UTTARAYAN WILDLIFE: Success story - Community Participation - movement towards a better future - We at UW together with RM have taken up this journey of degraded land restoration on elephant corridors of South Bengal - Capacity Building of locals

RM-UW project started in 2021-22 with the sole purpose of regenerating degraded fallow lands of private stakeholders and reviving biodiversity, soil condition, water levels and climatic changes in an otherwise arid region.

In its first year we successfully encompassed about more than 200+ villages, 48+ stakeholders and 300+ acres and work on their land in a participatory mode.

Few learnings - in the first year the locals were more on a wait and watch mode and their initial participation was not equal or rather how we had thought in terms of equal participation in the regeneration and empowerment.

  1. Cattle grazing continued to be an issue post plantation
  2. Maintenance of plants, watering was not being looked by the locals resulted in 20% loss
  3. There were internal strife which resulted in some vengeance on the plantation areas

All of these made us pause - rethink on a better strategy.

Starting this year, we engage all locals to agree on equal participation in plantation - maintenance. The villagers have enthusiastically formed local committees who will be responsible to:

  1. Check on cattle grazing
  2. Upkeep and maintain the plants
  3. Plan and strategize best ways to regenerate the land

Such empowerment of locals gives the project a better scalability and an exit plan for the project owners. It also initiates a positive attitude movement among locals towards a better biodiversity and future.

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Learnings:
• Plantation of small plants must be avoided.
• Plantation must start pre monsoon.
• Slurry of cowdung if sprayed on plants will act as cattle repellent.
• For rapid growth of plants, use of chemical fertilizer may help.
• Initial plant management must be done within 2 months of plantation.

List of things we won’t do going forward
• We must avoid places having scarcity of water.
• 100% dependency on solar energy should be avoided.

Hi @uttarayanwl, could you also elaborate on these learnings?

It might help if you could share some background on why this is needed too.

Hello Mohit - these are hard learnings from the field in our first year specially from local farmers.

. Plantation of small plants must be avoided. - maintenance of saplings in a big space become very intensive and unmanageable esp. with scarcity of people who can take care of it and scarcity of water so best is to grow them in the nursery and plant a good medium size which will have better resilience.
• Plantation must start pre monsoon.
• Slurry of cowdung if sprayed on plants will act as cattle repellent.
• For rapid growth of plants, use of chemical fertilizer may help.- we dont do it.
• Initial plant management must be done within 2 months of plantation. - weeding, organic fertiliser etc.

Thanks for the updates. This can be avoided through a variety of different means. Also, trees which grow too fast often don’t weather storms too well :slight_smile:

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We at Uttarayan Wildlife www.uttarayanwildlife.org are excited to announce our first phase of reforestation in South Bengal - Plantation at South Bengal || Bankura , Purulia || Uttarayan Wildlife || Rainmatter Foundation - YouTube

Please let us know if anyone has any queries - would love to share experiences!

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Thanks @uttarayanwl

How many trees are we planting, and what are we doing to ensure they survive?

Thanks Nitin.

In last one year of the rewilding project in Bankura and Purulia in approx. 253 acres(760 bighas) along elephant corridors of degraded fallow land - 13,350 has been -planted as a mixture of fruit(take care of local economy and SDG 1), native economical viable forest trees(as per our study of reference forest of Sutan and agro forestry done of mustard in places.

We are starting our land preparation for this year.

For survival the different techniques used are:

  1. Community ownership of the plantation area so that they maintain with water and warding off cattle - initial days of minimum 60/40 partnership and then with one year completion, we wean that so that locals are empowered to take over
  2. Project support in key rain shadow months with watering equipments
  3. During land preparation, organic fertilizer, mulching to preserve soil moisture helps in growth

We have had an average success of 60-70% in all our 7 areas.

What is the incentive for the community to own this? The food produced?

How do you define success? Plants that survive for how many years?

For now since we are at the initial year - our present yearly success criterion is based on:

  1. Plant resilience esp during dry months(last year rainfall in West Bengal was -44%)
  2. End year how far they have grown and how healthy are they
  3. Community participation and responsibility taken in this effort to secure and nurture the plants

We have a set SOP to document the maintenance.

