December 29, 2017

As climate change alters agriculture, forest food could be the answer. Odisha's indigenous Kondhs prove it

India's indigenous Kondh community has relied on forest food for millennia. As climate change reduces agricultural yields, this source of nutrition could be crucial for food security. 


As agriculture and climate change are victims and causes of each other, with effects such as drought affecting land productivity, reaching the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals which include achieving global food security and ending hunger by 2030 has become even more challenging.

In view of this, forests can play a crucial role as the basis of a sustainable food system – as has been the norm in the Kondh community, an indigenous group spread across the forests and hilly regions of the south of India’s Odisha state, for millennia.

December 15, 2017

Forest food ensures nutritional security of Odisha’s tribes

Access to naturally grown forest produce would go a long way in protecting tribal communities in Odisha from the worst impacts of climate change and supply them with all that they need for sustenance

Sunamai Mambalaka, a Kondh tribal woman in her 50s, is not bothered about the vulnerability of cultivated crops to climate change. She believes that she and her community will never experience hunger as long as the forest, their perennial source of food, exists. “I was born in the forest, I grew with the forest. Forest is our life and soul,” she said.

October 20, 2017

Community radios in Odisha help improve gender parity

Broadcasting programs on gender inequality and against stigmas suffered by women in Odisha, community radio stations have effected a positive change in rural communities where girls are still the ignored population
As news of rampant female feticide in the Nayagarh district of Odisha broke in July 2017, it shocked Usha Patnaik, a social activist and president of Gania Unnayan Committee, a non-profit organization, as it did the rest of India.

Working for more than two decades on issues such as trafficking of girls and women, child marriage and gender-based discrimination, the news made her wonder about the very existence of females in society. “Being a female, I was scared,” she told VillageSquare.in. “How can a society imagine its future by eliminating a sex selectively at the fetal stage?”

July 28, 2017

Time’s Up, Age-Old Beliefs! Odisha Is Saying No to Child Marriage

Post-2008 riots in Odisha’s tribal populated Kandhamal district, when Rashmita Bagarti (now 27) started the Antarang (literally meaning intimate) Club in the Phiringia block to spearhead peacebuilding activities in the community, she had about 45 members. But to her worry, the number went down to 20 in about a year. As she looked for the reason behind such a drop in membership, she found that at least 12 young girls of the club had got married at an early age and left their villages.

July 19, 2017

Tribal women of Sundargarh make organic farming a life-changing economic activity

Tribal communities in Sundargarh district of Odisha have revived the traditional practice of growing food without the help of chemical fertilizers and made it viable economically by making pragmatic changes.

Nirmala Barla (40), a passionate farmer of Sundargarh district’s Brahmanamara village, is a proud woman because she feeds her family with a variety of safely grown food, and not just cereals grown by using lots of chemical fertilizers that are available in the market. In her 14 acres of land, both upland and relatively plain, she grows rice, millet and vegetables without using any inorganic fertilizer. After meeting consumption needs of the family, she is also able to earn a bit by selling the surplus farm produce.

June 02, 2017

Air pollution in India, a threat to human lives bigger than terrorism

Air pollution in India kills more people than terrorism every year. Yet there is no international war against pollution as there is against terrorism
Terrorism has drawn global attention and most countries have joined the effort to contrast it. But the international community is yet to wage a war against air pollution despite the enormity of the hazard it poses for global health. In India, for example, terrorism has taken 65,900 human lives between 1994 and 2017, which is almost half of deaths caused by air pollution in a single year.

May 31, 2017

11 Yrs Later, Govt Washes Hands Off Kalinga Nagar Tribals’ Deaths

Eleven years after the police firing in Kalinga Nagar of Odisha’s Jajpur district where a dozen tribal people and a police personnel died at the spot, the communities were hammered again when the report submitted by the commission of inquiry under retired High Court Justice Pradyumna Kumar Mohanty did not indict any government official for it.
The incident took place on 2 January 2006, when trigger-happy police sprayed bullets against people agitating against land acquisition for the TATA Steel project.

