelors in Commerce at Bishop Heber College, Trichy and her Masters in Social work at Kodaikanal Christian College specializing in Medical and Psychiatry.
Soon after she had completed her post graduation, she had the privilege to undergo a training program at Pandita Ramabai Mukti Mission (PRMM), as a trainee Social Worker. During her time at PRMM, she was provided the opportunity to handle various responsibilities in different sections of the campus, which includes areas like special needs school, adoption and Hospital.
She spends her spare time, making art and crafts as a hobby.
Gokul , a hydrogeologist by training, is part of the team of four handling the Water Resources Programme of Keystone. He manages water-related projects in the Nilgiris such as upstream-downstream connection and Payment for Ecosystem Services in Coonoor. He is currently focusing on springs in the Nilgiri landscape. Gokul is from the Horasholai hatti in Kotagiri and has completed his Bachelor of Commerce and Masters in Social Work from PGS College of Arts and Science, Coimbatore. He has also received training in Hydrogeology from Advanced Center for Water Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM), Pune.
With a keen interest in community development, Gokul was very happy to be part of Keystone’s Water programme. As the projects are implemented, the positive changes that he sees in the community’s use of water resources keeps him motivated and ready to take on any challenge to better the community’s quality of life. Gokul belongs to the Badaga community and is very proud of his culture and traditional knowledge and is always alert for an opportunity to apply traditional wisdom to develop solutions to modern-day issues of water management.
When not at work (and sometime when he is), he likes to dance and play football. As is the case with most young people of the Nilgiris, Gokul frequently hits the road with his friends, biking down little used paths, parking his bike “somewhere in the Nilgiris” and setting off on foot down a trail with the age-old question in his heart, “Wonder where this leads to?”
Hari is a native of Nepal and joined Keystone over 17 years ago. He is in charge of the security of the Keystone campus and is a very important member of the Administration team. For the last two years, he has also been managing accounts under the Administrators’ office.
What really keeps Hari attached to Keystone is the feeling he gets of belonging to a family that exists among all the members of the team. A helpful colleague and a capable worker, we hope to have Hari around for a long long time.
Jeyanthi is a native of Kotagiri and has been a part of the Keystone family for more than 3 years and now works with the Radio Kotagiri team. Like other members of the Radio team, she is glad of the opportunity to learn from the many people she comes in contact with. To her, this job provides her with an avenue to meet and gather knowledge from people whom she would not have been able to interact with otherwise.
She loves reading books ranging from novels to short stories to devotional texts. She also likes listening to music ranging from film music to devotional songs.
Justin hails from Marthandam in the Kanyakumari district which is said to have Asia’s largest concentration of beekeepers. Justin joined Keystone Foundation in the late 1990s to develop appropriate beekeeping systems for the mountain dwelling communities in the Nilgiris. From here, he moved on to establish village apiaries and give training to community members, NGO staff, horticulture staff, forest officials and hobbyists
A self-taught beekeeper, Justin’s skills have been enhanced by trainings courses at the YMCA, Bee Research and Development Centre in Hanoi, Vietnam and Kerala Agricultural University, Tiruvanathapuram.
Justin is of a very helpful nature and is not known to have ever turned down a request for help, although sometimes, he does end up biting off a wee bit more that he can chew. Where work is concerned, he is very serious and a stickler for rules when it comes to office resources and is extremely loyal to Keystone’s values.
Jyotsna has joined our team as a Program Coordinator- Community Well-being Program and looks forward to being part of an exciting, interdisciplinary team of practitioners and researchers at Keystone. Jyotsna received her MS and Ph.D. from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, University of Hawaii. Following this, she moved to Washington for a three-year post-doc at the Human Dimensions for Natural Resource Management Lab, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington. Her doctoral research focusing on the Western Ghats had made her aware of the dynamic, complex relationship that exists between the natural environment and human society and its implications on sustainability. The opportunity to continue this engagement in understanding these complex human-environment interactions and outcomes brings her to Keystone. She is originally from Kerala but is very excited about calling Nilgiris her new home.
