Natural Resource Management & Climate Change
Nature has blessed with plethora of natural resources which include sunlight, water, atmosphere, land, vegetation, animal life, etc. Conservation of these resources is very important for sustaining life on earth. However, indiscriminate exploitation of these resources for fulfilling developmental needs of the mankind has disturbed the ecological balance because of which issues like climate change have started appearing. From deforestation and extensive use of chemicals to pollution and depletion of these resources, we have disturbed this balance in several forms. Because of this, we are seeing several effects like erratic rainfalls, extreme weathers, increased frequency of natural calamities, melting of glaciers, rise in sea level, occurrence of several diseases, difficulty in general survival, etc. Livelihood itself, which was being presented as the key reason for compromising with conservation of natural resources, is now at risk because of climate change. Conservation of natural resources is, therefore, extremely important.
Globally, the importance of the issue has been realized and because of the same United Nations Convention of Climate Change (UNCCC) was signed in 1992 and was followed by Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and then Paris Agreement in 2016. Global commitment to resolve the issue in time bound manner has been furthered with, ‘Urgent Action to Combat Climate Change and its impact’ being recognized as Sustainable Development Goal 13 by the United Nations. India, too, has ratified the Paris Agreement and is making sincere efforts to resolve the same as per the commitment with its National Action Plan on Climate Change being in place.
The issue of Climate Change is a priority at Prayatn too and we understand that natural resource management (NRM) is necessary to address the same. We are, therefore, making intensive efforts to generate community awareness in this regard.However, we also understand the mutual relation between natural resource management and other developmental issues including women empowerment, child development, health and nutrition, water and sanitation as well as livelihood development and make efforts so that they go hand in hand. As such, natural resource management gets reflected in all our interventions as a cross-cutting theme.
Prayatn has developed collectives of children, adolescent girls, adults in general and women in particular. Issues related with natural resource management and climate change ranging from conserving water, reducing pollution, using renewable sources of energy, etc. get reflected in the discussions with them as well as other activities. These institutions are, therefore, making efforts like planting more and more trees, conserving water, abandoning use of plastics, increasing use of solar energy etc.
This is probably the easiest way of addressing the issue of climate change. We educate children as well as adult community members on importance of planting more and more trees and taking due care of them. As such, they undertake plantation in school campus, public health facilities as well as village and develop systems and mechanisms to take care of them. These systems and mechanisms include regular watering, regulating grazing by cattle as well as preventing deforestation. Development of kitchen gardens is also an important means in this regard which helps in meeting nutritional and health requirements while increasing green cover of the village.
Plastics have emerged as greatest threat to environment in the modern world. Use of plastics was less in rural areas earlier, when compared with urban areas but it has increased steeply as pouches of gutkha, polyethene bags, non-biodegradable disposable cutlery, etc. are becoming popular here as well. We educate children as well as adults for reducing use of plastics through awareness sessions, campaigns, etc. Wehave even supported green plate making units as a part of our livelihood development support initiatives.
Sunlight is a renewable source of energy that is easily available almost everywhere. Prayatn has encouraged use of solar energy through awareness generation about its importance and supporting erection of solar street lights and solar water pumps wherever required. We are also educating them on importance of electricity as means of saving environment along with money.
In rural as well as urban areas wherever drinking water is available free of cost, we find it getting wasted because of absence of tap or the same being damaged. We educate community members that water is precious but is being provided by the government at subsidized rate because it is essential for life. It should not be wasted and proper taps should be placed wherever required.
Traditional ways of agriculture were not causing any harm to the environment but increasing population to feed created pressure on farmers in India to adopt ways that increased agricultural production but were not environment friendly. Use of chemicals as fertilizers and pesticides resulted in increased agricultural production but it also led to land and water pollution. Such practices need greater availability of water for irrigation and adequate surface water was not available for the same. As such, use of ground water started resulting in fall in water table. To address this situation, Prayatn encouraged better and environment friendly practices like organic farming, soil and water conservation, development of water harvesting structures, etc. which not only help in conserving these and recharging them but also in increasing agricultural productivity in sustainable manner.
Organic farming yields better agricultural production in long term while conserving natural resources like soil and water. We are, therefore, motivating farmers to abandon use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and to adopt use of organic manure and natural ways of pest management. Use of compost and vermin-compost has been promoted by training farmers on their importance and preparation process and supporting compost and vermi-compost making pits in their farm lands. Natural ways of pest management, on the other hand, include development and use of organic pesticides likefoliar spraysmade of livestock urine, dung and Neem leaves, undertaking intercropping and crop rotation, etc. Besides rendering better quality and safe yield, the process helps in promoting animal husbandry and biodiversity conservation.
If soil and water are not conserved properly, larger area for agriculture will be required to meet the growing demand of foodgrains, vegetables, fruits, etc. for feeding the increasing population. Processes like proper land treatment and bunding increases productivity of the available land by preventing soil erosion and runaway of surface water. Prayatn, therefore, trains farmers in this regard and ensures availability of necessary equipment like tractor, ploughs, leveler, etc. through arrangements like Agricultural Tool Banks. Experts from within the organization as well as institutions like Krishi Vigyan Kendras are involved to guide farmers in this regard. Generating awareness on soil testing and its fertility management on the basis of same is also a very important component of our efforts for soil conservation.
Water harvesting structures like anicuts, check dams, etc., help in tapping surface water for meeting requirements like irrigation, drinking and other domestic uses and help recharging ground water. This process helps in conserving biodiversity as a lot of plants and trees grow naturally as the moisture content in the soil increases. With improvement in drinking water availability and vegetative cover, the process helps in supporting local fauna as well.
Prayatn’s direct intervention on animal welfare has remained focused upon welfare of livestock which includes cattle, fishery, poultry and working animals like equines. India has world’s second largest population of livestock after Brazil but there welfare has not been focused adequately. Prayatn has tried to address this issue by reinstating their importance for livelihood security of poor while highlighting their importance for ecological balance. In this process, we have worked for welfare of working animals like equines while supporting rearing of cows, buffaloes, goats and poultry.
Equines including donkeys, mules and horses are tamed as working animals for carrying load. With automobiles becoming more popular, their use has reduced and proper care is not taken because of non availability of adequate health care services for them at affordable rates. Prayatn developed a mobile veterinary health unit for extending preventive as well as curative health care services to these animals engaged in brick kilns in Dhaulpur, Morena and Agra districts. The team used to reach out to all the brick kilns, however remote, and undertake check-up of the animals, counsel the owners of the animal as well as the brick kiln about proper nutrition and care of the asset as well as undertake their treatment on-site as per requirement free of cost. Sensitization and capacity building of service providers like farriers, barbers, public and private veterinary health service providers, pharmacists, etc., was also undertaken knowing that service providers having due expertise on equine health care are very low and their expertise has remained limited to milch cattle like cows, buffaloes, goats etc.
Prayatn has supported rearing of milk yielding animals like cows, buffaloes and goats for livelihood development of poor families living in rural areas. While rearing of these animals is traditionally known to most of the rural people, we link them with public as well as private experts so that they are able to take best care of them. The economic advantage provided by the animal helps and motivates the poor owner to take best care of the same.