Yesterday, we had a visit by D.N. Tewari. He is an Indian specialist with a distinguished career in forestry management. He was the first Director-General of the Indian Council for Forestry Research and Education, former member of the Indian Planning Commission, former Trustee of ICRAF – the World Agroforestry Centre, former Member of FAO working group on biodiversity and much more.
Dr Tewari is also the Founder and Director of Utthan, Centre for Sustainable Development & Poverty Alleviation. INBAR and Utthan developed a project some twenty years ago in an attempt to help local communities near Allahabad who were living on totally degraded soils in an area that had been devastated through years of brick making. The brick-making industry had come to a halt, and the soils were so bad that there was no opportunity to grow crops or make a living.
Natural regeneration of the historical tree cover would take tens of years, so the plan was hatched to use bamboo as a means to speed up the process of ecosystem regeneration. This was the start of the “Greening Red Earth” project that has been described in an INBAR report from 2003. We are returning to the project area later this year to review what has happened since, and to be able to record the development, but Dr Tewari told us yesterday in broad terms what the impact of the project has been: In 15 years, some 90,000 hectares of mined soil has been rehabilitated in the project area, but similar work elsewhere by Utthan and its partners has resulted in upgrading of millions of hectares of degraded lands. Side effects of the projects have also included literacy classes for the workers in the nurseries, access to vaccination and sanitation and general improvement of the living condition of nearly 1 million households.
The project is a case study of a success story, but there are new challenges, and Dr Tewari listed the following as areas where INBAR could help.
- Policy constraints. Some areas are over-regulated and therefore nothing happens. Other areas have little or no regulation and therefore the wrong decisions are taken. Overall, there is need for policies at national level to guide sustainable development
- There is lots of money available for rural development, but most of it is locked up in large funds with institutions that require project proposals to access the funds. Local communities have limitations in project formulation and writing of proposals. Training by local organisations like Utthan is critical, and INBAR should liaise with in-country expertise to facilitate this.
- International trade in forest products is regulated through certification and standards. Bamboo and rattan are often treated as a tree product, leading to unnecessary red-tape. There is need for awareness and education both in producing countries and in the countries that import bamboo and rattan.
- There has been some exciting field work in the past years, but a lot is hidden in project reports, local language research papers, or institutional archives. We need more publications to illustrate the benefits of bamboo and rattan and to document the progress that has been made in developing the resources sustainably.
- INBAR should take the global stage and talk about the values and benefits of bamboo and rattan so that those outside the traditional bamboo community will learn and understand what the opportunities and challenges are for bamboo and rattan producers.
The advice from Dr Tewari fits very well with my own understanding of priorities and future direction for INBAR:
- Ensuring that bamboo and rattan are included in socio-economic and environmental development policies at national, regional and international level
- Coordinating inputs from a global network of members and partners and representing the needs of Members on the global stage, including the development of production standards and trade regulations
- Sharing knowledge, providing training, communicating lessons learned and raising awareness about the socio-economic and environmental values of bamboo and rattan
- Promoting adaptive research and on-the-ground innovation by helping to establish pilot best-practice case studies and supporting up-scaling of successful practices across the INBAR Member countries.