Kannan has been associated with Keystone since January 2016 when he was part of the first batch of the Nilgiri Field Learning Centre. He is from Garikyur in Aracode and is working in three villages, Aracode, Kadinamal and Denad gathering baseline data to develop a village water security plan. His NFLC research project on Fallow Lands had also been in this area and the rapport that he had established with the community at that time has made his task easier this time around.
She is the village coordinator in the Sigur region. She is the moving spirit behind the Sigur Seemai Water Users’ Group – a self help group of members from 7 villages who ensure the availability of clean drinking water. She is also the leader of the Anaikatty Value addition centre that is a initiative of the Water Users’ Group. She lives in Anaikatty village.
His association with Keystone dates back to the year 2006, when he joined the organisation as a Field Assistant for Research, and was later encouraged to undertake more responsibilities as Area Manager for Sathyamangalam, Hasanur, Punanjanur & Chamrajnagar. Considering the fact of him being born and raised in Punanjanur, his traits of being good- humored and jovial gives him leverage with the people in the region to make them interact and participate in Conservation work.
Mahadesha has a passion towards forest and nature, and is eager to learn and understand new things. He loves to bird watch and become familiar with the names, but is still striving to do so.
Founder-Director of the Keystone Foundation, Mathew heads Administration and Finance. He is also Managing Director of Last Forest Enterprises Private Limited. He works with social enterprise and is the only Asian on the Board of International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM). Mathew is also a member of their Participatory Guarantee Systems Committee, which encourages the development and adoption of simple certification mechanisms which are an alternative to 3rd party certification for organic produce. As member of the Fair Trade Forum – India, he has been overseeing the umbrella branding exercise of Retail Shops within the country. He is building close links with the Slow Food movement.
Resume: Rural Development, IRMA; Mathew has a background in administration and finance for rural development organisations and field projects. He has an active interest in enterprise development and organic certification for small growers and harvesters and varied experience in working on projects in a set of different regions in India as well as in Bangladesh.
Email: mathew at keystone-foundation dot org
A native of Coimbatore, Pavitra has completed her Masters in Applied Psychology, specializing in Clinical Psychology, from Pondicherry University. She worked as Counsellor in VIT for about two years before joining Keystone. Pavitra believes that everyone has a right to happiness and socioeconomic level should not be a determinant of happiness or contentment. She has chosen to work along those lines with the indigenous communities. Her interest lies in integrating positive psychology approaches in the community for the wellbeing of not just the individual, but the global community.
Within Keystone, Pavitra is part of the team working on setting up a health system that will look beyond the infirmity of diseases to subjective wellbeing. Her responsibilities include studying the mental health aspects of the communities and planning interventions.
Outside work, Pavitra follows her other interests with equal passion, spending a lot of her time reading, listening to music and caring tenderly for her plants. As a child, she has gone camping and trekking with her family and retains her love for the outdoors. A happy ambivert, Pavitra is a therapist, life enthusiast and believes in spreading cheer, one being at a time.
Prakash has newly joined the Administration team at Keystone. He is a native of Kotagiri – where he completed his schooling after which he moved to Coimbatore to pursue his Under Graduation and later to Erode, to complete his M.Eng from IRTT college.
Though this is his first job in an NGO sector, he embraces the relentless and challenging post as Admin. Assistant at Keystone. He has previous experience of working at an IT company in Coimbatore and as a Computer teacher at a school in Kotagiri.
Founder Director of Keystone Foundation, Pratim is instrumental in setting up Keystone Foundation with a vision of clarity and focus on eco development initiatives. He is responsible for organizational matters, donor relationship, planning programs and projects which are in line with the vision and mission of the organization. He works relentlessly with the district administration on Environmental Governance. His knowledge on bees and its ecosystem service to the biodiversity in the mountains is of immense value to the organization. Water is his area of interest on which he has developed projects to save wetlands in the Nilgiris. He is a Hubert Humphrey Fellow and just finished a year at Cornell University.
