Appropriate Technology India works in five mountain districts of Uttarakhand formed in 9th November 2000. Uttarakhand state is located in the central and western Himalayas of India. Historically Uttarakhand has been divided into two administrative regions of Garhwal and Kumaun. Since its inception AT India's operations have been focused in Rudraprayag and Chamoli districts of the Garhwal region (located between 29 31' and 31 26' N latitude and from 77 35' to 80 6' E longitude). Currently its presence can also be found in Uttarkashi, Tehri and Pauri districts.
Physiographical the region is divided into the Shivalik and Duns, the lesser Himalayas, the greater Himalayas and the trans Himalayan zones. To the north of Garhwal is the international border with Tibet with passes ranging in heights between 16,500 ft and 18,800 ft., with peaks reaching 24,000 feet. The glaciers contained in this region's high mountain peaks together with the water shed provided by the forested mountain-scapes go on to form two of India's major rivers, the Ganga and the Yamuna. Dev Bhumi, (Abode of the Gods) as this region is nicknamed, is abounding with legends on Hindu Gods and Goddesses many of whom are meant to reside permanently in the Garhwal region. The temples of Kedarnath, Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib, regarded as some of India's most holy places, attract millions of pilgrims each year.
Land Use Pattern
The project area is primarily composed of human settlements, agricultural land, forests, pastures and perennially snow-capped peaks. These areas are dominated by primary oak forests with agricultural and agro-forestry lands bordering the forests in the lower altitudes and high altitude pastures in the upper reaches.
Land use of the project area indicates that approximately 14% of the available land-base is currently being used in cultivation. The total area under actual forest cover is 58.1% of which dense forests amounts to 44.3%. The per capita forest area is 0.5 ha. And the ratio of cultivated to forest land is 1:6. According to various studies in the past, the optimum ratio between cultivated and forest land in the mountains is 7-10 hectares of well-stocked forests for each hectare of cultivated land.
Consequently, agriculture, an activity that engages about 70% of the state's population, may possibly be ecologically unsustainable.
Population of Garhwal: 36, 29,467 (As per 2011 census); BPL: 40%
Major crops: paddy, wheat, maize, barley, (jhangora) millets, beans (rajma and other local varieties), potatoes and peas. Rain-fed, subsistence agriculture supplemented by livestock continues to be the main occupation of the people of this region. Farming on tiny land holdings (avg size?) distributed over rugged terrain with minimal irrigation contributes only a third of the required food-grains, as cultivated lands produce only one ton of grain/ha/yr. Thus dominance of peasant based subsistence agriculture is generally perceived in negative terms in its relation with poverty due to declining and low levels of productivity.
The change from traditional self-reliant, closed systems is apparent with increased dependence on outside markets for fulfilling local requirements. Food security has become a major concern in the mountains in the scenario, as village surveys conducted under the project confirm previous studies that on an average a family only produces 4-5 months of sustenance from their cultivated terraced fields. The change from traditional self-reliant, closed systems is apparent with increased dependence on outside markets for fulfilling local requirements. Food security has become a major concern in the mountains in the current scenario, as village surveys conducted under the project confirm previous studies that on an average a family only produces (3-4) 4-5 months of sustenance from their cultivated terraced fields. Contemporary literature on the ecological condition of the region, generally accepts that the decline in forest cover (in Uttarakhand) from the recorded 3.47 m/ha, to an actual of approximately 1.15 m/ha (dense cover), constituting approximately 33% of geographic area can be attributed to cultivation, to meet subsistence needs of a growing farming population. Consequently, agriculture, an activity that engages about 70% of the state's population, may possibly be ecologically unsustainable as well as economically unviable.
The local communities are also dependent on a number of NTFPs for subsistence and to a lesser extent towards economic ends. These include ringal bamboo (Arudinaria falcata); small timber (Alnus nepelensis, Fraxinus micrantha); medicinal plants (Acontinum heterophyllum, Dactylorhiza hatagirea, Jurinea macrocephala, Nordastachys grandiflora, Rheum emodi, Trichosanthes bracteata); and fiber yielding plants (Grewia optiva, Urtica parviflora).
In addition (through AT India's efforts) rearing of honey bees is also becoming a minor economic activity. However mounting extraction pressures coupled with shrinking resource base have placed an unsustainable demand on NTFPs. There is thus a growing need to understand and identify ways to manage NTFPs that ensure their conservation and simultaneously enhance rural livelihoods. AT India is attempting to do just that through its various programs.
