Towards a School of Ecological Nurturance: a partnership between Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary and Rainmatter Foundation

Hello friends in the Rainmatter community,

Greetings from Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary (GBS) in Wayanad, Kerala. In December 2023 we entered into a partnership with Rainmatter Foundation, and this is our first entrypost in The Grove. This is an introduction to our mission and at the very outset, also an invitation to, everyone reading this, to come to visit us!

Regarding GBS:
For over 40 years we have been working on plant conservation, habitat restoration and community-based ecological nurturance in Wayanad, Kerala.To date, we have secured over 2000 species of plants from mosses ferns, orchids and trees, many from threatened or now destroyed habitats.

GBS’s original objective has been to provide a refuge for Western Ghats flora, and restoring and rehabilitating diverse habitats and microhabitats within private and public lands. This is ensured through ecosystem gardening, a pioneering approach to integrate species and habitat conservation with human-wellbeing, enabled by the following steps; (a) assisted migration, which is “the purposeful movement of species to facilitate or mimic natural range expansion as a direct management response to climate change”, (b) creating nurseries and habitats for propagation of these species, (c) restoring vegetation cover, and (d) nurturing community-based livelihoods. Our approach has resulted in a comprehensive ex-situ conservation program for endemic species of different growth habits.

Examining species

Buffering this primary goal, parallel objectives include (i) protecting wildlife on GBS’s land; (ii) cleaning, monitoring and protecting 16 km of the Kallampuzha, a nearby first-order catchment stream of the Kaveri river basin, through our outreach program called the Green Phoenix; (iii) educating visitors on rainforest flora through free guided tours in GBS’s botanical garden, and immersive residential programs for school students; and (iv) encouraging food-forest practices on shared lands. These secondary objectives will hopefully serve as worthy models for others in the bioregion.

Intern cleaning algae off an orchid

Rainmatter Foundation support has come in at a critical moment in our organization and community’s trajectory. The consolidation of the organization through its activities in conservation/restoration and education is of top priority in this coming year. The effect of the pandemic on GBS was dire. The diverse biological reserve and its human commitment need to be supported and strengthened such that GBS can go into the next phase of its mission to a regional level. The primary utilization of the Rainmatter funds will be for the local staff on whose work the whole place stands. Since the community kitchen is critical to operations, welfare through meals will take some of the remaining monies. The final amount will be utilized for infrastructure and refurbishment of facilities.

Architecture students

For this year we will attend to the following:

  1. Plant Care: care of native and endemic plant species, nurseries and milieus
  2. The Tropical Garden: organization and curation of main visitors area for educational purposes
  3. The Rewilding Landbase: phasing out weedy plantation species for native understorey species
  4. Immersing Self in Wild: programmes for adults and youth aimed at intimate reconnections with the forest
  5. Reviewing School in the Forest and Apprenticeship in Ecological Nurturance programmes towards consolidating into a School of Ecological Nurturance.

As this is a year of consolidation and reflection, we do not foresee any changes in our practice. We will however, use this opportunity to intensify some of our activities in conservation and education. We will also invite alumni, collaborators and peers to help review the pedagogical experience in the place, such that we can support, or serve directly, broader missions in landcare, environmental and social wellbeing. Our long term intention to create a School of Ecological Nurturance will hopefully be the direct result of this effort. At the end of the year we will be in a better position to assess our capacities towards this critical next step in our evolution.

To end with, an invitation to all members of the Rainmatter community to visit Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary! You can contact us, if you are interested to come by at [email protected]. We will also be sending out special invitations from time to time for adult programmes and retreats, through this forum.

For more information please visit our website You can also follow us on Instagram:

You can also read about Munnarakkunnu Trust, the
charitable and legal entity undergirding the mission and vision of Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary here:

Looking forward to engaging further with all of you in your own projects and concerns in the coming months.

Very best wishes,

Suprabha Seshan
On behalf of GBS/Munnarakkunnu Trust

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