Earth Focus

This landscape abounds with possibilities for restoration — of the relationship between forest dwelling communities and the ecosystem, of nature-based livelihoods, and of the degraded landscape in the buffer zone.

However, Baiga and Gond communities living in Kanha’s buffer zone are on the fringe of the conventional development paradigm. They have been uprooted from their ancestral lands and natural cycles. Like many forest dwelling communities around India, they often face challenges over issues as basic as their
subsistence.

Tribal families are often stuck in poverty traps because of issues that dampen their livelihood options. Many tribal adults and elders lack formal education. Subsistence farming is hampered by limited access inputs, a lack of awareness about support structures and government schemes, and conflict with wild animals. Many villages in Kanha’s buffer zone don’t have perennial water
sources, which limits the number of potential crops and sowing cycles. An underdeveloped local economy often leads to migration, which in turn disrupts children’s education.

Tribal children around Kanha face many barriers in receiving a meaningful education. Challenges include low attendance, persistently poor learning levels leading to heterogeneity in class composition, limited avenues for community engagement, poor school infrastructure, and a lack of contextually relevant curricula and incorporation of local languages, traditions, knowledge and needs.

We believe it is possible to place tribal youth and families on fundamentally better life paths while actively safeguarding and restoring the local ecosystem. This requires thoughtful, contextual approaches to both education and livelihoods that harness community knowledge and practices and long term empowerment of communities so the work is sustainable.

“Kanha also represents a microcosm of possibilities for nature-based solutions that could be scaled across similar contexts in India. Through building interconnections between education and livelihood practices that restore ecological health, there is an opportunity to improve the community’s core development outcomes while also actively preserving local biodiversity and sequestering carbon.

Nature-based solutions provide a means to tackle both inequality and ecological collapse, the twin crises that could fundamentally alter India if they are left unchecked.