News From The Field

December 2004

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.

Capacity Building

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 security.


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.


The Activities

In the initial months we have limited our activities to two Akhing's
 (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
 www.samrakshan.org. We would welcome any questions or suggestions that you  may have. Please send us an email at the following address : nimesh@samrakshan.org

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