India Placeholder
India

 

About the Implementing organization

Zilla Budkattu Girijana Abhivruddhi Sangha

Country: India

Year of establishment: 2005

Type of organization: Indigenous group or organization

Description

The Zilla Budakattu Girijana Abhivruddhi Sangha (hereafter called "Sangha", literally District Indigenous forest-dwelling peoples’ welfare organisation in Kannada, the local language) is a community-based organisation of the indigenous Soliga tribal people. The Soliga people numbering a few tens of thousands (around 60,000) are living in and around forests of southern India (southern Karnataka and Tamil Nadu). They were earlier semi-nomadic and after various restrictions from forest laws, they have faced decades of disenfranchisement. Over the last decade, the Sangha has taken up the the advocacy and activism around securing their forest rights and land rights. Their struggle culminated with the tribe being among the first to receive these rights under a new legislation passed by the Indian government (the Forest Rights Act). More recently, the Sangha has diversified its struggle to include better education and health for forest-dwelling tribal communities through participation in action research with public health researchers on improving maternal health access for Soliga tribal mothers.

They have taken up several innovative steps to ensure wider benefit to the Soliga community. Two recent ones that are inspirational are (1) their efforts to work with a variety of stakeholders to ensure local benefit to wild honey-gatherers; earlier most of the revenues from sale of wild honey gathered by them from thick forets used to acrrue to middlemen. OVer the last decade, the Sangha has worked with social enterprises to ensure maximum benefit to a collective of gatherers rather than exploitative middlemen. They are now trying something similar with coffee as well, and (2) they have worked closely with public health researchers in a unique participatory action research programme (supported by the WHO Alliance for Health Policy & Systems Reserach, Geneva) and implemented by Institute of Public Health Bangalore. Under this program, they conducted a detailed participatory assessment of barriers to heatlhcare seeking among their community through meetings at each settlement and created a district-level community dialogue and designed an intervention that led to the training of young tribal youth as "health navigators". After a succesful pilot, the state government is planning to expand this idea of establishing indigenous health navigators in other disticts with indigenous populations.

Their long-term struggles have mainly focused on securing forest rights. Reversing decades of social injustice towards tribal communities, the Indian government passed the Forest Rights Act in 2005. The Act required restoring of rights over land and conservation rights to forest-dwelling tribal communities across the country. However, local implementation of this was a challenge as many tribal communities were totally unaware of how to do this. The Sangha took the lead in workign with the district administration and the Forest department in ensuring recognition of land rights of the forest-dwelling tribal communities in the district. Today, all the tribals in the district have received documents related to their land thanks to the Sanga’s work. This has received recognition in local and national press as a pioneer effort by a grassroots tribal movement. The rights allow them to not only extract resources sustainably (for their livelihoods), but also the rights and responsibility to conserve natural resources. The Sangha works closely with scientists and researchers to monitor the extraction of non-timber forest produce to ensure that its extraction is sustainable. They also work closely to ensure equitable distribution of the benefits accruing through such extraction through tribal co-operatives.

Nature Element

Forests

Type of Action

Sustainable use of natural resources︱Policy influence︱Access and benefit sharing agreement︱Advocacy for land and water rights

Sustainable Development Element

Health︱Partnerships

Related Sustainable Development Goal(s)

    

Environmental Impacts

The Soliga people have depended historically on extraction of Extraction of non-timber forest produce, while securing forest rights of tribals and their dignity, can also be potentially harmful to forests and regeneration. Hence, working closely with researchers to ensure this is not the case is very important. In that sense, the Sangha’s partnership with researchers is commendable and mitigates potential harmful environmental impacts. The Sangha has worked in close partnership with the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology & Environment in ensuring sustainable harvesting of non-timber forest produce from the forest in which they live. In addition, the Soliga people have maintained close relation with various traditional practices that are in line with minimal impacts on forests around them. It is no surprise hence that the BR Hills Tiger Reserve in southern India is today home to one of the healthiest population of wild tigers in Karnataka while still providing home to the Soliga.


