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Mandla, Madhya Pradesh
         
Agro-ecological Zone : Central Highlands (Malwa and Bundelkhand) Region   Project Districts : Mandla
River basin : Gaur, Balai and Banjar of Narmada   Mean Annual Rainfall : 1588 mm
Major Soil Types : Shallow to deep loamy to clayey mixed red and black soils   Forest Types : Tropical Moist Deciduous Forests
Major Habitats : Forests, Grasslands, Gorge and Rock Cliffs   Nearest Protected Area : Kanha National Park and Tiger Reserve
Threatened Species : Tiger, Swamp Deer, Green Avadavat, Vultures (Gypsbengalensis, Gyps tenuirostris), Sterculiaurens, Terminaliaarjuna   Percentage of Common Lands including Forest : 74%
Percentage of People Living below Poverty Line : 56%   Percentage of Scheduled Castes/Tribes : 66%
Area under Protection : 1,092 ha   Village Institutions Associated With : 78
Total Households of Project Villages : 5,290   Indigenous Communities : Gond (60%) and Baiga(14%)

Description

The Mandla project area in Madhya Pradesh is nestled in the Satpura hill ranges in the basins of three small tributaries of the River Narmada, namely the Gaur, Banjar and Matiyari. The forests in the region are classified as moist deciduous to mixed deciduous type, with the Kanha National Park a major feature of the larger landscape. Unfortunately, this district which abounds in natural resources is also one of the most backward in India. The population is predominately tribal, mainly Gonds and Baigas, who are largely dependent on the forests for their livelihood.

We began working in the area in 2006, and are presently working along the borders of the Kanha National Park, our twin objectives being to conserve natural resources and to improve local livelihoods. With low productivity of farmlands, increased sale of fuel wood, high dependence on wages, and high incidence of migration being common to the area, we have mounted a series of farm-based interventions to improve agricultural practices and promote homestead gardens.

A study of landscape-level vulnerabilities in the Matiyari river basin has shown that the high degree of forest-degradation is mainly engendered by injudicious land-use practices, and lack of protection. As the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) is still in its formative years, there is considerable scope for imaginatively extending its application to conservation of nature and measures for ecological restoration.

We are geared to working along with the Gram Sabha (the fourth tier of Panchayati Raj institutions) in developing perspective plans for development of its villages, and in enabling, through the NREGA, improved natural resources and associated livelihoods. We are also discussing with Village Forest Committees formal arrangements for leveraging NREGA for restoring forestlands. In anticipation of raising the scale of NREGA implementation, we have undertaken capacity-building programmes for village stewards who would further the cause of conservation-oriented development in the villages, and also be sensitized to democratic processes in village-level governance.

By working on issues concerning rural livelihoods, betterment of natural resources, and strengthening of local-governance institutions, we shall extend our activities to villages adjacent to the protected area, and focus our energies on making local communities partners in efforts towards conservation.

 

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