April 28, 2017

Interventions to stop child marriages raise hopes in Odisha

The practice of underage marriage is acute in the tribal-dominated southern and southwestern parts of Odisha, but interventions on the ground are planting the seeds of change among adolescent girls and their parents

The pensive look on the face of three-year-old Devati Durua of Chanchraguda village in Koraput district could very well change to distress if she is married before she comes of age at 18. That remains a distinct possibility in the underdeveloped area where indigenous people are known to widely practice child marriage.

April 09, 2017

Conserving rainwater in subsurface soil to fight water scarcity

Indigenous communities in India's Rayagada district mitigate the challenges of water scarcity by storing rainwater in subsurface soil. A cheap and concrete solution to a global problem.  

With a population of over 1.2 billion people, India’s per capita water availability has decreased substantially over the years. From 5,200 cubic metres (m3) in 1951 to 1,588 m3 in 2010 according to the Water Resources Information System (WRIS). This may shrink further to 1,401 m3 and 1,191 mby 2025 and 2050 respectively. To note is that the average volume isn’t available everywhere because of temporal and spatial variations in rainfall.

March 24, 2017

After defeating Posco, farmers turn to reclaim betel leaf economy

The formal closure of Posco’s steel plant project in Odisha is seen as a victory of agrarian economy over unwanted industrialization and the betel leaf farmers of Jagatsinghpur are rejoicing, although those who lost their land face new challenges.

In a unique case of victory of the agrarian economy over mineral-based industrial economy, betel leaf farming in the Jagatsinghpur district of Odisha proved to be more dependable and promising than the proposed $12 billion integrated steel plant project planned by one of the world’s largest steel producer POSCO.

March 15, 2017

Ending child marriage by making young girls the agents of change

Though child marriage continues to remain a serious global concern, interventions to contrast it carried out by governments and global organisations are starting to show results. Raising hope to end the practice, the Gumma block in India’s Gajapati district, populated by tribal populations, has taken centre stage by becoming child marriage free thanks to a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) programme involving thousands of girls in adolescent clubs to learn and share their views on the topic. 

February 10, 2017

Abandoned Niyamgiri villages tell sad tale of wholesale migration

Five abandoned villages in the Niyamgiri hills that have now been reclaimed by the forest indicate a complete failure of governance and lack of the state’s reach and action among the Dongria Kondh indigenous people

After walking nearly 7 km from the road head, you would reach a place on the banks of Panimunda stream in Muniguda administrative block of Odisha’s Rayagada district, where Ankurbali village once used to exist. On the slopes of lower Niyamgiri hills, the place is now a part of the forest with no remnants visible today. Till a decade ago, people of the Dongria Kondh tribe inhabited the village.
Although revenue records and voter lists still mention Ankurbali, the village no longer exists. At least four other neighbouring villages of Umbesi, Uchukumba, Haimandi and Dahli under the Shibapadar gram panchayat (village council) of Muniguda block do not exist physically.

January 27, 2017

Living close to major roads may increase risk of dementia

People living near major roads and busy traffic are more at risk of developing dementia, according to a report analysing over 6 million people
Emerging evidence suggests that living near major roads and busy traffic might adversely affect cognition and increases the risk of developing dementia, according to the findings of a study published in UK medical journal The Lancet.

The research aimed to investigate the association between residential proximity to major roadways and the incidence of three neurological diseases: dementia, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. 

January 20, 2017

Ocean warming will kill fish, make them smaller and potentially toxic

No matter how near or far you live from the coast, you'll be affected by it: ocean warming may become one of the biggest threats to ecosystems and food security. 
Ocean warming, driven by increasing carbon emissions and rising temperatures, may become one of the biggest challenges facing humanity and threatening the Earth’s life systems, affecting even those living far from oceanic coasts. Already impacting people, fish stocks and crop yields, it may lead to more extreme weather events and increased risk from water-borne diseases including cholera. Fuelling global warming, it would put the livelihood of agrarian and fishing communities in the Indian and Pacific Ocean regions at stake, cautions the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in a report. 

January 14, 2017

Eco-Village: hope for the future


A documentary (short) by Basudev Mahapatra on climate resilient farming innovated and practiced by women farmers from indigenous communities of Kashipur block in Rayagada district of Odisha, India.