CLIMATE IMPACTS

The Sangha’s work is mainly centred around securing equity, rights and justice to their indigenous community in the form of rights over land, rights to livelihoods, health and education. Their overall quest for such social justice is in itself a resilience-building mechanism at a population level and hene is a contribution towards mitigating effects of climate change. Rights to their land, and rights to protect and conserver biodiversity rich areas in which they live is an important way that indigenous communities could contribute towards climate change mitigation. Also, the Sangha’s emphasis on traditional indigenous values that are centred around respect for environment and forests holds enormous inspirational value for modern society.

Sustainable Development Impacts

Maternal and children health goals of India remain relatively stagnant because of poor improvement of these outcomes among several tribal and other disadvantaged communities. Overall sustainable development requires adequate and equitable participation of tribal communities. The Sangha’s work spans the following areas (already explained above) that have implications for achievement of sustainable development (goals).

1) Focus on traditional knowledge systems

2) Quest for rights to land, right to protect their forets and livelihoods

3) Partnering with researchers, civil society, Governments (wherever necessary) in advancing the agenda of indigenous health and education

4) Critical and civic engagement with various laws and regulations


RESILIENCE, ADAPTABILITY, AND SELF-SUFFICIENCY

The few recent initiatives of the Sangha profiled in response to earlier questions have an important component in enhancing the community’s resilience and adaptability. Indigenous communities face a lot of challenges in a world that is rapidly globalising and urbanising. By helping ensure health and land security, their initiatives help limit the adverse impacts of these processes on their community.Among the two recent Sangha initiatives profiled, the partnership with IPH to conduct participatory research was to facilitate contextualisation of the safe maternal health services of the National Health Mission in areas with indigenous population, especially the forested regions in Chamarajanagar district of Karnataka with the aim of improving access to services for this population. The Sangha took the lead in organising local meetings with tribal women and analysing the reasons behind poor birth outcomes of tribal women despite several schemes and services to improve maternal health.

The sangha’s work in the participatory research was caputured in a film made by a young filmmaker (won awards at national level) titled "Tayiya Kanasu" ("A mother’s dream").


REDUCED INEQUALITIES

Among the two recent Sangha initiatives profiled, the partnership with IPH to conduct participatory research was to facilitate contextualisation of the safe maternal health services of the National Health Mission in areas with indigenous population, especially the forested regions in Chamarajanagar district of Karnataka with the aim of improving access to services for this population. The Sangha took the lead in organising local meetings with tribal women and analysing the reasons behind poor birth outcomes of tribal women despite several schemes and services to improve maternal health.

The sangha’s work in the participatory research was caputured in a film made by a young filmmaker (won awards at national level) titled "Tayiya Kanasu" ("A mother’s dream").


GENDER EQUALITY

The reason for taking up maternal health was because the Sangha felt that this is an important priority for them. The Sangha has - over time - improved membership of women in its general body.


SOCIAL INCLUSION

One of the aspects studied by the Sangha in this was the adverse impact of forest protection on human health. The fact that roads were not allowed to be made to several tribal villages, keeping conservation priorities in mind, ended up disadvantaging their maternal health. This is a complex issue at the interface of conservation and health and the only solution is a locally discussed and negotiated one with the participation of the tribal communities.

Scalability

There is an enormous potential for scaling up this effort to other tribal communities in India. However, the local socio-economic and political context is unique and scaling-up efforts need to take this into account. Good quality documentation and visibility of their story will provide opportunities for scaling up some of their work as social enterprises as well as providing lessons for other indigenous community organisations to learn from.

Replicability

Replicability is rather difficult to comment on due to the particular context within which the Sangha’s work has come about. However, as mentioned earlier, systematic documentation of the work could hold great inspirational value and provide lessons for various other communities that face similar struggles.

Share this solution:

[do_widget id=a2a_share_save_widget-2]