News From The Field
We had sent an update during July 2004 mentioning
the background of our intervention in the Garo Hills and manner in
which it was shaping up during its early days. We had then set up
office at Baghmara and were interacting with various
organizations / individuals with a view to developing a robust
understanding of the ground situation.
The following months have been largely devoted to the
capacity building of our team. The team attended an intensive six-day training
session on 'Developing and Training People's Institutions' at
MYRADA's training centre in Chitradurga district, Karnataka.
Following this, the team proceeded to a weeklong session conducted by
the Asian Elephant Research and Conservation Centre (AERCC). This module consisted of classroom sessions at
I.I.Sc and field trips to Bandipur National Park and Mudumalai
Wildlife Sanctuary. The interactions with the AERCC personnel greatly
enriched the knowledge base of our team and also enhanced our ability
to "think from the elephant's point of view".
In addition, we have continued to interact closely with the IFAD sponsored North East Community Resource Management Project (NERCRMP).
The NERCRMP project in the West Garo Hills has evolved a number of
approaches for assisting upland communities to improve livelihood
Samrakshan is trying to build upon the learning's emerging out of the
NERCRMP's experience and utilise it for the benefit of wildlife in
particular and elephants in general, apart from promoting more secure
livelihoods for the people we work with in the South Garo Hills. The
manager of the NECRMP's West Garo Hills project visited our target
villages during October 2004, to assess and guide us on the local
community institutions that we are in the process of fostering.
Similarly, Dr. A. Christy Williams (Coordinator, WWF-AREAS) visited
us during September 2004 and shared his views on our interventions;
giving critical inputs specially on issues relating to monitoring elephants and in further sharpening our approach so as to
be of greatest possible benefit for long term elephant conservation.
In the initial months we have limited our activities to two
(tracts of community land); both adjoining the Baghmara Reserve
Forest and comprising of four villages - Ampangre, Nakhalgre, Dabrek
and Waso. We have followed a gradual process of "breaking in" by
meeting village headmen, holding village level meetings, visiting
each household in all the villages, interacting with people at public
places like tea-stalls and bus shelters, and most importantly
spending extended amounts of time in the villages including
successive night halts. As a consequence, our team
members are an integral part of the villages where we work, sharing
with the people social occasions, such as Sunday Church sessions.
The process of fostering appropriate institutions/groups in the target
villages has picked up pace during September - November, with
Samrakshan team members facilitating a number of sessions to equip
the community with skills for effective functioning of groups. So far
in the four target villages, five groups have been initiated. These
are at different stages of maturity and have been undertaking
activities accordingly. While some have begun to maintain a record of
the deliberations during weekly group meetings and an account of the
savings that they carry out, others are still in the process of
stabilising membership and getting into the habit of meeting
regularly. During the first week of November some members from
the women's groups visited Self Help Groups facilitated by the
NERCRMP in the neighbouring district of West Garo Hills. This
provided an excellent opportunity for the visitors to see well
functioning groups and gain in confidence. Apart from community-based
activities, Samrakshan team members have also initiated an attempt to
map Aking boundaries using GPS. Various habitat types occurring in
the Akings are being classified and we also endeavour to estimate the
presence/absence of elephants in various habitat
types by monitoring select tracks in the Akings.
In collaboration with Centre for Environment
Education's (CEE) North east regional office, we jointly released the
Garo edition of CEE's publication "Endangered Elephants". The Deputy
Commissioner of the South Garo Hills district released the book, and
teachers from various schools in the district received copies. The
book contains basic facts about elephants, their behaviour, biology
and primary threats. It is meant to orient children, particularly
those living in areas where elephants occur, towards elephants and
help build a constituency for the protection of these
animals. A training programme for teachers in the use of this book is
to be shortly organised.
Details about our work continue to be available on our web site
We would welcome any questions or suggestions that you may have.
Please send us an email at the following address :