The NTFP project gave us an opportunity to look at Enterprise and Conservation with equal focus. While there was emphasis on procuring raw material and building production units in the villages, work was also carried out to look at the population dynamics of the amla and the status of the forests where these harvests happened. The ecological work was built on a foundation of Indigenous Knowledge.
Conservation is a prime area for Keystone and every project has a conservation driven approach. We are now working at a larger landscape level and the conservation focus has to grow. Through specific projects we look at the ecology of honey/bees/amla/Canarium. In the past five years, almost one student per year has done their MS dissertation through us on subjects we have suggested. These studies helped us build our baseline on the biodiversity of the region. Many ask us – you have been working on these products to monitor them, do harvests affect populations? What we know for a fact is that harvest is not the only parameter. Weather conditions, soil textures, geographical locations, institutional mechanisms, water quality all have a role to play in the status of a produce like amla or resin of canarium or honey.
The Conservation Initiative idea and now an area of work has grown from this need for us as an organization to put our area centers as monitoring outposts. These area centers then become hubs where conservation also becomes a node as communities take part in monitoring the quality of their ecosystems and monitor the changes that are happening.