About the Implementing organization
Forest Education Group of Baiga tribes
Year of establishment: 1982
Type of organization: Community-based association or organization, Community business or cooperative , Women’s association or organization, Indigenous group or organization, Ethnic minority group or association
The Baiga chack area, a cluster of 52 villages in the Dindori district of Madhya Pradesh in India has been known for its dominant population of Baiga peoples (a particularly vulnerable tribal group). The once biodiverse rich forest belt has been under the grip of climate change for the last two decades. The first evidence of the degradation of forest ecosystem was evident in the disappearance of a numbers of local flora & fauna which comprises the ingredients of local food and sources of medicine for over twenty years. More than any other community in the region, “Baiga” community members have sensed the imminent threat for their future life and livelihood due to deforestation.
The historical narration of Baiga and their culture has well found in the works of renowned anthropologist Warier Elwin during his visit and stay in India in the post independence period. Even though, a numbers of measures taken by successive governments in postcolonial India, tribal groups have remained abysmally poor. National Institute of Women Child & Youth Development (NIWCYD), a non- government organization started to work with the Baiga tribal community during the beginning of 1980, enduring all adverse situation in Baigachak areas like lack of roads even to have a pedestrian journey or electricity in the village hamlets and more over the cultural taboos of the Baiga tribals. They refrain from mingling with outsiders, and often hide behind the bushes when outsiders approach their hamlets. In other hand, malnutrition, spread of epidemics has hit this community badly. They had to face severe kinds of food and grain scarcity as they depended on certain wild leaves for subsistence to supplement the existing limited food grain.
Two major innovations have been undertaken by NIWCYD to address the situation and bring positive changes in the existing conditions of the Baiga tribes. The first was to create awareness on the need of conserving their forest ecology among their leaders and youths through their traditional institutions as a collective platform. The second was to educate them about affordable and easily accessible techniques to improve the food and grain production through sustainable utilization of biomass and rainwater. As the outcomes of this two innovations, they have replicated and scale up the activities in systematic way, conserving the forest ecosystem.
The Baiga tribal had to a face a tough time when both forest department (a government body & local money lenders) continuously put pressure on them by restricting entry in the forest for the collection of minor forest produce. When NIWCYD organized them to strengthen their institutional base to fight against all injustices and discrimination, the authority turned towards NIWCYD and started to intimidate their field team.
As the result of the decade long community oriented process, today the Baigas are able to have access to nearly 700 hectares of forest land under Forest Right Act 2006 (Govt. of India & Supreme court of India). When the tribal groups are fighting for their genuine right as traditional forest dwellers to avail the benefit of FRA 2006, Baiga communities have created a models of collective action to establish their right by effectively utilizing the platform of local self governance in the villages.
The ecological way of farming has initiated 10 years before as an innovative model of food production and nutritional self sufficiency in each household. Today, the Baiga tribes are able to conserve more than 40 indigenous seed varieties together with nutrition rich and drought resistant hill millet. The increasing demand of hill millet from domestic markets have lead the women self help group federation of the area to take up a small scale entrepreneurship venture with the support of local government and financial institutions.
Type of Action
Ecosystem protection︱Ecosystem restoration︱Sustainable use of natural resources︱Climate-resilient food and agriculture
Sustainable Development Element
Food security︱Health︱Education︱Water security
Natural water bodies in the villages which were under the worst impact of climate change and sinking water level during summer and even winter, has got recharged increased water level to cater the need of villagers and their livestock round the year. Credit of this achievement should go to the community groups for their decades long effort to protect the vegetation in the catchment and support from forest education group. Since the community institutions in the villages have worked out rules for the entire community for protecting the forest from fire and indiscriminate interventions, especially during the progeny period of species, a number of species like creepers, tubers, rhizomes and herbal species have started to reappear in the forest. The village community institutions and forest education group jointly started to develop village micro development plan for the sustainable management of forest areas entitled to the community under Forest Right Act 2006 government of India.
In all villages, ecological farming has started by the tribal families using indigenous seeds, bio-fertilizers and adopting natural pest repellents. The families has conserved and propagated drought resistant minor hill millet varieties which were facing negligence for a long time. Apart from this, as the part of the protection of local bio-diversity, the community members have conserved and propagated 20 varieties of edible wild plant species and incorporated into their main cropping pattern. A group of women self help group members have started collective efforts for the production enhancement, value addition and marketing of hill millet varieties Kodo & Kudki the unit is functioning well. For rainwater conservation, the community members have developed farm ponds in each of the villages through their own collective effort or convergence from government together with improving the vegetation in the catchment area of common water resources.
Sustainable Development Impacts
Communities (significantly women groups) are able to earn a living by the hill millet production and value addition activities. Twenty varieties of uncultivated edible species are once again got a place in the food and nutritional choices of thousands of Baiga families living in Baigachack area. The Baiga families have now access to various natural fibers, leaves and medicinal herbs for their livelihood activities and health care which were in the verge of extinction nearly a decades before due to the forest degradation and errant rainfall in the region. Due to the increased awareness and exposure for forest education group in the villages, they have incorporated nearly 40 - 60 wild edible food varieties in the development plan for community forest entitlement area in each village. The first micro development plan document prepared for one village (Serajhar) in Baigachak has got appreciation from various levels as a models document for replication in rest of villages.
