Gujarat state has a rich biodiversity with 13% of the flora of India in a diversity of ecosystem. The state is a unique state that has many kinds of habitats. These include dry deciduous forests, majestic grasslands, wetlands, marine ecosystems and rich moist deciduous forests. About 786 species of medicinal plants and 450 species of economically valuable plants used by local tribes have been identified so far. Gujarat is also a repository of considerable agro-biodiversity. Wild relatives of a number of indigenous varieties of crops originate from Gujarat.
However the medicinal plant biodiversity of Gujarat is declining rapidly. Of the 768 medicinal plants that have been recorded in Gujarat, 251 are threatened. There are several reasons for this - absence of sustainable harvesting regimes; destructive extraction practices; and depletion of medicinal plant resource base due to livelihood and agricultural pressure on common property resources. The present approach of education that gives low status to traditional knowledge has resulted in a loss of knowledge passed through oral tradition. The present model of school education lacks adequate linkage with real life and livelihood of the surrounding area. Another lacunae of the school system is the lack of experience-based learning of local biodiversity in the school curriculum. Despite India’s traditions of a plural health care system including Ayurveda (traditional health care system) and many others, over the years a market-driven and centralized health care system has been promoted on the assumption that it is superior to traditional practices which again has a bearing on the decline of medicinal plant diversity and knowledge-base. The linking of conservation, experience-based education and extending experiment-based learning to the community level need to be supported and strengthened.
The Sanjeevani project tackles these problems and needs through developing the potential of schools for community based conservation and education approach. We shall work through Post Basic Schools (PBSs - locally known as Uttar Buniyadi Shala) at two different locations representing the major ecological regions of Gujarat State. PBSs are rural residential schools established by the Government of Gujarat for children in poor communities. They are unique to Gujarat and follow a Ghandian Model of Education. In impoverished, rural areas these schools are often the only opportunity for children to continue education after primary school. Working through PBSs will make it possible to cross the gender gap in these rural areas, since co-education is the principle and most of PBSs. PBSs have intensive contact with the near-by village communities as a part of their curriculum and most of the students at schools are from near by villages. Most of the PBSs have 10 acres of land, drinking water facility and provision for water required for farming on the location, small garden in the campus with plantation of trees, tools of farming and bullocks, cattle and hostel facilities. Thus the multi-disciplinary curriculum, educational process of experiential learning to gain life skills, infrastructure available and contact with local community makes the PBSs highly suitable for integrating medicinal plants biodiversity education and conservation initiative.
The project will be implemented in two major ecological regions of Gujarat, India, viz., the sub-humid ecological region of South Gujarat’s tribal belt that is extremely rich in medicinal plant diversity, and the ecologically fragile, semi-arid ecological region of Saurashtra. South Gujarat is predominantly inhabited by tribal populations which have not been integrated with the mainstream of development. These communities are just emerging from traditional systems of slash and burn agriculture and are adopting subsistence farming as the primary source of livelihood. They are forced into subsistence farming by the kind of poverty that exist in the districts and also by their inability to take risks. While Saurashtra region represent the essential heartland of Gujarat’s semi arid region – an area that has witnessed dramatic changes in its social and economic landscape as well in the way its natural resources are managed. Lack of irrigation facilities, low productivity and physical features of the land limit livelihood potential. Together they represent dramatic changes in the social and economic landscape as well in the way natural resources are managed.
