photo of Indian woman Garwhal and Kumaon

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introducing the area

environmental knowleldge

 quotes about environmental knowleldge
 key testimonies featuring environmental knowleldge

This collection is distinguished by the numerous mentions by narrators of different crops, trees, plants and their uses. Many of the narrators seem to have extensive knowledge of their environment, especially of wild and cultivated plants and their applications: practical, edible and medicinal. Most narrators focus on the value of the forests and forest products, although a couple of narrators also mention the high pastures as key areas of biodiversity; several emphasise a need to increase awareness about the importance of forests as they diminish in size and diversity. The booklet Our Forests, Our Mountains, Our Lives (published by our partner the Himalaya Trust) confirms the wide variety of nutritional elements which local people use: at least 24 forest fruits, flowers, buds and leaves; 15 types of animal fodder; 142 local foodstuffs from field and forest, including 9 types of spice, 32 types of vegetable, 10 varieties of pulse and 8 types of oilseed.

Several narrators comment on a decline in rainfall and make a link between loss of tree cover and climate change. They are careful to say this connection is made on the basis of observation and experience, not scientific learning. Jagat (India 10) and other narrators, many of whom lack formal education, express sadness that their kind of knowledge, based on practical first-hand experience, seems increasingly undervalued and is being superseded by a more academic - "bookish" - approach. There is anxiety that young people are not concerned with accumulating the same degree of understanding of the natural resources as earlier generations. While indigenous health traditions using local plants, for example, are still practised, several say that younger people are not developing these skills and can't even recognise the plants any more. Similarly, using many different weeds for food, fodder, healing and soil improvement, rather than just getting rid of all them with herbicides, seems to be on the wane.

Some decline of knowledge has come about as a result of conflict: the closure of hill trade between Tibet and Garhwal-Kumoan since the clashes with China has meant, say some of the Bhotiya narrators, that the high meadows and remote passes rich in minerals, herbs and plants are now just a memory. Wild animals and birds have become less common almost everywhere, as people encroach on their territory. Despite a pervading sense of loss in these testimonies, those with the most positive visions for the future are certain that conserving the environment and maintaining the level of knowledge is crucial for sustainable development - and their arguments are getting stronger. Self-taught forester Jagat explains how his experiment "on the ground" - "I haven't been planting trees after reading any books, nor have I been trained anywhere or had any guidance" - is proving that mixed forest can and will grow where the professionals, whose "thinking was bookish", said it could not.

quotes about environmental knowleldge

"The peaks are interspersed with rolling fields called bugyal (meadows), and the earth is soft and spongy, and it hosts innumerable flowers. Many different kinds of herbs and roots are also to be found here. However, now these are also becoming rare as outsiders have been randomly collecting them. The roots and herbs that used to grow here naturally are giving way to thorny bushes and grass."
Bihari, M/60s, leader of grassroots organisation, India 12

"There are many such roots and plants which can be grown in the fields and there are some which are obtained from the forest.Our needs can be fulfilled through these. Gilohi, satawari, manduk parni, vajradanti, brahmi etc are some medicinal plants which are available everywhere and which are also easy to turn into medicine. The Himalaya are the storehouse of medicinal plants and roots."
Mohan, M/60, ayurvedic physician, India 8

"There is much more dryness in a pine forest. And other trees and plants don't grow there. But where you find oak and rhododendron, you will find dampness, moisture. I believe we should uproot the young plants of pine... And we should propagate the useful plants so that they can give seeds. My experience is that naturally grown plants are better for forests instead of the plantation species."
Savitri, F/50, Buddhist, head of Mahila Mangal Dal, India 29

"The water of a banjh (oak) and buranjh (rhododendron) forest is very cool. The manure of its leaves is very good for agricultural purposes. Sheep and goats also eat the leaves. These trees are good. How can we get water without these trees? Trees are very necessary for retaining water of the soil. The manure of these leaves is.superior to the government (chemical) manure."
Attar, F/60, midwife/farmer, India 11

key testimonies featuring environmental knowleldge

  No.   Name   Sex/Age   Occupation   Location