Community Conservation practices by Naga villagers way to sustainable future
LUMAMI, DECEMBER 18
CONTRARY to established notions, the idea of ecology conservation in Nagaland especially among the villagers is believed to be quite well received and understood. While Nagaland sits on the potential of being the next biggest thing in Community Conservation in the whole country, the village communities, the primary stakeholders, continue to transmit encouraging signals.According to Dr Neizo Puro, Assistant Professor, Department of Botany in Nagaland University, Lumami, Nagas are “quite aware now” about the concept of ecology conservation. In the last two or three years, many villages and individuals have volunteered to conserve large stretch of forest areas, he told an audience of research scholars, academicians and students of ecology attending the Symposium on Community Conservation Initiatives, at the YETI conference here in NU Lumami auditorium.
This information from Dr Puro comes as a complete reversal of the general assumption and belief that Naga villagers are in some sort of conflict with environmental conservationists. Eastern Mirror had on Tuesday last reported that more than 700 Naga villages have converged together to create at least 300 Community Conservation Areas.
Out of these figures, more than half were voluntary initiatives by the villagers/communities “without any external influence.” Ecologists attending the YETI conference from all over the country agreed that this was rather “amazing.” Especially when viewed against the backdrop that environmental awareness program, especially on conservation, in Nagaland is almost non-existent.
Dr Puro traced it to the villagers’ instinctive ability to detect deviations in the natural patterns of their surrounding environment. “For example, the villagers know that it is time for conservation when they hear a certain bird chirping. Now they don’t hear the birds, water have become less, their crops get diseases, there is loss of species of plants, birds and insects.
“And they are thinking now, why these are happening? The pattern of monsoon rains have changed and it is not a good change. So it is a good thing that people feel that they need to conserve,” Dr Puro told Eastern Mirror today.
The hurdles are presented only in some villages where the CCAs have not been a voluntary initiative. “Problem is, the villagers look for immediate returns. Something they need to know is that conservation is a long term process.
“And it doesn’t mean that they cannot use anything (the forest resources) at all. For example, they can collect firewood for their need but not for commercial gains. Sustainable conservation is absolutely possible.”
He said that the major challenge is to provide the villagers with an alternative source of livelihood. In most of the villages, horticulture has been introduced as an “alternative.”
The potential is not only in becoming a model state for Community Conservation but also in eco-tourism, according to Dr Puro.
“Personally I feel that eco-tourism is going to give us a long time benefit. We can have our cultural or festival tourism but they are only seasonal. But eco-tourism can be year long, every season there is something unique happening in the forests.
“So if we can identify flagship species and conserve and these things then I think the villagers can benefit economically,” Dr Puro shared. He also felt that “we should upscale the conservation process in a broader perspective.”
There is a danger to the tag of being an ecological hotspot, in the case of Nagaland, he warned. “It also means that 70% of our forest is under degradation in terms of loss of species and habitat,” Dr Puro said.
Deputy Manager of Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) North East Cell, Alakesh Malla Baruah, in his presentation, reminded that community conservation is not a new thing in Nagaland. “As far as I know, some villages from the Ao tribe and the Angami tribe have community owned forest areas since time immemorial.”
He also said that lack of local resource people has been a major challenge in convincing villagers to embrace the idea of community conservation in Nagaland.
Clergyman, Nuklu Phom shared on how the apex Phom Baptist Church organization has initiated and introduced community conservation in Longleng district. Besides the introduction of the conservation, the church has even instructed all constituent churches to preach on environmental conservation and climate change once every month, Phom informed.
“We are even under the process of evolving the Sunday School textbooks in which we will now on include lessons on ecology and climate change,” he said.
Pijush K Dutta, formerly of WWF and presently a faculty of Tata Institute of Social Sciences Guwahati, gave a presentation of the aspects of community conservation in Arunachal Pradesh.
Gwaseilo Thong from Sendenyu and Tia Longkumer of Dikhu Green Zone in Mokokchung also shared their experiences and challenges.