Assorted ‘hunting guns’ submitted by the villagers are put on display at the platform of Kivikhu Baptist Church during the Sunday devotional service on October 8. To be kept in the safe custody Church, the guns were submitted to show their commitment for protecting and preserving biodiversity. (Photo Courtesy: Ivan Zhimomi)
A unique wildlife conservation project is underway in Zunheboto district
Dimapur | October 17
Last week, when the ‘Wildlife Week 2017’ was celebrated across Nagaland, the citizens of Kivikhu, a village under Satakha Circle of Zunheboto District, carried out a novel initiative.
They deposited their assorted ‘hunting guns’ at the village church during the Sunday devotional service on October 8. Their objective was protecting and preserving biodiversity.
The guns will be initially kept in the custody of the church for a period of three months.
The action, however, is more symbolic – a declaration to refrain from unrestrained and unsustainable exploitation of natural resources.
It was the outcome of gradual environmental and conservation awareness initiatives over the years.
One of the major triggers was the formation of ‘Biodiversity Conservation and Livelihood Network (BCLN)’ in 2014 comprising of three neighbouring villages i.e. Sükhai, Kivikhu and Ghukhuyi.
While each village had undertaken its own initiative to preserve biodiversity from time to time, this was the first time they came together in common interest.
The main objective of the BCLN was to bring alternative sustainable development through eco-tourism and protection of environment for the present and future generation, Ivan Zhimomi, the BCLN Team leader told The Morung Express.
“The local communities dedicated and sacrificed their land for the preserving biodiversity for future generations without any support from the Central or state government,” he added.
With the complex land holding system in Nagaland, land owners are hard to convince but individuals from the participating villages willingly donated their land, Zhimomi further informed.
A Community Conserved Areas (CCA) covering 1245 hectares was earmarked for the project, with Tizu River as the natural boundary with other villages. It was supported by the ‘GEF-Satoyama Project,’ an international biodiversity initiatives funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and implemented by Conservation International Japan (CI Japan).
The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), a policy research organization based in New Delhi, is the consultant.
For Secretary CCA Kivikhu, Bokato Murru, the initiative carried out was a crucial intervention at the right juncture.
“Our elders talk about different species of animal, birds and other organisms, but even in our lifetime, we have never witnessed them. Even different herbs, fruits and spices are fast disappearing,” he said.
If this is the case for us, forget about seeing, the future generation will not even talk about it, therefore preservation of bio-diversity is most important, Murru maintained.
Initially, the villagers were reluctant as it involves doing away with a regular source of income. “We cannot impose it by force but it should come from awareness and voluntarily,” he opined.
He attributed the submission of guns in the Church as a voluntary action created by the awareness campaign over the years.
The BCLN Team leader maintained that ever since the project, endangered species like Chinese pangolin, Bhutan Glory, and Blyth Tragopans and butterflies were “re-discovered.”
It is gradually attracting many ornithologists and butterflies watchers, he added.
Murru was very candid regarding the changes he observed after the conservation effort.
The animals and birds has become friendlier, he claimed, adding, “They are not afraid of humans anymore and don’t run away while people take pictures.”
However, there are many other concerns. For one, the source of alternative livelihood, especially for those who depend on forest produce through hunting and fishing.
There are tremendous scopes for building home stay, local tourist guide and long term business as other avenues, Zhimomi noted.
However, he said that the next two-three years will be most critical. “If it could be sustained for the next 2-3 years, and more NGOs and organisations are willing to get involved, it would be one of the most successful conservation initiatives,” he maintained.
TERI has already documented a People’s Biodiversity Register (PBR) of Sükhai while that of other two is in printing, Zhimomi said.
Technical inputs and constant capacity building training are given to the youths of the three villages for regular documentation and updating of their CCAs are being undertaken by TERI and four youths of each villages are under internship, he added.
NGOs like Rufford foundation and Titili Trust are constantly working with the local communities for the biodiversity assessment and even the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has shown interest.
CCA, PBR mapping in Nagaland
It must be noted here that in 2013, TERI supported by the Department of Forests, Ecology, Environment and Wildlife of Nagaland have initiated the process of preparing People’s PBRs for the people of Nagaland as part of a larger programme to prepare a comprehensive documentation of Nagaland’s CCAs and biodiversity.
Completed in 2015, the study resulted in the identification of 407 CCAs which accounts for almost a third of the total number of villages in the State of Nagaland. One-third of Nagaland’s villages have constituted CCAs and as many as 82% of these 407 CCAs have completely or partially banned tree felling and/or hunting within the CCAs and enforce various regulations for forest protection.
It contributed extensively to carbon storage (an estimated 120.77 tonnes per hectares), reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation, and act as an important mitigation and adaptation strategy for climate change, the study concluded.