CEC member Biba Jasmine describes how WWF-India is using cooperative and participatory approaches where tigers come into conflict with villagers foraging in forests.
By Ms Biba Jasmine, CEC member and Project Associate, Wildlife Institute of India, Chandrabani, Dehradun
Human-wildlife conflict and local dependence on forest resources is a growing problem. It is not restricted to particular geographical regions or climatic conditions but is common to all areas where wildlife and human population coexist and share limited resources.
Eight years ago, Indra Devi, a 38-year-old widow living in Mankanthpur Village, Uttarakhand, TAL, went with her mother to the forest to collect fodder and fuel wood to fulfill their basic needs.
She was attacked by a tiger, while collecting grass and fodder for her cattle. "He took a leap over me, I fell flat on the ground,’ Indra recalled. She spent about two months in the hospital recovering, with sustained damage to her left leg and left eye.
But she now feels that ‘’life has to go on and on’’. She still goes to the forest despite knowing that there could be any day, any time another misfortune waiting for here. Poverty, no landholding, and lack of financial assistance, has forced her to go back to the forest for her sustenance.
Such incidences have provoked, organizations like WWF-India, to work towards, understanding local attitudes towards human-wildlife conflict and in developing successful conflict mitigation strategies.
WWF-India is working very hard to change a common perception of people that ‘conflict with wildlife is our destiny’’. To avoid incidences like livestock predation, property damage, carcass poisoning and retaliation killing. WWF-India, is taking action but still feels that ‘’a lot more needs to be done’’. It believestthat mitigating human-animal conflict is critical to preserving wildlife.
WWF-India is working to reduce Human-Animal Conflict by:
- Emphasizing ‘’participatory’’ or ‘’cooperative’’ approaches which strive to achieve broad-based community participation;
- Providing biogas to the people, so that they do not have to go to the forest to collect fuel wood which in turn reduces their cattle killing;
- Providing villagers with grass seeds (Barsim, Napier) and fodder trees. .
People living in and around the village also exploit their forest resources by selling fuel wood to earn little money for themselves. The organization's target is to minimize fuel wood consumption, but also to help people reduce poverty and learn how to use their very own resources in a sustainable manner.
- WWF-India designed a modest plan where to try to give livelihood opportunity to the people by getting vermipit constructed in their backyards. With this initiative of them, people now sell compost at about Rs 5/Kg and earthworms at Rs 250/Kg and also use compost on their own land thereby dramatically reducing chemical pressure on the land, which in turns help their land maintain its fertility.
On the whole, the organization feels that any problem can be solved with unity and hopes for the viability of a cooperative approach to conflict resolution. Residents of the village feels that more such NGOs and cooperative institutions should come up with broad-based and meaningful participatory approaches and more sensitively address the prevailing obstacles.
Considering the current human population growth rate, increasing demand for resources and the growing demand for access to land, it is clear that such incidences cannot be solely eradicated by any one particular group, community or organization in the near future. For this reason a better understanding of conflict management options is crucial. Such ill-fated incidences as that experienced by Indra Devi can be minimized through:
- Good management practices and approaches involving low cost technologies; and
- Innovative strategies, such as natural resource use compensation systems, community based natural resource management schemes and incentive and insurance programmes. Sustainable approached should be scaled up.
Dense human populations in close vicinity to nature reserves seem to pose the greatest challenges in many countries. Conflicts become more intense where livestock holdings and agriculture are an important part of rural livelihoods. Competition between rural communities and wild animals over natural resources is more intense in developing countries, where local human populations tend to suffer higher costs.
For more information, contact Ms Biba Jasmine at firstname.lastname@example.org