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Natural Resource Based Livelihoods

Harnessing Natural Resource Capital for Sustainable Livelihoods, Prosperous Households

We work with rural, resource-constrained communities, farmers with marginal and small landholdings, and those dependent on forests for their day-to-day living. Our three decades of experience working with agrarianattests to interventions aimed at integrated management of natural resourcesbeing the foundation for boosting sustainable food production and productivity, as they improve the overall ago-ecological environment for production, reduce risks for agri-producers, and ensure availability of key agri-inputs naturally, driving down production costs including those to the environment.

Indian Grameen Services

The thrust of IGS's efforts, thus, is on building resilience of communities as well as of the ecosystem. Particularly for the rural poor and those living in and around forests, a livelihood promotion strategy based on Integrated Natural Resource Management (INRM) works well as compared to the one focusing purely on agriculture because of nature, extent and quality of natural resources accessible and available to them, and their inherent resource affinities and management capabilities. Most of our work is in the dryland regions of the country where land degradation, depletion of biodiversity, groundwater levels, climate change effect in recent years and high chemical ridden farming practices have severely stressed soil, water and ecosystems. A dual reinforced approach to build and strengthen, rather than severe the natural resource linkages of the poor has potential to rejuvenate natural resources while also strengthening local livelihoodsystems with inclusion of appropriate technology, providing farmers with more choices, a sustainable scale of production, consumption and reliable incomes.

Our Approach

Our INRM initiatives adopt a two fold approach, focusing on community wellbeing and natural resource rejuvenation. Community mobilization around natural resources is more about (re)igniting the people-nature connect, empowering them to deploy indigenous sense and sensibilities in tending to the nature's bounty and integrate modern knowledge and skills to address tenuous challenges, and working with diverse stakeholders to ensure usufruct rights and tenurial security of local communities over natural resources. Natural resource rejuvenation approach involves putting available natural resources and their interconnections in focus, prioritizes 'restoration' and 'revival' of energy and resource flowsas in the natural course, and seeks to deploy a mix of Indigenous Technical Knowledge (ITK) and modern technology to achieve this.

We have also deployed the principles and practices of integrated natural resource management for promoting rural livelihoods in locations with the potential to promote community-based ecotourism. These interventions seek to create a win-win situation in terms of livelihoods of the poor and eco-sustainability of the area.

Another context for intervening to strengthen natural resource based livelihoods is provided by relocation of forest dwellers by the State Forest Departments from the core zone of Protected Areas to revenue lands. This is usually done with the aim to reduce human-animal conflicts, to ensure safety of humans and wildlife, and to keep critical wildlife habitats inviolate. In the last 10-15 years, altogether approximately 60,000 households have been shifted out of protected areas. The National Tiger ConservationAuthority estimates that there are 754 villages present in the core/critical tiger habitats, out of which 180 villages have been voluntarily rehabilitated and 574 villages remain to be relocated. This provides both-a challenge and an opportunity for forest administrators, socio-technical agencies like IGS, and community leaders together to ensure a win-win for the community and as well as for wildlife conservation efforts.

Current Efforts

IGS is currently implementing 10 projects under INRM in Assam, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha.These programs leveraged the capabilities of and benefited 12,215 households in 2018-19.

Several cost-effective and environmentally beneficial modelshave resulted from these efforts, which can be easily replicated to improve the resilience of communities in similar contexts and other locations:

  • Soil and water conservation
  • Diversion-based irrigation systems
  • Ecological farming
  • Bio-organic aquaculture
  • Rebuilding resilient livelihoods : Since 2007, IGS has been working closely with State Forest Departments and communities relocated from protected areas of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha, rebuilding the livelihood portfolios for ensuring sustainable and dignified incomes to the relocates while developing community resilience in new locations.
    • Community organisation into Self Help Groups and Village Development Committees
    • Strengthening Panchayati Raj Institutions and participation of the relocatees in Gram Sabha
    • Facilitating civic amenities in the resettled areas, leveraging social security schemesand ensuring schematic convergence
    • Technical capacity building of relocated communities in improved agriculture and natural resource management in a new context
    • Backstopping relocatees' efforts to rebuild their assets, especially development of newly acquired lands
    • Enhancing financial literacy for prudent investment and effective utilisation of relocation (compensation) funds
    • Build a strong stakeholder ecosystem to ensure rights and entitlements of relocated communities and adequate investments in building livelihood infrastructure for them
    • Psychosocial counselling is a new component being explored in this specific context
  • Community based ecotourism :
    • We have been implementing Mangalajodi ecotourism initiative since 2010. As a result of sustained efforts, the bird poachers in Khordha district of Odisha have been mobilized and transformed to participate in the conservation of migratory birds and the Chilika wetland ecosystem under the umbrella of a wholly community owned Mangalajodi Ecotourism Trust (http://www.mangalajodiecotourism.com/). A similarinitiative was implemented in the area of Similipal Biosphere Reserve atDevkundduring 2015-17; profit to the community from tourism services tripled in a year as a result of that project.
    • In 2019-20, IGS has started implementing a home stays based Rural Tourism initiative, supported by Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board. While community is being mobilized and trained and suitable infrastructure being leveraged for home stay facilities creation in pre-identified tourism hot-spots in the State, another initiative called Safe Tourism for women in destination has been launched in 2020-21, integral part of Rural Tourism enterprise.

Opportunities to Collaborate

IGS is interested to work with diverse stakeholders - community institutions, corporates, government, NGOs, researchers and research institutes, innovators, and technology service providers, for:

  • Design and implementation of natural resource-based livelihood programs
  • Incubate process, product and business model innovations (example; community-based ecotourism)
  • Provide technical support and handholding in replication of proven models (including rebuilding of livelihoods of relocated communities)
  • Provide a community platform for integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in INRM context
  • Training field personnel and community institutions in organic and ecological farming, improved agricultural practices, land restoration, nature based tourism and green skills

For more information on IGS's program on Promoting Natural Resource Based Livelihoods, please contact sanjib@igsindia.org.in