Interventions |  Other

Some significant steps taken to increase stakeholder engagement over the years have been in regular interactions with multiple stakeholder groups and carrying out activities such as beach clean ups and training sessions

Traditional & Sustainable Livelihoods

Waste management on the islands: multi stakeholder coastal cleanup

Ever since the beginning of the initial field surveys (that sowed the seeds for ANET) in the 1970s, the Karen community, a settler community originally from erstwhile Burma, has been the backbone of field operations. The multi-faceted nature of Karen knowledge and their openness to new challenges has led to a unique partnership between field researchers and the community. This relationship, as well as motivation from within the local community in response to emerging socio-economic changes eventually led to ANET facilitating the formation of the Andaman Karen Crafts (AKC) cooperative society in late 2014. AKC’s objectives include local economic empowerment while reviving Karen cultural heritage as well as conserving local eco-systems and sustainable resource use practices. These efforts are now sustained in partnership with Dakshin Foundation. Currently the team from ANET/ Dakshin facilitating the work is Saw John Aung Thong, Shiba Desor, Dr. Naveen Namboothri, Dr. Meera Oommen and Dr. Manish Chandi. Naw Cecilia, Naw Namu, Naw Rosmi and Naw Sarah are key members of the AKC who are involved in liaising between groups.

ANET is working with the Karen community to develop a set of initiatives that would lead to self-sustaining livelihood opportunities while helping restore cultural connections and generate positive environmental outcomes. Our interest is in co-conceptualising and developing initiatives that are suited to the community’s own strengths and are in accordance with its existing worldviews and cultural norms. In 2015, the Andaman Karen Crafts Co-operative Society (AKC) and Women’s Centre was formed as a registered society. With support from ANET, one of the key activities of AKC has been the building of a community centre in Webi which has been constructed with generous support from Seacology. This centre is expected to act as the starting point for a holistic programme to revitalise the community.

The approach is multi-faceted, simultaneously focusing on socio-cultural, economic and ecological dimensions of well-being. This implies a manifold strategy. To retain local craftsmanship while enabling generation of some revenue, skill-development and training programmes on tailoring, embroidery, handloom-weaving, bamboo-weaving and small-scale community markets have been run by experts from various organisations. At the same time, for conserving the Karen culture and cuisine, local history and folklore is being documented in a participatory manner and promoted through multi-generational story-telling sessions. The unique cuisine and food culture of the Karen are undergoing a local revival. In response to this, a slow food restaurant focused on Karen cuisine is now operational within the AKC community centre. To revitalise links with land, a nursery has been set up with ongoing conversations on community forestry. During the past year, a weekly market that facilitates the exchange of surplus items and traditional food items made by individual households has also been operational. In terms of capacity-building and community-ownership of the process, much has been achieved in the past year, and it is hoped that this cross-thematic intervention will lay foundations for a long-term strengthening of the community’s bio-cultural connections. This initiative has also caught the attention of the international Karen diaspora who engage with the social media site of the AKC. This has led to significant sharing of information, stories, recipes, etc. which are witnessing a cultural revival.

​ANET/ Dakshin’s interventions in this sphere stem from the idea that resource dependent communities are typically characterised by close links to land- and sea-scapes, and in most cases, enjoy outdoor lifestyles that are conducive to better consequences for health, fitness and nutritional outcomes. Most significantly, our work shows that initiatives targeting communities such as the Karen need to focus on existing positive linkages communities have with the environment to develop holistic programmes. Among the Karen, inherent strengths include physical and nutritional fitness, especially via a dependence on a diverse array of ocean resources, as well as strong bonds of socio-cultural identity emanating as a consequence of occupational specificities and migration. To build on these positives, in conjunction with our programmes across the country that work on context-specific resource management practices, we aim to develop a holistic programme that incorporates livelihoods, sport, nutrition and fitness that ties into conservation.

Training for specific interest groups

The Andaman and Nicobar islands are increasingly being viewed as a prime tourist destination for both domestic as well as international tourists. This is reflected in the escalating numbers of visitors as well as the ongoing infrastructural transformations visible in the landscape. However, as is the case of many small island groups, these developments are associated with problematic ecological, social and cultural consequences. A variety of safeguards and capacity building needs to be put in place for tourism to be sustainable and responsible. As an environmental research and conservation organisation based in the islands, ANET has limited capacity to deal with these issues. However, given the impending transformations, we have attempted to contribute to training related to responsible tourism initiatives that local communities are interested in.

In the first such initiative, a team led by independent affiliated researchers and ANET staff including Krishna Anujan, Zoya Tyabji, Vardhan Patankar, Chetana Purushotaman, worked together with the Forest Department to organise a series of training programmes for community members interested in bird watching. This capacity-building exercise has been instrumental in the formation of the Andaman Avian Club. This unit now independently conducts bird counts, surveys and offers local guide services to visitors interested in ornithology.

​Recently, a team from ANET led by Mahima Jaini worked closely with the Forest Department organised a training programme in coral reef ecology and marine conservation for tour operators working in the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park (MGNP). This was carried out in response to these community members requesting for training in responsible tourism for in-water activities. The programme also included a series of lectures and activities as well as printed resources designed to assist operators with identifying marine life and understanding key concepts in marine conservation and sustainable tourism.The training workshop was preceded by a survey of the community. Overall, the programme provided us with an opportunity to build an educational tool box of reef ecology and marine conservation-related activities and lectures, which can be extended to other marine tour operators, elsewhere in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Past Projects

Strengthening community participation in coastal governance in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands

The Island Protection Zone Notification 2011 (IPZ 2011) is the first notification published by the Ministry of Environmental and Climate Change of the Government of India, covering the archipelagos of the Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands. This notification reconciles three objectives namely 1) protection of the livelihoods of traditional fisher communities 2) preservation of coastal ecosystems and biodiversity and 3) promotion of economic activities that necessarily have to be located in coastal areas.

In January 2016, Dakshin initiated discussions with the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (ANI) administration on the IPZ 2011 and the need to collaborate with different stakeholder groups in the implementation of the directives of the notification. In partnership with the Forest Department, the chief nodal agency in charge of IPZ 2011 implementation in ANI, Dakshin was requested to conduct training workshops for the various interest groups and government departments with stakes in the coastal stretches of the Islands. Towards this goal, Dakshin created and printed outreach material to use in capacity building workshops in the ANI.