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Why Kanha

Tribal families around Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh have compromised levels of education, nutrition and few paths for upward mobility. But there is immense potential to leverage these communities’ symbiotic relationship with nature to improve people’s wellbeing and enhance the local ecosystem.

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Baiga and Gond communities 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.

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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.

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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.

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However, in Kanha, 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.

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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 improved agricultural and livelihood practices, there is an opportunity to improve the community’s core development outcomes across education, nutrition and household incomes while also actively preserving local biodiversity, and water and soil health. 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.
After building a model through our work in 14 villages near the Mukki gate of Kanha National Park, we will explore avenues to scale our impact.