RESILIENCE, ADAPTABILITY, AND SELF-SUFFICIENCY
Like elsewhere in the planet, in Baigachak also, the climate change as the result of global warming has its adverse impact in the life and livelihood of the Baiga tribal community. Since NIWCYD started to work with Baiga tribal community, protection of natural resources by using indigenous knowledge and local resources has emerged as prominent strategy. The identification of plant and animal species in the area, traditional sources of water, patterns of agriculture production, livestock also have incorporated in the entire strategy. In the present situation, the conserved forest areas and species are instrumental for the increased water retention capacity of the soil, and increased access to the families from the water bodies. The community institutions are well aware about their rights and entitlements and able to convince the government authority about the importance of protecting the forest ecology. New livelihood models created by value addition of indigenous produce.In Baigachak, the community level institutions are playing a major role in the entire process of bringing sustainability in the livelihood sources of the community members. Women self help group members are actively participating in the conservation aspects of drought resistant hill millet varieties and a varieties of indigenous vegetable. In the last 10 years, the activities have scaled up and more numbers of women, children living below poverty line are getting the benefit of nutrition, food security and increased livelihood income. Forest education group is an institution of village youth having a significant part of its membership for students, women, farmers, artisans, traditional healers and pastorals. These institutions have taken collective steps to address the issue of forest land title entitlement under the forest right act 2006 (Govt. of India & Supreme court of India) - which is a historical decision of Supreme court favoring to the millions of tribal communities those who are traditional forest dwellers. Participatory exercises to map their forest land, sacred grow, animal and avian species habitats, origin of natural streams also continuously brought all sections of the society into a single platform. The increased numbers of tribal women present in the meetings village decision making body is another significant indicator of reducing inequality.
In Baigachak, the community level institutions are playing a major role in the entire process of bringing sustainability in the livelihood sources of the community members. Women self help group members are actively participating in the conservation aspects of drought resistant hill millet varieties and a varieties of indigenous vegetable. In the last 10 years, the activities have scaled up and more numbers of women, children living below poverty line are getting the benefit of nutrition, food security and increased livelihood income. Forest education group is an institution of village youth having a significant part of its membership for students, women, farmers, artisans, traditional healers and pastorals. These institutions have taken collective steps to address the issue of forest land title entitlement under the forest right act 2006 (Govt. of India & Supreme court of India) - which is a historical decision of Supreme court favoring to the millions of tribal communities those who are traditional forest dwellers. Participatory exercises to map their forest land, sacred grow, animal and avian species habitats, origin of natural streams also continuously brought all sections of the society into a single platform. The increased numbers of tribal women present in the meetings village decision making body is another significant indicator of reducing inequality.
Own experience with the Baiga community for more than 3 decades has proven that, without the active participation of the women, any development process will be unfulfilled. Keeping this lesson in our vision, we include women members from the tribal families from the beginning. The self help group is their substantial platform which is exclusively for their empowerment. They have started their thrift, savings and village level banking process independently from their male folks. Slowly they are able to link with institutional borrowers like banks and financial institutions. Apart from this activity, their social integration also got a great leap through the self help group platform. The social integration have given them an identity one hitherto suppressed by the male dominance and their own unawareness. The traditional birth attendances of the past, have got training in primary health care and they have associated with government heath service providers to provide necessary information on the health of pregnant women, adolescent girls, elderly and children. Their role in creating awareness among the community on nutrition, immunization, menstrual hygiene are significant in present day and one of the pillars of the village health services. The role of women in forest protection committee, monitoring efforts and taking up backyard vegetable cultivation activities through ecological farming, conserving indigenous seeds are worth noting.
In our entire activities, we have given spaces for all sections of the local residents Baiga community to participate. The Forest Education Group is a good example of how traditional, inherited knowledge is shared by elderly tribal community members to the younger generations. The team has documented nearly 200 plant and more than 250 animal and avian species and how it create a balance in the ecosystem. The exchange of knowledge, participatory planning, decision making and initiating grassroots level advocacy are evidence of how all sections of society has contributed in the process and benefit sharing. The decision of women self help group to production enhancement of hill millet varieties is the result of their long time discussion with the elderly farmers, pastorals and youths on various process right from seed selection, identification of land, crop rearing, harvesting, post harvesting activities. When the scientific methods were incorporated in the value addition process of hill millet, the base of traditional knowledge has again incorporated in it. Presently, all the women members and elderly persons have a role to play in the women federation which has taken up the responsibility of hill millet production, enhancement, value addition and marketing.
The initiatives taken by Baiga tribes in Baigachak villages have got excellent coverage in various print pages like Frontline (fortnight Hindu publication, Chennai) and Down to Earth (a society for science and environment, New Delhi). A number of research scholars from various premier institutes of social science are also visiting the areas and NIWCYD is facilitating such individuals and groups of academics for their research and educational purposes. Recently, the concept of preparing village level; micro development plan through participatory method has evolved and one pilot study has completed in one village. The plan is reflective of the indigenous knowledge and experience of Baiga tribal people in understating their natural ecosystem that comprises of water bodies, catchment areas of major streams, vulnerable species of plants, animals and avian species and their inherited knowledge on ecological conservation.
The organized action plans by utilizing people’s institution as its platform, the Baiga tribes of Dindorti district of Madhya Pradesh have various achievements to share. As the result of their collective steps according to the Forest Right Act 2006, the Baiga tribes are entitled with forest land titles by the government. Whatever they have learnt since last four decades and inherited from their ancestors they have applied to conserve its ecosystem. Today, the Baiga tribal community of Baigachak area has created a model for their counterparts in other areas for conserving and managing forestland and water resources. Whatever participatory exercises the community has carried out in their villages to establish their genuine claim as traditional forest dwelling community has became a model practice for replication for nearby villages. The conservation, production enhancement, value addition and marketing of hill millet varieties has its proven potential for scaling up.
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