Resume : MS, Ecology; Pratim has an energy-ecology background as well as a certificate in advanced studies in Environmental diplomacy from the University of Gevena and United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). Pratim as been with Keystone since the inception and is therefore a core member and one of the founders of the organisation. He has earlier worked in different regions in India as well as in Nepal.
Email: pratim at keystone-foundation dot org
Native of Podanur near Coimbatore city, Praveena has completed her BCA from Sree Narayanaguru College of Arts and Science. A born manager in the making, Praveena is the person to go to for anything related to the functioning of the Coimbatore branch office, be it an adequate stock of coffee, rearranging furniture to accommodate requests from the team, or maintaining daily cash, attendance and dispatch registers. She provides able support at the home front to keep her team functioning smoothly in the field.
Praveena is the youngest of three siblings and like most of us, Praveena dances when she is alone, practicing kuttu dance moves. She has an avid interest in apparel designing and spends a lot of her free time tailoring her own clothes.
He is the village coordinator in Pillur. He is responsible for coordinating the activities of the Ganapati Iyarkai Vyavasaya Kuzhu – a group of farmers practicing organic agriculture. He also coordinates beekeeping in the region. A native of Chokkanalli in Sigur, he now lives with wife Nitya and baby Yogeshwaran in Barlikadu in Pillur.
Ramu is Additional Coordinator – Livelihoods and is based in Nilambur in Kerala. He coordinates Keystone activities across the western parts of the Reserve in Malapuram, Palakkad and Wayanad. He works closely with the Kerala Forest Department in supporting Adivasi Vana Saarakshana Samitis in planning for forest management with a special focus on sustainable harvest and value addition of NTFP. He is also a sought after resource person in matters of district level planning for indigenous people.
Native of Coimbatore and alumnus of Stanes Higher Secondary School, Coimbatore. He completed his Bachelor’s in Economics from Loyala College, Chennai and then joined the market research team at Race Innovations, Chennai.
Initially he joined the Administration team at Keystone Foundation in 2015 and had been coordinating logistics and onsite arrangements for events, ensuring that visitors to the campus are well taken care of, and managing day-to-day functioning of the Kotagiri office. One of Ritwick’s biggest responsibilities is to liaise with the Foreigners’ Registration Office in Ooty (Udhagamandalam) to ensure all procedures are followed so that our visiting students, interns, and volunteers have a comfortable stay at Keystone. He currently works as Communications Asstistant, managing Social Media, Newsletters and Website content for Keystone.
Ritwick has always wanted to walk a path far removed from the one a corporate career would have set him on. He wants to be able to make a difference to the world and people around him. He, therefore, chose to begin by joining Keystone and contributing to strengthening support at the home base so that field teams could perform most efficiently. Ever helpful, Ritwick will always find a way to solve a problem that is brought to him. He is also rapidly finding out that, in the busy beehive that is Keystone, correct prioritizing is key to bringing out the best in him.
Ritwick is a football fan and although, he hasn’t been able to play as often as he would like to, he does follow matches closely on TV, Manchester United being his favourite team. He also likes trekking and has recently been on a two-day trek with friends to the Vavul Mala peak in Wayanad (third highest in south India at 2339 m) and is looking forward to many more such opportunities.
Leo, as he is known in Keystone, joined the team during beekeepers and honey hunters survey in 1993-94 and has been an integral part of Keystone since then. Leo is a native of Kodaikanal and he completed his Bachelors in Rural Developmental Science and Masters in Arts, both from Madurai Kamaraj University. During the early days of his professional life, he was associated with farming in plantations.
The Keystone survey in 1993 brought him to nature conservation and that has been his life ever since. Beginning with beekeeping initiatives among indigenous communities, Leo then moved on to traditional farming practices, looking at issues with forest honey quality, sustainability, value addition of honey, beeswax, and initiatives in community enterprise in Keystone’s project areas.
