People's Biodiversity Register
The People\'s Biodiversity Register was initiated in 1995 by the Foundation for the Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions (FRLHT), an NGO in Bangalore, India. Between 1996 and 1998, the Indian Institute of Sciences coordinated the activities of the People\'s Biodiversity register at 52 sites in eight states. Full text of this article can be found in the COMPAS Newsletter, Vol. 1-2, 1999.
LEISA Magazine • 15 nº 3/4 • December 1999
People’s Biodiversity Register
The People’s Biodiversity Register was initiated in 1995 by the Foundation for the Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions (FRLHT), an NGO in Bangalore. Between 1996 and 1998 the Indian Institute of Sciences coordinated the activities of the People’s Biodiversity Register at 52 sites in eight states. This was part of the Biodiversity Conservation Prioritisation Programme, a national initiative (Gadgil et al, 1998).
The People’s Biodiversity Register aims to build an open and transparent information system on biodiversity resources from village level upwards. The register can be used to promote the sustainable management of natural resources and support claims of communities and individuals to knowledge about biodiversity resources and their use.
During the course of individual and group interviews and discussions at village assemblies, local biological resources and conservation priorities were explored and biodiversity user groups and knowledgeable individuals were identified. As many as 1000 villagers with extensive knowledge of biological resources became deeply involved in the programme. During these discussions biodiversity resources and practices for the sustainable use of local biological resources were identified. Peoples’ perceptions and options for development and their personal and social choices were also discussed.
Over-harvesting and biopiracyThis work entails risks. The availability of easily accessible databases could encourage the over-harvesting of certain biodiversity resources by the communities themselves. Also information on biodiversity resources might be used by those who are not prepared to share the benefits equitably.
Experiences gainedThe registers were accepted by local councils as official documents and distributed publicly. This attracted considerable attention in the local media and helped raise awareness about these issues in neighbouring areas. It also worked as a signal to local politicians about the importance of local resource management and their responsibilities towards it.
In some villages people started looking for solutions to problems related to local natural resources. In Kigga village near Sringeri, for example, one trader used to collect moss in large quantities from nearby forests. The people asked him what he earned selling this moss on the urban market and, because he did not give a satisfactory reply, they refused to continue collecting. Mala village decided to ask the government to authorise the local council to charge fees to outsiders who wanted to collect forest products. People also looked for ways of reducing the pressure on the forests caused by the need for firewood. They began, for example, to look for alternative fuel resources for brick making and made efforts to protect sacred groves.
ResponseThe government of India has prepared a draft ‘Biodiversity Act’ (Anon 1998) to be discussed during the next parliamentary session. The draft act considers the role of local authorities, the documentation of local knowledge and resources, and the funding needed for conservation. Under the auspices of a local member of parliament some NGOs organised a public hearing on the contents of the draft bill.
As the government takes its time to decide about People’s Biodiversity Registers, local NGOs have started promoting them vigorously. These experiences have been widely published both in English and in the local language and as a result many people from all over India have expressed an interest in undertaking similar exercises in their own areas. An informal network called Srishtijigyaasa Pariwar, the ‘Family of People Desiring to Learning about Nature’ has been set up. To facilitate this process, a methodology manual (Chhatre et al, 1998) and resource materials such as the Convention on Biological Diversity have been translated into several local languages.
Meanwhile other NGOs, including the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), have expressed interest in undertaking similar initiatives in Nepal, Brazil and South Africa. People’s Biodiversity Registers may become a global movement in the near future.
The full text of this article can be found in COMPAS Newsletter Vol 1-2, 1999 or at www.etcint.org/compas_newsl.htm
Ghate Utkarsh, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute
of Science, Bangalore 560 012, India.
- Anon. 1998. The draft Indian Biological Diversity Act. Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, New Delhi.
- Chhatre A, Rao PRS, Utkarsh G, Pramod P, Ganguly A, and Gadgil M. 1998. Srishtigyaan: a methodology manual for people’s biodiversity registers. Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
- Gadgil M, and Rao PRS. 1998. Battling over biodiversity: Changing the rules of the game. The Hindu Magazine, June 14.
- Glowka L. 1998. A guide to designing legal frameworks to determine access to genetic resources. IUCN, Gland.