India

Landscape partner

Samerth Charitable Trust, The Nature Conservancy India, IKEA Foundation, United Designers, Global Business Inroads - India

Landscape

Kabirdham and Durg districts, Chhattisgarh, India

Total area (ha)

444,750 ha (district) and 6,450 ha (pilot project area)

Stakeholders

860 households in 10 tribal villages, around 15 businesses and governmental institutions

Active since

2019

In the forested landscape of the Central Highlands of Chhattisgarh State of India, generations of Gond and Baiga tribes employed their skills and knowledge as agriculturalists, and as gatherers and hunters of forest produce. Now, however, marginalisation, climate change, and unsustainable extraction of forest resources mean the Gond and Baiga are facing significant challenges.

Responding to these types of losses is the ambition of the 4 Returns framework. Through it the Gond and Baiga pursue greater self-determination, using their skills and knowledge to manage and use forest resources sustainably and maintain reliable livelihoods. The Central Highlands India Restoration Project (CHiRP) is designed as a multi-partner collaborative effort between local Gond and Baiga communities, Samerth Charitable Trust, Commonland, The IKEA Foundation, The Nature Conservancy India, United Designers, and Global Business Inroads.

What happened in 2021?

Women self-help groups (SHGs) are involved in collective activities that empower communities such as saving and loaning, vegetable gardening and agriculture and the collective storage and selling of non-timber forest products (NTFPs). As such they are empowering their communities. Their number is growing with 24 groups comprising 260 members. The SHGs build links with local businesses and the local market, and also receive government support. 

An NTFP example is the flower of the Mahua tree; a source of both stories and sustenance for Gond and Baiga people. As well as food, the flowers’ rich sugar content makes wine that is used in rituals. 60 people received nets so they could harvest flowers more cleanly. The flowers are then dried and stored by SHGs to be sold – as a first trial – when prices are higher later in the season.

We’re seeing how our partnerships can advocate for resources that might otherwise be beyond communities’ reach. Two village ponds have been completed under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and two solar pumps have been sanctioned by the government. The villagers took up fish farming in these ponds. This year the programme leveraged funding and equipment worth almost € 100,000 from government schemes. In total, 9000 bamboo and fruit tree saplings have been distributed, provided by the Forest Department and the Horticulture Department.

To spark inspiration, learn from best practices and encourage dialogue, Samerth organised visits to nearby communities for community members, community mobilisers and Samerth staff. 40 community members visited a nearby community managed bamboo plantation that has established a good revenue stream. The Samerth team also visited a NTFP processing unit to learn from their practices. Samerth has designed a large banner visioning the 4 losses and 4 returns in the landscapes where the communities live. The banner is used to spark further dialogue in the communities and with local stakeholders. In each of the ten villages the banner is visible.

See here how Covid disrupted operations in India.