Email: leo at keystone-foundation dot org
Sabitha is in charge of Housekeeping in Keystone and takes care of the newly-constructed guest house and canteen in the campus. This is her first job and she is enjoying the working environment at Keystone. Being responsible for the maintenance of the 20-bed guesthouse, Sabitha keeps track of daily occupancy and accommodation requests and ensures that the rooms are clean and ready well in advance for any guest. She also manages the daily functioning of the Keystone canteen which caters to about 50 people on a daily basis and more than a 100 if any programme is hosting a meeting in the campus.
The canteen serves traditional south Indian cuisine, both veg and non veg, and Sabitha also keeps track of personal dietary preferences of her guests and ensures that each person is served food as per their request. She takes great pleasure at her guests’ response to the dishes served and is highly appreciative of the opportunity to meet people from so many different walks of life. Sabitha has a very pleasing dress sense and a ready smile, making it a pleasure for her guests to interact with her.
Once off work, Sabitha’s focus shifts to looking after her family consisting her husband, her 5-year old daughter, and her parents-in-law. She loves traditional Badaga dances and is always happy to attend social functions and temple festivals where she can indulge her love for dancing. Sabitha is very caring person and takes great pains to create a beautiful ambience for her family. She brings the same care and dedication to her job and says that taking care of her guests brings the same sense of fulfilment.
As an programme coordinator in Administration, Sara is very important to the foundation. her work involves planning, where she maps out the path from where the organisation is to where it wants to be and involves establishing goals and arranging them in a logical order. Her work also involves organising, which implies identifying responsibilities to be performed and she provides an effective system to the rest of the staff.
Resume: Sara has a MA in business administration.
As an Additional Coordinator for the Indigenous Peoples Programme, Selvi runs the Nilagiri Seemai Sudhi, a monthly newspaper covering news from indigenous communities. She coordinates the community volunteers who bring information to the newspaper, and is also in charge of the process of putting together and distributing the paper. As increasing the communities’ identity and self-esteem is an important task for Keystone, Selvi has recently started work on a community radio, with the objective to spread information across the communities, effectively.
Selvi shows us that insight is an important factor in the ongoing work towards succesful cases. With her insight in indigenous communities and multiple issues around it, she was the perfect person working towards the preservation of the traditional culture, rituals and foods of the Kurumba people, which was her first assignment when starting her job at the culture and people programme. With her open mind and good spirit, Selvi loves to work with communities stating that she has learnt a lot from the them which is a valuable resource to the organisation.
Email: selvi at keystone-foundation dot org
Shanmitha is a native of Erode. She holds a UG degree in Economics from Stella Maris College, Chennai and a Masters degree from the University of Madras. Her association with Keystone had begun in the year 2016. She interned with the Springs programme for a period of three months, conducting an overall economic study on springs and wetlands in the Nilgiris. Along with her diligence and wit, she was able to speak fluently in English and Tamil due to which she was appointed as a translator for the NFLC 2nd batch. She spent four months with the NFLC students -translating, helping and guiding them during the course. Eventually, she was appointed as Subject Manager (Water & Sanitation – Research) and is also currently assisting Prof. Neema Kuduva from Cornell University on a research on Water and Sanitation, which includes data analysis, research etc.
Sivaraj joint Keystone in 2003 and currently is Subject Manager – Livelihoods. His aim is to improve living conditions of the indigenous people through his work. He used to work as the area manager of Aracode, but is now glad to be working in this field.
Shivaraj believes in resolving issues quickly before they develop complications. His philosophy in life is to face problems head on and not shy away from them.
Founder-Director of Keystone, Sneh works with Livelihoods, Indigenous Peoples Programme and the newly developed Hunter-Gatherer Initiative. She supports NGO networks in India around forests and indigenous people. She has initiated the People and Nature Fund which will be coordinated by Keystone.
Resume : MA, Economics: Snehlata has a Masters Degree in Economics from Lucknow University. As a socio-economist she has worked in different regions in India as well as in Bangladesh. She has at an earlier stage worked with a Non Governmental Organisation with focus on rural labour in Dehli.
Email: sneh at keystone-foundation dot org
Sumin coordinates the Conservation program at Keystone, working on human wildlife conflicts, conservation outreach and coordinating the overall activities of the conservation group. He is also actively involved in the functioning of the Nilgiri Natural History Society.