Earlier strategies to alleviate poverty through a diversified economic structure have not yielded desired results possibly due to reasons of ecological fragility and to an extent the problems posed by inaccessibility. Thus the need to create productive employment for people has been a recurrent issue identified and that is what AT India is striving to address.
The caste structure in Garhwal is composed of three major groupings: Brahmins, Rajputs and the Doms/ Harijans or Scheduled Castes. SC's comprise roughly 18% and Scheduled Tribes (STs) only 1% of the population in the project area. Given the extent of poverty, economic well being does not correlate with caste status. Utilisation of resources continues to be subsistence based with all families relying on forests and pastures for fuelwood and fodder. While Brahmin vaidyas (herbalists) continue to produce herbal remedies in small quantities, Harijan basket makers continue to make mats and baskets from ringal- a local cane (dwarf bamboo). The output of these products is restricted more by market demand than by restrictions on access to the resource.
Traditionally women have played a major role in the economy of the region and still continue to. Of the total cultivators in the project area, 95% are women and even in NTFP collection they play an active role in fodder collection, dairy and bee- keeping activities. Mahila Mangal Dals have thus played a significant forum for AT India to mobilize women and involve them in their various project activities.
Other forms of local organization include the Gram Panchayat (village council) and Van Panchayat (forest council) and Yuvak Mangal Dals (youth groups) which are democratically elected community institutions. Van Panchayats have a long history of grassroots activism in the region, with the internationally acclaimed Chipko Movement (1984) originating from this very region. They continue to be the key common property resource institutions at the local level, responsible for managing the use of community forests and adjoining pastures, for policing the use of these resources, and for enforcing rules and regulation.
Biological Significance of the Region
The global significance of the region's biodiversity has been highlighted in the Global 200, a biodiversity hot spots categorization undertaken jointly by the World Wide Fund for Nature and Conservation International in 1998. The western Himalayan temperate forests have been listed at 76, as the earth's most biologically valuable eco-regions, and its status has been determined between critical and endangered.
The Garhwal region is one of the most botanically diverse anthropogenic eco-systems of the Indian Himalayas. Though the area lies in sub-tropical latitudes, the dramatic variation in altitude (300m to 7500m) within the Garhwal has resulted in the existence of a number of unique biomes distributed over a variety of topographical and climatic zones. This situation has acted both as a bridge, facilitating influx of many taxa, and as a barrier, promoting endemism in some areas. The forests of the project area consist of species having Mediterranean, African- Deccanian, Malayan and the Sino-Japanese affinities. Some rare and endangered tree species worthy of conservation found in the project area include- Albizia spp, Betula alnoides, Juglans regia. The fauna of the region also harbour unique animals like the Snow leopard (Panthera unice), Black bear (Ursus arctosisabellinus), Bharal deer (Pseudois nayaur), Musk deer (moschus moschiferous), Himalayan Tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus), Monal pheasant (Lophophorous impejanus), Himalayan snow cock (Tetragallus himalayensis) and the Snow partridge (Lerwa lerwa).
Parts of the upper reaches of the project area lie in the Kedarnath Musk Deer Wildlife Sanctuary, formed in 1991, with stringent regulations on extraction of biomass, even though NTFP harvesting is permitted. The area thus includes some very dense and forest tracts with unique plant and faunal diversity.
The project area is particularly significant because:
. The area harbors vegetation of a wide range of climatic zones extending from sub-tropical to alpine, within a narrow spread of about 40 km.
. High level of endemism of plant species to the region.
. Occurrence of a number of threatened and endangered species and a wide range of species and habitat diversity
. Occurrence of unique ecosystems i.e. some of the largest and most intact oak forests in the country
. Anthropogenic eco-system in which the humans and their animals are inseparable from their surrounding natural resources
Historically strong control over natural resources (through Van Panchayats and Mahila Mangal Dals) in most parts of the project area (Chipko movement originated in this the Garhwal region) makes it easier to enlist people's participation in community resource management for biodiversity conservation and economic development. Even beyond its biological richness, the Western Himalayan Eco-region (WHE) is vital to India as a provider of ecosystem services. The productivity and sustenance of the populous (400 million) Indo-Gangetic Plain is largely dependent for regulated supply of soil fertility and water on the ecosystem services of the Central and Western Himalayas, from which emerge the mighty Ganga and Yamuna. In addition, alpine meadows of the WHE may prove to be critical for the woody species of lower altitudes that would be forced to migrate upwards in the event of global warming.
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