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Koraput, Orissa
         
Agro-ecological Zone : Eastern Plateau (Chhotanagpur) and Eastern Ghats   Project Districts : Koraput
River basin : Kolab   Mean Annual Rainfall : 1540 mm
Major Soil Types : Deep loamy red and lateritic soils   Forest Types : Tropical Moist Deciduous Forests
Major Habitats : Forests, Grasslands, Bamboo brakes   Nearest Protected Area : Kangerghati National Park, Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary
Threatened Species : Elephant, Themedasaxicola, Strobilanthes Jeyporensis   Percentage of Common Lands including Forest : 28.28%
Percentage of People Living below Poverty Line : 83.81%   Percentage of Scheduled Castes/Tribes : 62.66%
Area under Protection : 2,195 ha   No. of Village Institutions Associated With : 48
Total Households of Project Villages : 4310   Indigenous Communities : Kond(40%), Paraja(20%), Gadava(10%)

Description

Highland plateau and hill ranges of the Eastern Ghats are the key topographical features of Koraput, set in southern Orissa. The area is drained by five major rivers. The forests are of moist deciduous type with salbeing the principal tree species. Severe extraction over the last few decades has drastically reduced the forest cover in the area. The district is a Schedule V area, with more than 60% population belonging to Kond and other tribes. Shorter cycles in shifting cultivation, weaker linkages between forest and agriculture production systems, increasing fragmentation of land holdings all pose a threat to the subsistence agriculture practised by the tribal communities. Inequitable land ownership patterns, unviable land-use practices, along with a weak appreciation of local governance institutions (in which the right to manage natural resources is vested) are some of the major hurdles that have to be overcome.

Initiated in 2008, we have been working on the upper ridges of the Kolab river basin and two of its tributaries, with plans to cover 96 habitations in 45 revenue villages. Our efforts include the conservation and judicious use of natural resources; enabling arrangements for community access to such resources; and developing livelihood options that are in consonance with the functioning of the ecosystem. Our interventions are designed towards leveraging NREGA for the restoration of degraded landscapes, as well as improving the democratic functioning of Panchayats with particular focus on natural resources.

An exercise to assess the extent of soil erosion has helped bring to light the severity of the problem in the area and to design suitable interventions. We helped draw up comprehensive land-use plans to implement land restoration under watershed and other development programmes. Besides regeneration and protection of forests on the uplands, increasing the diversity of crops/vegetables and introducing innovative and cost-effective irrigation measures are important strategies for both conservation of natural resources and improvement in the livelihoods of tribal communities.

While regular meetings at the Gram Panchayat level are helping build a larger forum for conservation of forests and natural resources, we perceive the involvement of multiple actors and agencies in the area as critical to promote the conservation ethic in the region. Given the vast extent of degraded uplands in the area, the challenge is to extend vegetative cover on the uplands so as tor educe soil erosion, and increase incomes.

 

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