Sumin has an M.Phil in Conservation Leadership from the University of Cambridge and an M.Sc in Ecology and Environmental Sciences from Pondicherry University.
Email: sumin at keystone-foundation dot org
A native of Utthamapalayam, Theni district. Vignesh completed his B.E. Civil Engineering from Sree Sastha Institute of Engineering and Technology, Chennai in 2010.He has worked as a site engineer in Supriya Innovative Construction, handling residential buildings and commercial buildings projects.
Vignesh joined the Tamil Nadu Urban Sanitation Support Project in 2017,to handle the construction and operation of the faecal sludge treatment plant coming up at Periyanaickenpalayam.
His other interests are listening to music and loves nature too.
A native of Ooty, Vinitha Completed her B.E. Environmental Engineering from Park College of Technology, Coimbatore in 2015. Her current role in TNUSSP is to understand the effect of containments on the environment and develop innovative technologies to minimize negative impact. She is part of the team working on mapping different physical layers (drainage systems, roads, public toilets, etc.) of the Panchayats where the project is being implemented. A scoping study conducted earlier revealed that the change in community’s mindset had begun and the current project is crucial to fixing a behavioural pattern conducive to better sanitation practices.
Vinitha had been trained in Bharatanatyam while in school and has recently restarted her training. Creative by nature, she is much in demand during festival times for her henna designs. She also likes to gift friends and family with articles of her own creation.
Wilfred has a long association with Keystone beginning from when he was contracted to ensures that the computers and networking in Keystone function smoothly. Wilfred has completed his Advanced diploma in Networking Technology and has since worked with different organisations ranging from Wipro franchises to Millennium Computers.
Wilfred’s hobbies and passion is the same as his work – computers. In his younger days, he had been a District level hockey player, playing for the Nilgiris. Though he would have liked to continue playing, the lack of opportunities for a sport like hockey did not give him that chance.
Currently in his role of IT administrator at Keystone, he carries out the same duties as before maintaining systems and networks and ensuring smooth internet connectivity at all times.
A native of Coonoor, Shiny is a botanist with a special interest in taxonomy. She has been an alumnus of Providence College and Govt College of Arts And Science in Coonoor and received her PhD in Botany from Bharatiar University in 2016.
While studying for her BSc at Providence College, her interest in taxonomy was triggered by Dr Visalakshi and she carries this interest with her to this day. She joined Keystone in 2003 and her first project at Keystone was the production of a floral calendar for Pillur and Sigur in order to understand which plants are preferred by bees. She later worked on studying the ethnobotany of these areas.
In her current role as programme coordinator for Conservation, Shiny coordinates activities for conservation education programmes, coordinates habitat restoration activities, documents forest plants, and is also one of the resource persons for educational activities of the Nilgiri Natural History Society activities.
Shiny’s hobby is the same as her work – plants! She wants to make a conservatory within the campus for succulent plants and plant more native species and make the campus more pollinator-friendly.
Name: Anju Sharma.
Country of Birth: India.
Occupation: Research & Consultancy.
Educational Qualifications: M A Journalism.
Work Experience/ Background: Worked with UNEP Nairobi and a free lance Climate Change Consultant. Was with Down to Earth Magazine and Centre for Science & Environment where she was Deputy Director.
Name: John Kurien.
Country of Birth: India.
Occupation: Development & Community Specialist.
Educational Qualifications: PhD
Work Experience/ Background: Having taught for several years at the Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum and worked with fisher-folk communities in India and abroad he is an expert in this field. He brings marketing enterprise insight with rural people.
Name: Meena Gupta, IAS (Retd).
Country of Birth: India.
Occupation: Civil Service.
Experience: IUCN regional advisor for Asia-Pacific. She had served as Secretary – Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India and Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India, until her retirement in June 2008.
Name: Rev. PK Mulley.
Country of Birth: India.
Educational Qualifications: MA in Theology.
