Protection of Wildlife via Social Mainstreaming, Capacity-building and Cooperation with the Indigenous Hunting Tribal Communities of Tharparkar, Pakistan
The project, Pursuing Indigenous Community of Wildlife Hunting Tribes Communities of Tharparkar, to protect wildlife, through social mainstreaming, organization and capacity building was selected for APFED Showcase project in 2007. This one-year project implemented by the Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE), has now concluded, with all intended objectives achieved to greater satisfaction level. SCOPE is continuing a forestry conservation component of the project through a GEF-Small Grants program, which aim is to conserve forest and natural resources and combating desertification with the support of local indigenous communities.
This APFED Showcase supported Project represents an valuable opportunity for scaling-up innovative approaches to sustainable development through South-South cooperation.
Background of the area where project implemented.
Tharparkar District is a semi-arid and sandy area in the South Eastern region of Pakistan, on the Eastern border of India. The District is spread over 22,000 sq. Km. with a human population of about 1.3 million. The majority of people are poor. There are 40% people belonging to non-Muslim religious minority, and out of it about 2% of the population belongs to indigenous people (Kolhi and Bheel). The district is rich in biodiversity including wild fauna and flora. It is declared as a wildlife sanctuary under the provincial law. Nagarparkar area (North-East of Tharparkar District) is particularly very important from biodiversity point of view. There are a number of resident and winter visiting wild species of deer, antelopes, partridges, Siberian Crane, blue bull (Neel gauy), foxes, bustards, wild ass and peacocks. Wild ass, Siberian Crane and Houbara Bustard are included in a rare species list. In this area, a number of plant species, which have medicinal values, are also found. Particularly, Camiphora Mukal (locally known as Guglan) is a gum yielding shrub. This gum is used in modern medicinal industry. In addition, this area has a great potential to declare as National Park, for which SCOPE along with other conservation organizations is lobbying.
However, unfortunately wildlife and its habitat are under severe pressure and threat due to illegal hunting and poaching in whole Tharparkar including Nagarparkar. The local wildlife and forest department do not possess the capacity to halt illegal hunting or deforestation. Hunters from outside towns hire indigenous Kolhi and Bheel people to spot animals and their young ones or eggs for meager amount of money. Kolhi and Bheels are very poor and culturally and economically marginalized. There is little choice for earning their livelihoods. Accordingly, they have become part of a process of wild habitat destruction and wildlife destruction itself as they earn their livelihood by helping hunters and poachers in tracking animals and their eggs / young ones.
Aims and Objectives
In order to protect wildlife in the Tharparkar district, the project aims to develop self -esteem and dignity among these indigenous communities through organizing them and build their collective organizational capacity. The project aims at counseling and 3 pursuing indigenous community of Kolhi / Bheels to give up this harmful practice and rather become wildlife friendly.
During the perception process of the project, it was realized that this could only be possible through offering them alternative livelihood opportunities, social dignity and integration in the mainstream of the society. The other important aspect of the project was to provide them an organizational platform which could become a base for their socio-economical development.
The main idea behind the project was to accept the basic notion that until and unless the local community is not trusted, and not empowered supported to come out of their socioeconomic barriers, the objective of sustainable development and conservation cannot be achieved. Poverty and immediate livelihood needs, sometime push local people to cause
harm to the local environment beyond threshold limits of ecological destruction in the result of hunting and deforestation. A wide spectrum dialogue should be launched among the stakeholders and the society as a whole should help in supporting local communities to meet their socio-economic needs to sustain ecology.
Since the local indigenous communities of Kolhi/ Bheel have been generally blamed for being an instrument to destroy ecology of the Tharparkar area, therefore the primary objective of the project were set to address these issues. The objectives were: To establish a long term partnership with the local communities of indigenous Kolhi/ Bheel people to protect the biodiversity of Tharparkar, and convert them pro-environment from anti-environment community.
The project aims to develop self esteem and dignity among these indigenous communities through organizing them and build their collective organizational capacity. The project aimed at counseling and pursuing indigenous tribes of Kolhi / Bheels to give up this harmful practice and rather become wildlife friendly community. This could only be done through offering them alternative livelihood opportunities, social dignity and integration in the mainstream of the society. The project aim was to provide them an organizational platform which could become a solid base for their socio-economical development.
The objective of the project has almost achieved. This was very difficult task to change occupation related habits of a community, especially the Kolhi/ Bheel community, which has been surviving in a desperate economical situation in drought affected area like Tharparkar, where the economical opportunities are already very limited. But The most positive and encouraging thing observed in the implementation of the project was that the hunting community, without any resistance agreed the notion that wildlife is an integral part of our ecology and hunting of wild animals is not in favor of ecology or even the survival of these communities themselves. They also accepted the religious interpretation that these animals are their relatives and they got to protect them, rather hunting them for livelihood. Now they are willing to give up hunting and further and even they don’t hunt for habit or for pleasure.
Keeping in mind project team identified some alternative livelihood means with communities such as handicrafts making, in which these communities have shown some interest. However this transition from hunting to other usual trades will take some time. There is a need that this effort be linked with the credit giving facility. SCOPE however has given some limited credits to a group of Kolhi community to initiate a handcraft business and this step turned to be very encouraging as the group not only initiated the business but they were able to return the loan.
1. APFED Showcase Forum for Environment and Development Showcase Programme
2. Institute for Global Environment Strategies (IGES)
3. Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE)