Conserving grasslands and promoting livelihoods
Phasepardhis, one of the wandering tribes of the Maharashtra region, have traditionally engaged in hunting as a means of livelihood. The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, rendered this option illegal. With no alternate livelihood and no help from the government, many have been led into illegal poaching and international trade in animal skins.
Samvedana, an organization comprising Phasepardhi and Chitrakathi tribals, is working to help tribals earn a living in new ways. Seeing people in Masa and Vadhavi move on their own into animal husbandry and nomadic trading, Kaustubh, working with Samvedana, is helping to replicate such models of alternate employment in Wadala, Titwa, Shend, Kanadi, and Nawati.
Ironically, while the nomadic community yearns for agricultural land, traditionally heralded as an indicator of social status, farmers in and around Vidarbha are buckling under huge, un-payable loans.
Other planned initiatives by Samvedana include preparing a Peoples Biodiversity Register of the grassland species in Akola and Washim, campaigning to create awareness on sustainable use and conservation of grasslands, and experimenting in-situ conservation efforts for the lesser florican.
Interestingly, to protect the lesser florican, an endangered bird under severe threat from land-use changes, Samvedana plans to instate an incentive scheme, rewarding successful breeding of the species by farmers and Phasepardhis; eventually planning to hand over the scheme to the State Government.
Ipsita De (College Park) visited Samvedana in May 2008. See photos from her visit.