Green Phoenix

Long term vision

To transform areas around Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary (referred to below as Gurukula, the Sanctuary, GBS) and elsewhere (such as the Nilgiris) into a wildlife-biodiversity reserve through cooperative land care, transition from farm-to-forest system; community based participation, upstream Kaveri/Kabini headwaters restoration; to create educational frameworks to share restoration techniques, ex-situ and nursery techniques with native plant species; biodiversity renewal and wildlife monitoring; to nurture community sustainability through local exchange. and pledge a series of community-based measures for the benefit of the whole; organize waste collection and recycling; initiate women to food processing with local organic biodiversity-friendly produce; and to bring about a resilient neighbourhood based on eco-socialist principles.

Background

The Green Phoenix is a vision grown out of the Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary’s work in plant conservation, land restoration, nature education and forest-farm practices. We won the Whitley award in 2006 under this name. The key ideas here are:

Whereas till now, these actions have been implemented at a 63 acre collectively-run and managed locale in Wayanad, and through educational collaborations with schools, as well as, in part, the management plan of the forest department in the Nilgiris, and consultative land care measures with various NGOs, it is now time to launch it amongst local small farmers, as well as large landholders, who seek to bring back wildlife and vegetation and forest based practices. One of the main beneficiaries of this will be the Kaveri river itself and downstream communities, who are all critically affected by river flow and quality. The Kallampuzha headwater stream by which Gurukula exists, runs to the Kabini and is in danger of severe degradation.


Location 1: Gurukula neighbourhood, Wayanad

1: The Gurukula neighbourhood consists of forest on one side, and small farms on all others, most owned by local farmers, and some by absentee landlords. There is one large tea estate. Gurukula itself is 63 acres cooperatively managed, though owned by several different entities: two organizations and several individuals. This has led to a vibrant landbase, rich with plants and animals, organic cultivation for food, and also employment for 30 people over many years, and attractive to schools and colleges from all over the region, as a place to learn ecology, forest ethics, wildlife protection, ecosystem gardening and integrated land care.

One of the sources of financial support for the Sanctuary is from individuals/organizations concerned with wildlife and forest restoration, in other words: paid ecosystem services, a dangerous term in our opinion, that has been used to monetize the natural world. This being said, small farmers in our area need to be remunerated sufficiently to encourage them to shift to forest-friendly practices and to get away from the monoculture economy that is terrible for the land, the people and generally everyone! Every year that the natural world, including traditional human communities, gets support, the better is its chance of resilience in the long run.This is the idea we need to share with neighbours, that they too can benefit from the same type of clients/donors/organizations of Gurukula, if they decide to serve the natural world.

2. There are many positive factors to the Gurukula neighbourhood, it is still quite rich in terms of plant and animal life, it has proximity to an excellent rainforest, it is partly organic (every homestead will have some area for home consumption that is organic, while the commercial crops are chemically treated); there are two tribes; of the main population most are small farmers who are quite politically and environmentally aware.

3. There are many negative factors: the push for development is bringing in large machinery, roads, resorts, traffic, pesticide based ill-health, and environmental stresses like water shortage, destruction of streams and river for short term crops, migration of peoples. People are more and more profit-minded, and less and less community-minded.

4. The Sanctuary has been working towards a resurgent land-based community which values the land for itself, and plants and animals, and streams and local people. GBS is located in the headwaters of the Kabini, which leads to the Kaveri, and upstream practices have enormous consequences on people and nature downstream. The nearby forest is under the aegis of the Kerala Forest Department, the tributary Kallampuzha flows out into the Sanctuary's neighbourhood, and then is under the revenue department. The poromboke area along the river is often used for annual crops which are toxic to the water, fish and wildlife. There are dangerous fishing practices prevalent as well. It is clear that forest horticultural practices of olden times need to be brought back, so that the whole area functions as a living unity, and also river restoration needs to be urgently implemented to protect otters, fish, kingfishers, owls and so on.

5. If local people could be sufficiently remunerated, it is sure that they would opt for ecosystem nurturance, organic farming, annual to perennial transformation, biodiversity monitoring, watershed regeneration through planting native trees, cultivation of old varieties of various crop plants, and also local exchange. This is partly due to the fact that cancer rates are high in the area from pesticide use, and the agricultural economy is fickle.

6. With the advent of aggressive tourism into Kerala, and recently into the Gurukula neighbourhood, it is important that local people have an option that they see as more valuable than selling the land to city-based resorts, or migration.

Location 2: Nilgiris

Since 2001 GBS has been following the state of native shola grasslands in the Upper Nilgiris, a highly endangered ecosystem. A two year study led to a series of park management changes for the Tamil Nadu Forest Department at Mukurthi National Park. From 2010 onwards Vasanth Godwin Bosco, formerly a student on a Gurukula course, initiated a study of the remnant plant communities of the Upper Nilgiris and an exhaustive study of the problems of ecological devastation and possibilities of resurgence and renewal. Vasanth has also set up a successful native tree and grassland nursery, and undertaken several restoration projects in that landscape. Vasanth is now ready to expand his work, and requires assistance for managing his nursery. More on his work can be found at his website Upstream Ecology which is supported by the Green Phoenix.

The Proposal

To launch the Green Phoenix, a movement to ecosystem recovery involving a membership and a fellowship to enable the following transitions:

There are several ways to facilitate payment:

Pilot initiative 1 currently with six persons in neighbourhood of Gurukula in Wayanad who call themselves the Kallampuzha Koottaru

We have secured a small fund for six individuals in the neighbourhood of Gurukula, who are already passionate about wildlife, and wish to serve the forest through intelligent stewardship, and alsosup-port their community. They are being supported to monitor the neighbourhood for baseline wildlife and water pollution levels, and also to liaise with others in the future when this becomes a viable option for more people. All own small pieces of land, and two also work on common lands to cultivate crops.

The fund will cover a small stipend/salary to initiate monitoring protocols, begin surveys on behalf of Gurukula's long term vision, undertake river cleaning activities, and slowly shift their lands to organic, start a tree nursery, and eventually to recruit neighbourhood teams/individuals/families for the same.

Here's a blogpost on their river cleaning action in October-December 2017

Pilot initiative 2 Vasanth Godwin Bosco’s nursery in Ooty towards habitat restoration in the Nilgiris

We have secured funds for Vasanth to expand the native species nursery in order to replant and restore areas dedicated for restoration. He needs funds nursery materials, and wages for one gardener right now. In time as he secures more projects (currently he has three) this will require more support.

Long term Funding Plan

To eventually secure Rs. 10,000 per month/per acre of land (member) or Rs. 10,000 permonth/ per fellow to be protected/restored/diversified from farm-to-forest/stream regenerated/ecosystem recovered, for a total of about 200 acres in 5 years.

All donations to the Green Phoenix are received by Munnarakkunnu Trust, which is a charitable trust registered in Bangalore, with FCRA clearance and 80G and 12A


Green Phoenix Report of April 2018