The Kotagiri slopes – region forms the eastern part of the district bordering the Sathyamanagalam hills to the east, Coimbatore district to the south  and with Ooty,  Coonoor taluks to the west & Southwest. There is lot of difference in the  geography, the Kotagiri taluk is differentiated as the eastern slopes of the upper  plateau. These slopes comprises large tract of contiguous forests located in steep  slopes at altitude ranging from 1600 to 300m above sea mean level. The upper area  land use mostly comprising of tea estates  and other vegetable cultivated fields  where the altitude varies from 1500 to 2000 meters MSL. The location is as such  that the region receives moderate rainfall compared to the other parts of the  district. The variation is from 800mm to 1500mm which is less towards to the  eastern side of the region.
The vegetation types of this region are several like the  Montane shola forests & grasslands, Evergreen, Semi Evergreen, Moist Deciduous  in the middle escarpments and Dry deciduous towards the lower slopes and finally  scrub jungle towards the extreme eastern slopes. All these forests are classified  under the reserve forests and have special protection status. Streams flowing down  stream with many perennial and some seasonal flows during rains in these slopes  with riverine vegetation present. In the upper reaches, there are lots of wetlands  which contribute to the water supply for the downstream communities from the  hills. The forest cover of this taluk is nearly 50% compared to the other taluks of  the district.

The main indigenous communities of this taluk are the Todas, Kotas, The  Kurumbas, The Irulas and the Badagas, besides them are the Sri Lankan  repatriates who are scattered throughout the taluk and the other settlers like  Tamils, Malayalis & the business people. The major land holdings are with  the private estates and the small farmers mainly cultivating mono crops like the tea & coffee with horticulture species like fruits etc. Few valleys are  known for vegetable cultivation in this taluk like the Nedugula, Kukalthurai  valley etc.

Major issues of this taluk are application of fertilizers to the tea fields & vegetable  crops thus spoiling the soils, exotic forest plantations like eucalyptus and acacia,  fragmentation of reserved forests which are now actually acting as connecting  corridors for the wildlife migration.  The human wildlife conflict in the fringe areas  of the forest community dwellers is a  constant challenge for management. There are more than fifty tribal settlements  in these slopes where most of their  dependencies are on the forest resources like the Ntfps and are  marginalized with  very little livelihood options etc.

Keystone started a plethora of activities in these slopes from the year 1994 for the conservation and the livelihood options for the adivasis. The major activities are as  follows:

Bee conservation initiatives

The Minor Research Programme (MRP) study in bee colony management has  strengthened the theory of lack in pollen and nectar may rule brood rearing  pattern. This understanding correlates colony management before honey flow and  after honey extraction. This approach  and application resulted in higher honey  production from Konavakarai valley in 1998-2000. Also the ratio of colony absconding.

The Apis cerana queen rearing programme initiated from Konavakarai apiaries has been a pioneering effort in the queen rearing & breeding approach. This resulted in large scale reduction of wild colony capture and consequently, conservation of feral populations.

Sustainable and Hygienic wild honey collection systems

Learning and understanding of wild honey collection (Apis dorsata, cavity cerana  collection-kieekambu), indigenous knowledge, social, cultural linkages amongst Kurumba honey hunting are eye openers  for today’s widened activity through out NBR. The field trials, attempts and results on sustainable & hygienic collecting  practices programmed our entire knowledge. Building apiaries in the villages and bee boxes in the village households, revival of  honey hunting practices with the honey hunter families.
Bee Research – Part of the Darwin project survey of bee nests and its distribution  pattern was studied and information about bee biodiversity studied.

Land Development

Revival of Diverse traditional Farming system: The most diverse millet farming system is revived on the Konavakarai and  Vagapani slopes, conserving traditional seeds of food crops, community seed bank actions had begun from Kotagiri region. Revival of  Mannukaran : a mean of reviving seed, practices, governance and rights over diversity.

Reclamation of fallow lands to the  adivasis, village perimeters, cleaning of fallow  land for cultivation, reintroducing millet  cultivation and traditional farming, organic farming concept, compost making  training etc,  participatory guarantee systems, seed support, seed bank, soil and moisture conservation through trenches, stone & vegetative bunding, gulleys, water   harvesting structures, polyline tanks for irrigation and drinking, hose pipes for irrigation and domestic use etc. Revolving funds started for the eight farmer’s groups in these slopes for food security and nutritious food. Publication of the `Choice of Grain’ is an example for appropriate land use methods.

The largest farmer’s group activities in diverse farming, organic initiatives, PGS formation, largest coffee cultivation & extension are part of conserving bird, insect  and animal diversity & density.

Production cum value addition centers (Resource centers)

Two value addition centers are in this taluk namely, the Banglapadigai & Semmanare PCDs. These centers process bees wax for making  candles, make candy out of Nellikai, and make other produces like pickles,  beds from silk cotton etc, besides collecting honey. They supply to the Green Shops and as well as sell to other shops of their own network. The income from these centers is a benefit to the village groups who are part of the production  centers. These PCD groups have their own  self sustaining models in terms of financial transactions etc.

From the conservation angle, the resource assessment and the availability of resources was mapped and the quantity which can be harvested was again emphasized with the harvesting practices & protocols.

Water

Most of the drainage of the streams is towards the south east and north east directions connecting to the main two river basins, the Bhavani and the Moyar which ultimately join the Bhavani Sagar reservoir, there are many wetlands on the upper plateau which are crucial for the hydrological cycle of this taluk. Many wetlands are unprotected except for the one inside the forests. Few wetlands have been studied for management purposes and been recommended to the HADP for management practices.

Documentation of physical and chemical  parameters of the wetland water was completed. Fresh water bio-indicators and aquatic life forms documented for wetlands protection and conservation purpose etc. Potability tests for water quality conducted for many water sources.