Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) Programme : Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) Program is a joint initiative between the French Development Agency, Global Environment Facility, Govt. of Japan, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The World Bank and the Conservation International to protect the important and threatened ecosystems across the globe. The present Manas Conservation Project undertaken by Dolphin Foundation is a project under CEPF Eastern Himalaya Eco-region Conservation Program.
Manas has always been a priority site for Dolphin Foundation. It is considered as an Indian part of Bhutan Biological Conservation Complex (B2C2), an important landscape in Eastern Himalaya Eco-region. The World Heritage Site Manas is considered as one of the priority habitat for tiger, Asian elephant, Indian rhino, pigmy hog, hispid hare along with other 16 endangered species found in the region.
But this unique piece of natural heritage had become highly threatened by unabated deforestation through logging and encroachment. This trail of destruction could be rooted back to an ethnic unrest happened in the area for a prolonged period of time. Studies carried out by Dolphin Foundation had clearly showed that excessive livelihood dependency and unemployment were among the major factors for destabilization of the park.
Dolphin Foundation’s CEPF project is a noble endeavor to enhance the protection of Manas by minimizing the dependency of the fringe village communities on the forest resources of Manas through promotion of Alternative Sustainable Livelihoods. The project is currently in execution in the fringe areas under western range of Manas National Park. The program was started in January 2008 and successfully completed one year of implementation. During this one year period the following activities have been carried out.
Institutionalization and strengthening of Community Based Organizations (CBOs) to promote Alternative Sustainable Livelihoods (ASL) in the fringe village areas :
In order to develop a third front to sustain the effort of promoting ASL the project has been strengthening the local CBOs from the target villages from the project area. The members of the CBOs have been given trainings on the technical aspects of various livelihoods, mainly Handloom, Sericulture and Apiculture. The trained CBO members would be responsible for promotion of different ASLs in their respective villages.
Generating Awareness on the need of promoting ASL :
A community based awareness program has been designed and is under execution now to promote ASL in the project area. Under the program regular meetings, awareness camps are being organized with the help of some of the selected CBOs in the target villages. An awareness pamphlet was also developed and distributed widely among the communities for promotion of ASL in the project area.
Stakeholders Consultation Workshop :
A Stakeholders’ Consultation Workshop was organized to ensure participation of all the important stakeholders in the project implementation and various strategies were discussed for promotion of ASL and their scope.
Community forest Development program :
The project has been developing Community Forests in the fringe areas of Manas to provide alternative source for firewood. The unused barren land parcels in the village areas are being converted to Community Forests with active involvement from the communities.
Alternative Livelihood promotional Exhibition :
To generate enthusiasm among the villagers and to make them aware about the scope and benefits of taking up the program promoted livelihoods, a special Livelihood Exhibition was organized in the project area. More than 50 participants from the target villages had joined the event and demonstrated their produces from various areas like – Handloom, Sericulture, Apiculture, Handicrafts, Medicinal plants, traditional food items, intensive agriculture etc. Moreover, technical and commercial lectures by the Govt. departmental personnel were also organized during the exhibition hours.
Promotion of Sericulture (Eri-culture) :
The project has developed Castor plant gardens (Riccinus communis), the major food plant for Eri (Attacus ricini) in the community land of the fringe areas of Manas to provide regular source for food plants to raise Eri-caterpillar. This has largely addressed the major problem of supply of insufficient food plant for raising of Eri in the target areas.
Reorganizing the previous beneficiaries for leverage of additional resources for promotion :
The beneficiaries of the previous livelihood generation program of DF were facilitated to form Self Help Groups (SHG) for leverage of additional resources for promotion of program promoted livelihoods. Financial information and market links are being provided to the newly formed SHGs.
Strengthening CBOs :
As a strengthening exercise the selected CBOs are provided with office furniture and other materials for promotion of alternative livelihoods.