ACADEMY OF DEVELOPMENT SCIENCE
KASHELE POST, KARJAT TALUKA
RAIGAD DISTRICT, MAHARASHTRA 410 201, INDIA
1. The “Western Ghats” hill ranges stretch to about 1600 km, starting from the mouth of river Tapti in Dhule District of Maharashtra and ending at Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of India in Tamil Nadu. The region covers an area of 1,60,000 Sq. Km., supporting a population of more than 50 million people. Western Ghats are an important source of water, energy and biological diversity. The region is also rich in iron, manganese, and bauxite ores. About 30 per cent area is covered with forest and maintenance of ecological balance of these hill ranges is essential for maintaining the life-support systems of peninsular India.
2. The Western Ghats are among the ecologically richest regions of India, next only to the Himalayas, in the diversity of its biological species. Its climate and rainfall patterns have produced a variety of ecological niches with unique plant and animal species. Of the 15,000 plant species recorded so far, 4,000 are endemic to the region. 586 species from the region are endangered and feature in the 'Red Data' book. Seventy five per cent of animal species found are reptiles and amphibians. The number of animals in the endangered list are 10 mammals.
3. The Western Ghats-Sri Lanka region is considered as one of the eight 'hottest' biodiversity hotspots of the 34 identified biodiversity hotspots worldwide.
4. The region boasts of a tremendous diversity of plant and animal life. The diverse natural wealth of the region is an important source of livelihood for a number of ethnic (or tribal) communities inhabiting the region. For instance, local communities harvest nearly 150 uncultivated food plants and more than 500 medicinal plants from forests for food and medicine. The forests are also a source of varied NTFPs and industrial raw materials. However, forests in the Western Ghats region are under increasing stress due to over exploitation, degradation and habitat destruction. There is noticeable decline in the plant and animal diversity over the past 10-15 years. Reduced availability of forest resources has a direct impact on the livelihoods and health of the poor.
ADS conservation initiatives
5. Academy of Development Science (ADS), which is based at the foot hills of Western Ghats in the Raigad District of Maharashtra, is deeply concerned about livelihoods of tribal communities. ADS has initiated different programmes to promote conservation of medicinal plants, fruit trees, bamboo as well as the diversity of agricultural crops in the Western Ghats region.
6. For the past 20 years ADS has been working on conservation of cultivated and uncultivated biodiversity in the region. ADS has set up field gene parks for medicinal plants, forest trees, fruit trees, bamboos and food crops on over 50 acres of land. For instance, ADS has in its collection over 400 traditional varieties (or landraces) of rice, millets, pulses & vegetables along with over 500 species of medicinal plants; 25 species of bamboo and nearly 150 varieties of 8 different fruit trees. ADS is trying to actively link the rich diversity in plants to the livelihoods, food security and health of local tribal communities.
7. Conservation of medicinal plants has been an important area of concern for ADS. Apart from the ‘conservation’ outlook, ADS has a keen interest in exploring use of medicinal plants for the health care needs of tribal people. Tribal people in Karjat Taluka have been using over 300 medicinal plant species for their health care needs. Unfortunately, the plants, as well as the knowledge about their use, are rapidly declining as forests shrink and tribals move away from their customary lifestyles. For instance, over 100 medicinal plants have become rare in the region due to over exploitation and habitat destruction. It is quite likely that they will be pushed further in the corner.
8. The ADS initiative on conservation of medicinal plants has been acknowledged as a pioneering effort in India. As part of this work, ADS has set up a medicinal plants garden, nursery, seed bank and herbarium on 25 acres of land near Kashele village. The garden has a collection of over 500 medicinal plants that grow luxuriantly in the lush green environs of the moist deciduous tropical forest. Saplings of over 150 different medicinal plant species are raised in the nursery for distribution and plantation programmes in tribal villages.
9. The ADS conservation centre is acting as a storehouse of biodiversity and knowledge and is actively encouraging local tribal children to learn more about food crops, uncultivated foods, medicinal plants and forest trees used by their fathers, mothers and fore-fathers. It is also playing an active role in promoting multiplication and plantation of rare/ threatened medicinal plants.