Work Experience/ Background: A theologian, historian and cultural anthropologist of the Nilgiris region. Well versed on the tribal people, their culture and traditions and interactions.
Name: Rita Banerji.
Country of Birth: India.
Occupation: Wildlife Film Maker.
Educational Qualifications: MA in Mass Communications.
Work Experience/ Background: Working on several wildlife and people’s issues and bringing our award-winning films and education and awareness material.
Name: Shipra Gupta.
Country of Birth: India.
Educational Qualifications: MA in Library Science.
Work Experience/Background: She has known Keystone since the founding days. A human resource expert who has had formidable administrative experience.
Name: Somnath Sen
Country of Birth: India
Educational Qualifications: MBA (PGDRM, IRMA), BA (Hons) Economics, St. Stephen’s College.
Work Experience/ Background: Strategic Management, Analysis, Water & Sanitation, Institutions International Consultant. Has worked with several NGOs,Grassroots organizations, Corporate and Governments.
Name: Suprava Patnaik.
Country of Birth: India.
Occupation: Academics & Research.
Educational Qualifications: PhD.
Work Experience/ Background: Associate Professor at the Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal. Has worked extensively in the North East on ecology issues and on NTFP (Non Timber Forest Produce). Currently with UNESCO, Delhi.
Dr. Chaman Lal Gupta is a highly reputed scientist, both nationally and internationally, in the field of solar energy. A teacher by tradition, CLG, as he is fondly called, has been mentoring students and researchers for more than five decades at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education, Pondicherry. He has been on several committees of the Government of India, setting up the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy Sources. He was Founder Director of Tata Energy Research Institute, Field Research Unit based out of Pondicherry in the early 1970s.
Dr. Sharma has held numerous government positions in India; working in the areas of agricultural development, food security, poverty alleviation, rural livelihood, natural resource management, gender, and financial management. She is former Secretary to the Govt of India, Ministry of Rural Development and former Secretary of the National Advisory Council of the Government of India. Dr. Sharma was instrumental in drafting the State and National Agriculture Policy, and in making policies that govern intellectual property management and commercialization of technologies in the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. She has represented India in the FAO, CGIAR, and the World Bank. She is a Hubert Humphrey Fellow and Chairperson of the Association of Indian Humphrey Fellows and is current Trustee of the World Agroforestry Centre and works on climate change issues.
CTS, as he is called by his friends, is an Indian Forest Service Officer who in the late 1970s joined Centre for Development Studies to do his M.Phil in Applied Economics and left his mark on the place. He was also a very active member of the KSSP (People’s Science Movement). He became Director of the Kerala Forest Research Institute and later was in FAO, Bangkok and also in FAO, Rome as Director. Having worked in several countries in various capacities for over four decades, Dr. Nair has a highly diverse experience profile. He continues to be active in forests and forestry in the Asia-Pacific region, especially in policy analysis and capacity building. He has also written extensively on policy, economics and institutional issues including on forest administration, research and education. A concerned global citizen with wide-ranging experience, he is also a fine human being with an unassuming manner that belies his distinguished career. Dr. Nair lives in Wandoor, close to Nilambur in Kerala.
Ganesh is Regional Director – Asia, International Water Association (IWA).He has been Head of the Ecosystem and Livelihoods Group and the Head of the Water Programme of the IUCN Asia Regional Office. Ganesh is a fellow of the London-based Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD) International Programme, the Ashoka Innovators for the Public Program based in Washington, and the East-West Centre, Hawaii. Though he is currently based in Bangkok, he travels to India frequently and is a valuable advisor to Keystone.
Formerly Executive Director of SRUTI (Society for Rural Urban and Tribal Initiative) and Head – Communications, Wildlife Trust of India, Shibani is a Development Consultant, Filmmaker & Writer. Her association with Keystone goes back to 1995-97 when she was making the film, Honey Hunters of the Blue Mountains, with Rita Banerji. With her skill at bridging gaps and building strong networks, she is an invaluable support to Keystone’s programmes.
Chandran is 29 years old and hails from the village of Nellimarathur. He works in 17 villages in the Pillur area. He has been associated with Keystone Foundation since 2008 and is involved in assisting a number of programmes. He began his journey with Keystone as a Nilgiri Seemai Sudhi reporter and is still continuing in that role. He has moved on to assisting the Conservation team and NNHS, a sister organisation, with village elder and awareness generation programmes. An important part of the Livelihoods and Environmental Governance team, Chandran has been part of the team involving in mobilizing Village Savings Groups, conducting trainings on the Forest Rights Act and trainings on bio-inputs for organic agriculture. Chandran also assists the Health and Community Wellness and Water Resources teams in their surveys.
Ganga Vadhi hails from Kil Kotagiri. She belongs to the Kota tribe. She has been working for Semmai Sudhi for the past 5 years. Previously her husband Mahadevan was a volunteer for Semmai Sudhi from whom she took over. She collects news from 26 villages in Kil Kotagiri. She also assists in helping those who cannot read in the villages. She occasionally works with the Radio Kotagiri team in collecting indigenous songs.
Janakiamma (as she is popularly known) is a Kurumba woman elder in her fifties who has been a leading light in her community for many years. She has been active in both Baviyur and Vellaricombai. She has been involved since the past decade building young leadership amongst her people. She has worked hard to promote traditional systems of governance and revive important events in the community to keep their pride and identity alive. Protection of Sacred Groves and their importance has been one of the main elements of this work.
Janakiamma has been involved closely with the Culture and People programme of Keystone Foundation and documented folklore, like songs, stories, riddles, proverbs and other important information to keep oral traditions alive. She is involved in collecting news from indigenous communities and distributing the news to the same. She also collects news and photos about government related works and appeals to respective department to improve their implementation. She has been specially supporting women in her community, during time of emotional need and giving them the strength to stand on their own.
She was selected to be a Director in the Board of the Aadhimalai Pazhangudiyinar Producer Company Limited, wholly owned by indigenous people in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. In 2016, in recognition of her significant contribution to the community, she was awarded the Paul K. Feyerabend Award – “A World of Solidarity is Possible.”
Proving to be a bridge between the traditional and the modern, Janakiamma supports the philosophy that, “change is inevitable, but it is how we transition that matters”
Mahendran is 40 years old and has been working with Keystone since 2006. He hails from Mavanatham village in Hasanur. He is in charge of collecting news items for the Nilgiri Seemai Sudhi from 36 villages in the Hasanur area.
Shanmugham is a 54-year-old gentleman belonging to the Irula community. He is from the Nerammokkai village and has been associated with Keystone since 2006. He is working in 42 villages in the Aracode and sources news items for the Nilgiri Seemai Sudhi. He also assists the Health and Community Wellness team by keeping track of patients in his area. He ensures that they continue their medications and motivates them continue to interact with the visiting doctors and the Health team.
Vasantha is a 33 year old lady who has been working with Keystone since 2014. She is from Sigur and has been assigned work in 15 villages in that area. She collects news items for the Nilgiri Seemai Sudhi community newsletter. She is also very actively involved in assisting the Health and Community Wellness team in mobilizing villagers for the health camps. Vasantha also assists the Water Resources team in their surveys in the Sigur area.
Shruti is a fellow from the American India Foundation (AIF), who is eager to continue her journey of promoting the health and well-being of the underprivileged and rural populations through her placement at Keystone. After graduating with a B.S in Neuroscience and Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she deepened her interest in instigating community-oriented health initiatives by working as an outreach and health education coordinator at a mental health advocacy center as well as an honorary research associate at the Wisconsin Institute of Medical Research radiology stroke lab.
Now, she will be working closely with the Community Wellness team to find innovative ways to connect public health action to the needs and concerns of the indigenous communities in the Nilgiris. She hopes that this immersive fellowship experience will expand on her knowledge about the bidirectional impacts that geographical, economic, and cultural considerations have in determining health outcomes. In her free time, you can find Shruti jetting off on a run, dancing off-beat, or planning her next adventure.