Final success would be based on the longevity - expected to become a healthy forest cover for minimum 20-30 years!

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And this?

The reason I am asking is, can such an initiative be scaled without you having to depend grant/philantrophy? The max impact, I guess, will be when communities do this on their own vs being pushed by outsiders?

Rightly understood - community incentive is the creation of food bank and the forest trees give them economically viable forest produce like neem, lemons, bamboo etc.

Nithin - its amazing that you ask this - presently I have chalked an exit strategy where post initial boost, locals will manage the plantation/ forest with no further intervention from us which will also allow us to scale in bigger proportions. We might continue be knowledge mentors.

Thoughts on your second point - the ideal situation although in this landscape with soil degradation and loss of biodiversity with less to no income among locals from cultivation too[ mostly migrants], I have a plan which I discussed with Sameer on how total empowerment can be achieved.

Happy to discuss the same with you too.

Thanks
Diya

Thanks Divya. Will take an update from @sameershisodia. Will jump in on the next call you have with the team.

That would be great! Will wait for the discussion. Thanks

We usually dont have any scheduled team calls but happy to have one for this specific discussion.

Thanks

Hi, loved the work and the website is Insightful. Here are a few things we can try for the purpose of having a data-driven/outcome-oriented understanding of our work. As I can read @NithinKamath’s response below, I am sure, the purpose is also to learn and developed some sort of playbook or framework.

Since 13,350 plans are spread across 253 acres which could be 162 football fields (considering average size = 1.56 acres) team must be visiting monthly or quarterly for inspection.

Is the possible to digitize the entire Plantation spot, area, growth etc? Here is what I mean by digitization.

  1. Plantation database - that I am assuming you most probably have
  2. Pinpoint the Latitude (lat) and Longitude (long) of each Plant so we can track the spot at any point in time
  3. Make it mandatory for the inspection team to click a picture of each plant at the time of inspection so we will have the live status of each plant
  4. Create a remark section and status - active and inactive

And this might not demand additional resources because the lat long can be created and attached at the time of plantation or inspection using Google Maps and that data can be imported into an Excel sheet. And these data points can be rendered on the website where anyone can see the status with a click. (If you find this complicated fine, we will create a demo video :slight_smile: )

It is great that we are taking non-linear shots because the real success of all our present work can be only validated in 15 to 20 years, as you rightly said. But having control over what worked, and what didn’t shall allow us to improve - till we fix our problems!

PS: If the team is already doing the above it would be great if we can make it live on the website so anyone can have a look and take inspiration :slight_smile:

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Uttarayan (Wildlife Wing), a 35+ yr old NGO working with people and ecosystem has been steadily building robust ecology across West Bengal.

We are partnering with WWF West Bengal to create a nursery for elephant fodder and repellant plantation to restore fragmented habitats of North Bengal Terai elephant corridors.

We are also partnering with Rainmatter Foundation for Forest and landscape restoration in a participatory mode – – the largest of its kind in India in parts of elephant corridors of South Bengal – a volatile field of man-elephant conflict.

We also work extensively with WCT in Sundarbans creating a model village in Songaon, Gosaba, Namkhana, where we are restoring saline land, doing plantations to create a balance between ecological restoration and human well being. Our latest initiative is to remove plastic waste from the sensitive ecosystem of Sundarbans.

The NGO’s sole mission and vision has been to REVIVE – REGENERATE – RESTORE fragmented landscapes and recreate rich biodiversity while balancing human needs.

Our methodology is purely community based collaborations so that each benefit from each other and community takes full ownership of the regeneration process.

We are part of the ”Ecological Restoration Alliance India community”

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The Forest in making…

Past 1 year of plantation maintenance by locals and UW team. A severe rainfall shortage was faced across the landscape of 250+ acres of planted forest but thanks to the expert team and timely intervention with water tankers and local support(support committee) to save the plants, we had a mortality of 20% which is industry standard. The plants as inspected by the team every month and organic

For comparative study:


provided, guarded against cattle has grown to 4ft and above and are now self-reliant.

Our restoration nursery is blooming for this years plantation of 140+ acres. Plantation starts from next week to keep up with the monsoon!

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