Amid content that counts the costs of development of humankind on the occasion of World Environment Day, Survival is out with a reminder of peoples that have adhered to fascinating conservation practices for millennia.
The global movement for rights of tribal peoples has focused on tribes that have living in harmony with nature indelibly marked in their DNA.
The Awá Indians of Brazil, extremely skilled hunters with intimate knowledge of their rainforest, are able to identify at least 275 plants with useful properties.
They are also able to differentiate between 31 species of honeybee. “Each species is associated with another animal of the rainforest such as the tortoise or the tapir,” Survival reports.
The Baka “Pygmies” of Central Africa, in turn, have exemplary honey tracking skills. They are known to eat 14 kinds of wild honey and more than 10 types of wild yam.
But their biggest contribution to conservation of the forest is through sustainable harvesting of produce from the jungle. They are known to leave parts of yam root intact in the soil and to grow patches of wild yams.
Yams are favorite food of elephants and wild boar. By helping such species survive, the Baka Pygmies were ensuring the survival of the entire forest.
Long ago the series of films titled Gods Must Be Crazy shined the spotlight on bushmen of Kalahari. The Botswana bushmen are equally well-versed in the ways of living in tune with nature. Survival reports that these bushmen are known to consume over 150 species of plant and their diet is high in vitamins and nutrients.
Tribals have been playing vital roles in the conservation of large tracts of forest, which would otherwise be lost to development. The Baiga in India is a case in point. They are on a mission to “save the forest from the forest department”. They have set their own rules for the community and outsiders to protect forests and their biodiversity.
It has been noted that the measures have helped improve the availability of water supply in the forest and the tribesmen are able to collect more herbs and medicines from these tracts, Survival has reported.
“Satellite images and academic studies have shown that indigenous peoples provide a vital barrier to deforestation of their lands. Yet tribal peoples are being illegally evicted from their ancestral homelands in the name of “conservation”,” the Survival report reads.
Stephen Corry the director of Survival has stated: “Tribal peoples are better at looking after their environments than anyone else – after all, they have been dependent on, and managed, them for millennia.
“If conservation is actually going to start working, conservationists need to ask tribal peoples what help they need to protect their land, listen to them, and then be prepared to back them up as much as possible. A major change in thinking about conservation is now urgently required.”
Ajith Kumar S