PRESERVING MANGROVES THROUGH ALTERNATIVE LIVELIHOODS, SUNDARBANS, INDIA
The project envisages preserving mangroves through alternative livelihoods, thereby reducing pressure on the mangrove forests in the Canning Sub division of 24 Parganas (South) District in West Bengal, India. Here, in the Basanti Block of Canning Sub Division, we are looking at providing Alternative Livelihood Programs in the Gram Panchayats (local governance unit) Jharkali and Nafarganj, which are adjacent to each other.
The project will address :
Community Social and Economic Issues:
1) Climate migration: Young people leave the villages and women are left with the burden of trying to make a living in a harsh landscape. Right now women try getting daily wage jobs or try fishing in ponds, which is not sustainable.
2) Embankment protection: the cyclones of late have shown the importance of maintaining embankments. The women in some villages have taken it up to plant coconuts for embankment support and as a source of income. We plan to help them add mangrove species Nypa fruticans (Nipa Palm) and Phoenix paludosa (Mangrove date palms) to this planting to increase the embankment protection. Phoenix paludosa is near threatened in the IUCN Red List. Though Nipa is of least concern, it has been completely removed in this region.
3)Employment and employability: Finding and being skilled for jobs is a challenge here and the community resorts to fishing or prawn cultivating as income generation. These are unreliable sources of income and prawn fisheries require embankment breaching and leaving areas with excess salinity. By offering two modes of upskilling - Apiaries and Plastic Repurposing for Decor- we give through this project the women an opportunity to an alternate livelihood.
1)Embankment cutting: Prevention of Embankment cutting by providing a steady income stream.
2)Loss of biodiversity in mangrove species- Nipa and mangrove date palms which are locally absent now will be brought back in the area. They provide a good source of pollen and nectar for the bees besides providing strength to embankments. The ability of the Nipa to spread also acts as a deterrent to embankment cutting.
3)Plastic Pollution-Plastic pollution inside the mangroves coming from upstream sources are repurposed to higher value decor items which when sold help sustain these projects after rotary clubs involvement. The value addition and the marketing of these products is planned through Public Image projects for Rotary Clubs as well as sale on the web portals. Branding of these products is envisaged to promote Rotary's commitment to the environment and Mangroves.
4) Using non traditional approaches to Honey collection: Apiaries provide constant employment as well as hives can be expanded. The existing supply chain and marketing schemes will help make this a thriving cottage industry. Traditional practices involved men getting honey. Women will now be empowered with rearing, collection and marketing thus making them entrepreneurs.
Geographically, Jharkali is located between the Matla River on the West and Bidyadhari on the East. The protected areas of Sundarbans National Park are in the East. This region is also the gateway to Sundarbans Tourism from Canning and Basanti. The Matla River starts near Canning. The region is predominantly involved in rain fed agriculture especially paddy.There is some income from fishing. Jharkhali Gram Panchayat had a population of 68816 at the last village census with 35955 men and 32861 women. Land available is 8508.5 hectares (pers. communication Panchayat Pradhan).
Map of the Region of the Project
(Reference:Bagchi, Emon. (2017). Development of Basic Infrastructure: An Analysis of South 24 Parganas District in West Bengal, India. Bulletin of Geography. Socio-economic Series. 36. 10.1515/bog-2017-0013.)
Lot No 126 is Jharkhali. The dark green region is our area of operation (Google Maps)This region also sees super cyclones which have had devastating effects on the lives of the people as well as making it difficult to sustain any livelihood. The storm surges have led to increasing salinity, there has been widespread flooding and destruction to homes, fields, farms. All this with consecutive super cyclones and the COVID 19 pandemic in between.
Focus Group discussions conducted on Saturday 26th March 2022 in the Jharkhali Gram Panchayat Area with two seperate women Self Help Groups voiced the concern of
the importance of upkeep of embankments during storm surges. The group has already taken the initiative of community planting of coconut seedlings along the banks to stop embankment erosion and provide a source of income. Each stretch of planting of coconut palms are taken care by a group and they are looking forward to extending this to around twenty kilometers of embankment
Looking for any source of income generation where they could work during the day or for a few hours
After deliberating with the Core group of the Rotary Club of Calcutta Mahanagar the project envisages tackling the issues above in the following manner.
-The two gram panchayats will have 5 Community Action Group Leaders each. They will facilitate in identifying our beneficiaries. Beneficiaries will be identified based on their interest in doing repurposed plastic work, and their interest in raising apiaries. Apiaries will be managed by the beneficiary.
Training, set up, hand holding will be done with a MoU with the West Bengal Forest Department Cooperative. The hives themselves will have to be moved to ensure the honey is produced year round. These clusters concept and marketing will be undertaken by our apiary partner. We plan to start with 100 hives and scale it to 500 and more. We are adding to the scale of an existing operation thereby ensuring income to our beneficiaries without overheads of branding and marketing.
Encouraging and expanding the Embankment work will be undertaken by beneficiaries in raising backyard nurseries of the coconut palms as well as Nipa and Mangrove palms. These beneficiaries will be provided with a stipend to raise and maintain these nurseries.
In the second year, the plastic repurposing unit will be set up and women who are interested will be trained in making products. Once a skill level is reached, these women will be paid at per piece rate, thereby giving more women opportunities to work here. We are using the properietal manufacturing process of Rtn Binish Desai (www.BinishDesai.com). A self contained unit with roof top solar will use machines, to crush plastic and make it into very small pieces which are mixed with Binish Desai's proprietary binding material and dehydrated as it goes through a moulding procedure. The pieces are then finished using a biodegradable sticker which can be customised for any customer.
Awareness campaigns will be held in village Festival dates using traditional folk art and music to convey the importance of mangroves, the sustainability of different activities, the menace of plastic etc.
Alternative livelihood through Apiaries- Entrepreneurial jobs for a minimum of 500 women. Hives reach a good size in a year or so leading to doubling of hives thereby increasing income.
Alternative livelihood through Plastic Segregation: Money for plastic collection around mangroves provides income as well as looking at waste segregation as a income generating model as dry waste centers
Alternative livelihood through repurposing Plastic. Plastic from the mangroves will be up cycled to decor products and sold through Rotary club networks as Public Image product as well as through other online portals. Branding will be helped through ESRAG (Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group). This unit will be a self contained unit with captive solar energy micro grid so it can be set anywhere. The decor work has a very low skill requirement. Payment on completed pieces rather than full time employment gives a larger population access to increasing their income
Alternative livelihoods through nurseries for Nipa palms, Mangrove Date palms, Palm and coconut palms for embankment strengthening. Setting up nurseries for these planting as well as mapping existing stands helps increase these mangrove species as well as provide income. Nursery work and minor embankment work is undertaken by this group.
Awareness on the issues and solutions for living in this harsh landscape will be carried out in public gatherings of festivals using different modes like street theatre, music, dances etc.
This pilot project is for three years. The plastic repurposing unit will be financially sustainable and we are planning on handing it over to the Forest Department Cooperative to continue the work. The money from this unit will continue to sponsor apiary training as well as work. Financial responsibilities will be by the cooperative which also deals with the marketing of the honey. Women who are trained in this project become cooperative members when they start work so they get a stake in this project right from the beginning. Community responsibility in continuing nursery and planting work would be seen as a behavior change to keep embankments strong. The strongest indicator of success will be the cooperative and the self help group ready to replicate this model of plastic upcycling as well as setting up apiaries. Moving a notch in this direction, hydroponics as a solution to year round honey production is also going to be explored.
Budget: A total of $128,373 is envisaged for running this programme for three years and handing it over to the Cooperative that manages the Mangrove Honey project in collaboration with the Forest Department. This legitimises and leads to project sustainability when the Forest Department itself promotes a few of our project goals as well as supports the outreach and the products.
the host club will be managing monitoring and impact of the project. Club members will visit project site every month and there will be visits by the expert every three months. The office manager will report to the club every week.International host club partners will be doing the overview and funding.