Our restoration work on nature-based livelihoods is underway in several villages, where community members were resettled from the core zone of the park. The villages faced severe water stress and and crop destruction by wild and domestic animals. Community members’ dependence on a single crop and limited access to forest produce posed major challenges to their subsistence. Due to bleak livelihood prospects, villagers migrate seasonally for work.
We have introduced an agriculture-horticulture-forestry (agro-horti-forestry) model to restore degraded land in these villages, where we have planted over 71,000 varied native saplings in last two years, based on the community’s needs. This includes trees that have economic and medicinal value, are used in making shelters, as well as traditional millets, oilseeds, and vegetables as intercropping or in patches. Bamboo bio-fencing, vermicomposting, and use of locally produced, natural fertilisers and pesticides will restore soil health and enable the sustainability of these functional forests that we building with the communities. We have introduced a javahar badi ( grow bag ) model of vegetable farming which reduces both water and seed requirements by over 80%. We are also reintroducing Lac cultivation in the region. The idea is to build economic prosperity through the restoration of biodiversity while keeping resilience and self-sufficiency at the core of the program.
These nature-based livelihoods provide short and long term sources of income and employment for communities. Forest dwelling families have access to immediate increases in incomes through government schemes; profits from produce and crops that are sold within 4-6 months; assured revenue streams from fruiting trees 3-4 years after planting; opportunity for value addition through better processing, storage and packaging; and guaranteed access to sources of forest produce over a 10+ year horizon. We measure, monitor and evaluate this work through a Hindi app built in-house, data from which enables dynamic decision making through the course of implementation.
Our livelihoods team collaborates closely with a range of government departments to build community members’ access to public funds, schemes and best practices. Some early successes on this front include the local panchayat installing hand pumps and wells that provide clean water for agriculture and people’s consumption, community members availing of horticulture department funding, and support for our plantation efforts through India’s flagship right to work programme.
We have also planted 13,000+ saplings of fruiting and other native trees planted in 2022 in the rest of the villages where we work. These saplings have been placed in community members’ badis (backyard kitchen gardens), on the bundhs between their fields, and as biofences for their farms. This initiative emerged in response to the interest that community members expressed and will involve around 500 tribal families taking ownership of the plantations.
Based on the growing proof of concept of our landscape restoration work, there is now bottom up demand from forest-dwelling communities to expand our scale of impact. Seeing outcomes from the pilot restoration project in Chichrangpur, community members from neighbouring villages have approached our team to build similar agro-horti-forestry models on fallow land.