We belong to nature as much as nature belongs to us, and there’s no better way to truly feel this synergy than the food we eat - food that comes from the Earth, that gives us sustenance, flavour and life.

At WWF-India, our work with communities in the forests of India’s Terai region showed us how this understanding of nature and food is deeply linked and embedded in the culture of the land. Recently, a Stakeholder Consultation in collaboration with the Ramnagar Forest Division from 18 December, 2018 to 19 December, 2018 provided an impetus to community-based conservation initiatives in the Greater Corbett Landscape. WWF-India has been working with local Self- Help Groups (SHGs) from six villages in Ramnagar and Kotabagh districts on food-processing, using locally available produce under the brand name “Hameri”.

© WWF-India

The SHGs comprise of about 80 women, who have come together to form a federation – the Corbett Gramin Mahila Sangathan – which has curated a line of farm- fresh and handmade packaged food products, with WWF-India, Accenture and the Department of Science and Technology’s (DST) support.

The Stakeholder Consultation aimed at bringing together all the key players in the region to help promote sustainable livelihood initiatives for forest-dependent communities while at the same time securing their support for conservation. This stems from the recognition that the contribution of communities is essential to attain a model of conservation that is successful and inclusive, as is the collaboration and cooperation between major stakeholders to achieve mutually beneficial ends. To this effect, the programme was attended by representatives from the Forest Department, Civil Administration, tourism industry, local communities and NGOs active in the region. It was inaugurated by Shri Parag M. Dhakate, the Conservator of Forests, who also formally launched Hameri and its entire line of jams, pickles, chutneys and juices. Other attendees were Shri B.P. Singh, DFO Ramnagar Forest Division, Shri N.C. Pant, ACF, and Shri S.D. Bharti, SDO Ramnagar Forest Division.

© WWF-India

The major resorts in the region representing the tourism industry, including the Taj Group of Hotels, Namah, Aahana and others, were key participants of the event. They greatly appreciated the quality of the product, its historical and cultural ethos. They have expressed their interest in collaborating with the Corbett Gramin Mahila Sangathan, in order to ensure the percolation of profits from tourism to local communities. The MLA of Ramnagar, Shri Dewan Singh Bisht, who attended the event on the second day, expressed keen interest in taking forward the community- related work to mitigate human-wildlife conflict and promote alternative livelihoods in the area. It was his contention that the local MLAs could potentially collaborate to bridge any gaps that might exist, like market linkages, infrastructural support and so on, to ensure the success of Hameri.

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