10. At the moment the medicinal plants garden lacks facilities and services that are important for fulfilling the needs and objects of prospective visitor groups and individuals. For instance, good demonstration/ education plots; name plates; informative boards; small paths to reach various parts of the garden; shelters to sit, discuss and relax; etc.
11. At another level, ADS is finding it difficult to raise funds for the conservation initiative from donors who support conventional development work. The medicinal plants garden, nursery, herbarium and seed centre need regular inputs for maintenance.
12. Certain aspects in the garden such as layout, name plates, nursery, herbarium, seed centre, etc. need additional technical inputs and guidance.
13. The proposed project is an attempt to strengthen the medicinal plants garden of ADS in efforts to enhance self-sustainability of the conservation initiative. Efforts will be made to generate revenue by organising study tours, research projects and training programmes for schools, colleges and other interest groups/ individuals on issues like medicinal plant identification, herbarium methodology, nursery techniques, cultivation, sustainable harvesting, medicine processing, etc. A Dispensary-cum-Pharmacy will provide essential services for the local tribal people and also generate additional revenue through sale of herbal medicine.
What will be done?
14. ADS will undertake the following activities:
a. Collect and introduce more medicinal plants from forests.
b. Strengthen the collection of rare, endangered medicinal plants by introducing diverse genotypes from different locations.
c. Set up theme-based demonstration/ education plots for lay persons to promote use of medicinal plants.
d. Improve name plates, boards and signage.
e. Repair roads and footpaths so that school children as well as adults can easily walk and reach different parts of the garden.
f. Strengthen and improve the water distribution system through rain water harvesting; deepen an existing well and extend the pipeline to parts of the garden which need water.
g. Repair the existing Herbarium building.
h. Construct a low-cost centre for setting up the Pharmacy-cum-dispensary within the garden. The Pharmacy will be engaged in production and sale of a wide range of herbal medicines for primary health care to visitors and patients. It will be an important source of revenue for maintenance of the garden.
i. Build 2-3 shelters at various points of the garden for visitors to sit, discuss and relax.
j. Print an attractive brochure to give information about the herbal garden and to generate interest in medicinal plants conservation amongst city people.
k. Organise study tours and visits by schools, colleges and other interest groups.
How will these steps help the garden become self-supporting?
15. The improved layout, signage, infrastructure and facilities are necessary for organising study tours and visits for schools, colleges and other interest groups from cities. ADS will charge a fee for study tours and visits to the garden. This will translate into steady income for the garden.
16. The Dispensary-cum-Pharmacy will generate revenue for the garden by offering essential medical services and through sale of herbal medicines to visitors.
17. The income through these two sources will enable ADS to meet expenses on maintenance, upgradation, etc. The medicinal plants garden will thus turn into a self-supporting entity over a period of time.
18. More importantly, the garden will then play a much more effective role in communicating the message of conservation to school and college students.
No. Budget head Amount
1 Fencing and road repairs 40,000.00
2 Water distribution system 35,000.00
3 Rain Water Harvesting 75,000.00
4 Equipment/ Tools 10,000.00
5 Plant surveys and collection tours in forest areas 25,000.00
6 Introduction of new plants 10,000.00
7 Mud pots 15,000.00
8 Raising medicinal plants nursery (@Rs. 0.5 per sapling). Total 100,000 saplings. 50,000.00
9 Shade house for housing rare/ endangered and delicate plants. 1,200 sq.ft. 100,000.00
10 Work shed for storage of mud, organic manures, mud pots, equipment, tools, etc. 100,000.00
11 Demonstration plots 25,000.00
12 Name plates, boards, etc. 25,000.00
13 Repairs to the Herbarium and Seed Bank 80,000.00
14 Construction of a low-cost Dispensary-cum-Pharmacy. 800 sq.ft @Rs.300 per sq.ft. 240,000.00
15 Printing of brochure 15,000.00
Total amount 845,000.00