ATREE and the earthian Continuous Engagement Programme: Explore and learn

ATREE and the earthian Continuous Engagement Programme: Explore and learn

The earthian engagement is a sustained effort at building capacities of the ‘green thinking’ schools and colleges to develop a more nuanced understanding of the environmental, social and economic issues pertaining to inequitable and use of the earth’s natural resources.The vehicle for developing capabilities will be a three-year Continuous Engagement Programme (CEP) that the earthian team will conduct in collaboration with partner organisations. Integrated holistically with the syllabus, this can enable schools to adopt the programme to create an eco-conscious youth cadre.

ATREE will offer field ecologists, conservationists, social scientists and policy affiliates as a knowledge resource to teachers and students and through contributions to the institute library, lectures and field based programmes. This conservation education commitment from ATREE will draw from the experiential 'Learning for Life' approach.

2013: Training teachers to think on sustainability issues
The first ATREE- CEP programme was teacher-centric, conducted on the theme of Forests, Culture and Our Role through contextualized field-based activities and discussions in the ATREE Community-based Conservation Centres of Kanakapura, MM Hills and BRT. Each of these places is defined by a distinct landscape, access to natural resources, community ownership of environmental issues and governance mechanisms.

Eleven teachers from four schools— Rishi Valley from Andhra Pradesh, Kumaran Children’s Home and Prakriya Green Wisdom School from Bengaluru and KendriyaVidyalaya from Delhi participated in this programme.

At Kanakapura, with its peri-urban character, ATREE is currently carrying out a couple of research projects pertaining to land and water issues. ATREE’s community engagements have been through children school networks and farmer interactions. This was the place where the recently published (2012) ‘Dryland trees of Karnataka’ was conceptualized. It became the resource material for the group, which was led on a tree identification activity after an orientation on leaf pattern and identification. The educators then interacted with schools where ATREE had initiated a native-tree-planting programme over the last 10 years.

MM Hills began with a walk through the forest trail to Kommudikki and a sighting the Malabar giant squirrel. MM Hills is also the place where ATREE has done various studies pertaining to the spread of invasive weed, Lantana camara. This has resulted on papers on changes in bird and plant populations in areas dominated by the weed; the role of traditional knowledge in containing the weed; historical policy measures that have impacted livelihoods, and the role of the weed in this changing policy-scape. The art of lantana collection, treatment and crafting to produce toys and furniture was then shown.

The refreshing ‘nannari’ juice served as a great opening for the topic of Wild Edible Plants, which ATREE researchers are documenting.A field trip on trees and medicinal shrubs was accompanied by learning on the rain water management methods employed in the land to reduce soil erosion and increase rainwater recharge. Participants requested workshops for kids on lantana craft.

The beautiful forest landscape of Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Tiger Reserve was, till two years ago (2010), a Wildlife Sanctuary. What does change in management regime mean to forest dwelling communities of Soligas? What are their rights and how they might exercise them form the most lasting narratives around BRT. The range officer of BR Hills Tiger Reserve, Mr. Ashfaq Ali Khan’s talk spoke to the teachers about the history of BR Hills and why this region needs to be protected. A stop by a sacred grove—proof of Soliga links to nature, visit to a Soliga settlement and interaction with Vivekananda GirijanKalyan Kendra (VGKK), an NGO working ithSoligas for many decades, brought some understanding of tribal interactions with their surrounding—as they used to be, and as they are now. Participants bought honey from the small shops run by women of local Self-Help Groups.

The programme closed with a wrap up to assess the trip and discuss future direction.

The ATREE-CEP team consisted of twelve resource persons: Kavitha, Shivram (Kanakapura);
Ramesh Kannan, Harisha R P, Madesha, Narayan (MM Hills); SiddappaSetty, Nanjegowda, RenukaAmma (BRT); Gladwin Joseph; SharadaRamadass and Sutapa Mukherjee.