The project will be implemented through 10 Post Basic Schools. PBSs will be the focus for the creation of Biodiversity Conservation Resource Area (BCRA) including garden of medicinal plants linked to the development of a system for using the plants within a health care structure. BCRA will also act as an experience-based learning centre (nature school) for school children and also community. We shall also enhance the school capacity and curriculum to reduce the loss of traditional knowledge. To promote sustainable harvesting regimes and experiment-based eco-technologies for medicinal plants, 40 community action projects will be established in 20 villages (2 villages per PBSs) nearby PBSs. The action projects will encourage the growth of medicinal plants as a commercial crop among community. Establishment of market linkages will further increase the market value of the herbal products. These village action projects will indirectly affect the livelihoods of all the inhabitants of the villages. They will be exposed to alternative livelihood options that can inspire them and can be taken up in the years to come. Traditional health healers from 20 villages will be selected and trained to enhance medicinal plant based health system in villages. The linkages between PBSs, medicinal plant cultivators (action project owners), traditional healers, Ayurvedic University, research institutes, hospitals and medicinal plant based industries will be established through various networking, capacity building and liaison among them.
Although medicinal plants are a hot topic for debate there are few projects that create structures for education AND conservation of medicinal plants for community health care. This linking of conservation, education and the use of medicinal plants makes our project different relevance to the Grant Programme. Our project will support India in delivering the Millennium Development Goals related to poverty, education and the role of women.
The project goal is to conserve and sustain medicinal plant biodiversity in Gujarat state, India through school education and community actions in rural areas of Gujarat state. The objectives of the project are:
to integrate knowledge of biodiversity and medicinal plants back into the programmes of schools
to link the scientific knowledge of the use of medicinal plants present in Ayurvedic universities, hospitals and research institutes with the local needs and natural resource usages in the PBSs and community.
to create an informal system to provide knowledge of medical plants and advice on their use to the community,
to develop a system of cultivation of traditional medicinal plants in PBSs ground.
to create a greater community awareness of and pride in and respect for the use of medicinal plants
to establish community micro enterprises to grow medical plants as a commercial venture
The project will have the following expected outcomes:
Through both formal and non formal education programmes in the PBSs; children and teachers will be exposed to the knowledge of cultivation and use of local medicinal plants and health care practices. This will increase their awareness for and capacity of preserving and conservation of the local biodiversity. In addition, communities as a whole will be more aware of the importance of their local biodiversity.
School children will get practical training and knowledge on medicinal plants and its uses through experience-based learning centre i.e. BCRA. This will make the children informed citizens, which will help them to strengthen their livelihoods. This knowledge will be more than an investment in their future livelihoods; it will also strengthen their self-esteem and will empower them.
Through the BCRA, experience-based learning centre for the medicinal plant in the PBSs and the village action projects, the conservation of medicinal plants will be promoted. Locally rare species will be reintroduced and threatened species will be conserved and preserved.
The project will provide more secure access to a regular supply of medicinal plants through BCRA and micro action projects to the traditional healers. This will enhance the livelihood of traditional healers in villages. Increased health and health awareness will contribute to the livelihood security of the local population as fewer days work will be lost to ill health.
The traditional, medical plant based health system will be promoted through school education, training programs and the provision of medicinal plants for medication. The traditional knowledge of medical plants will be matched with scientific based health care and will be firmly based in the rural communities. Through the BCRA will have the provision of a rich variety of medical plants, nutritious herbs, etc. This will enhance the health and nutritional security of the school going children.
The livelihoods of the people in the community will be strengthened by action projects, setting up of market linkages, strengthening the local health care practices and securing their natural resource base. The village action projects will indirectly affect the livelihoods of all the inhabitants of the villages. They will be exposed to alternative livelihood options that can inspire them and can be taken up in the years to come.
Many rural communities have low confidence. In the new India it is the fast expanding urban centres and urban lifestyles that people aspire to. Rural communities are generally perceived as being backward. The project will give communities confidence that their traditional lifestyles are equal to others in India.
The results of the project will be shared and disseminated through a variety of mechanism. The project has a high level of capacity building and lateral learning of experiences with various stakeholder groups including local decision makers, NGOs, farmers and teachers. This will help to ensure the sustainability of the project.
Centre for Environment Education
Nehru Foundation for Development
Tel: 079 - 26858002 to 8009
Fax: 079 - 26858010
E-mail: [email protected]
Established as a Centre of Excellence of the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Government of India.