Conservation

The NTFP Exchange Programme India engages in both in situ as well as ex situ conservation. The first, while protecting and conserving standing community forests (sacred groves, village commons and, more recently, forests claimed under the Forest Rights Act); the second, while restoring degraded lands or replanting in areas that have declined in the number of species. The latter also includes a conscious effort to plant RET species and to protect them over time. In some areas where the network is active small patches of forests have also been conserved; the community that has been responsible for such protection is able to manage some of their nistar needs from these areas.

ConservationEx situ conservation entails seed collection of native species, plant nurseries, and planting. Over the past decade this has been done in large scale, helping restore many degraded lands and forests in various states. Seed exchanges and training about nursery techniques and planting have been regular affairs for the network.

An important aspect of conservation within the NTFP Exchange Programme has been barefoot ecology. This is a hands-on method of engaging local indigenous communities access and monitor their forests, using both traditional knowledge as well as scientific methods. Using such integrated techniques the communities in an area are able to make simple biodiversity assessments of their forests and flag RET species, threatened NTFPs, and potential risks which then allow the network to plan appropriate interventions to counter these forces. To guide NTFP harvesting a set of protocols have been created by using field data, the protocols listed according to the plant part harvested (leaf, fruit, seed, root, flower, bark); these protocols are being reassessed, especially due to changing ecological scenarios, an important one being climate change.

As the NTFP EP works essentially with indigenous peoples there is much emphasis in customary knowledge and how conservation and forest health is perceived by the people. A related aspect is the transfer of such knowledge between generations; this has gained an urgency as the changes and effects of urbanization and development have pervaded many areas of indigenous life.