The concept of Keystone emerges from the nest-building behaviour of certain birds. These permanent nest structures serve as habitat for many life forms. The nests become essential parts of their ecosystems, a centerpiece which many different species benefit from. Such keystone species become crucial in providing opportunities for other beings to grow and evolve. The Keystone Foundation is born out of this simple ecological principle of the interdependence of natural systems, and strives to provide the opportunity for the growth of all life in the NBR.
Keystone believes in the mantra “small is effective/small is global” and hence, is focused on the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, where it currently works in 135 indigenous communities with an estimated number of 15000 individuals.
While Keystone’s focus was initially on poverty alleviation in the honey hunter community, through the dynamics of honey harvesting and marketing, the organisation grew and began to have an impact outside of the honey hunting community and poverty alleviation. Today, Keystone’s mission has led it to diversify its programme base to encompass all aspects affecting the wellness of indigenous communities.
Read more in the TreeFall Gap
Today Keystone runs programmes, activities and research within the themes of NTFP, Honeyhunting, Apiculture, Community Wellness, Culture, Capacity Building, Environmental Governance, Networks, Water & Sanitation, Biodiversity & Restoration, Organic Farming and Enterprises; each geared to directly contribute the holistic wellbeing of individuals, their communities and, by extension, the environment.
The Community Newsletter (Nilgiri Seemai Sudhi) and Community Radio (Radio Kotagiri 90.4 MHz) has been instrumental in bringing communities closer to each other.
Looking to share the accumulated knowledge of 23 years of working in the field, Keystone regularly conducts external trainings and undertakes consultancies on request. The subjects range from sustainable harvesting and value addition of non-timber forest produce (NTFP), biodiversity assessment and eco-restoration, eco-tourism support, socio-economic surveys, to vocational skills such as carpentry, electrical planning, and wildlife filmmaking. Read more about them HERE.
Our work is expected to lead to the following outcomes for which the organization will be held responsible and accountable:
1. Increasing awareness of conservation and ecologically sound principles in all aspects of our work.
2. Increasing the availability of viable, natural resource-based, sustainable livelihood options for indigenous people.
3. Ensuring village groups and institutions take responsibility for managing existing programmes.
4. Sustaining traditional cultural practices.
5. Knowledge development through research and action projects, that are owned by stakeholders, and put into practice.
6. Indigenous people being put in positions to participate in dialogue with decision makers.
7. Influencing policy & decision making towards environmental governance.
8. Promoting organic & fair trade principles in market based interventions.
In keeping with the philosophy of being a ‘keystone’, the foundation has been responsible for conceiving, developing and nurturing three organisations that work together to increase social cohesion within indigenous communities, strengthen the natural resource production base, and protect biodiversity in the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve.