RANWA narrative report on utilization of Maharashtra Gene Bank small grant

Funding agency : Rajiv Gandhi Science and Technology Commission of Govt. of Maharashtra

A) Preparation of training material on Peoples Biodiversity Registers

RANWA is associated with PBR concept since 1994. In the MGB project quite many sub projects, especially those involving local communities, PBR will be an overarching activity. It would facilitate documentation of biodiversity and later management of the focal biodiversity element. In this context RANWA carried out a preparatory activity of preparing training material on Peoples Biodiversity Register. Following activities have been accomplished in the small grant provided by ARI as a part of MGB planning phase.

Computerisation of earlier PBRs

More than 100 PBRs have been prepared in India starting from 1994. Majority of them were prepared as a part of WWF funded Biodiversity Conservation Priortisation Project conducted in 1997-99. All these PBRs were in printed format. Scanned copies of these PBRs were available. However it was realized that soft copy in commonly shared MS Word format would be helpful for further analysis and research. For this a DTP operator was employed and all PBRs in printed format were computerized. Now they are available on a single CD.

Power point presentations

RANWA conducted a training programme on PBR in January 2009 for Ahmednagar based WOTR, a CSO working in water shed development. RANWA volunteers prepared presentations for this programme. These presentations elaborate on (1)international, national and local context of PBRs, (2) PBR as local biodiversity documentation tool and, (3) PBR as local level biodiversity management tool. These presentations were prepared in English. These presentation will be translated in to Marathi and will become baseline of the training CD.

Photo documentation

Two village training programmes were conducted by RANWA on PBR preparation. One of these traing programme was conducted in two project villages of Krishi Vidyan Kendra, Nandurbar. Objective of this training programme was to equip KVK staff in using PBR as a biodiversity documentation and subsequently management tool. A practial was conducted on the final day of this two day train programme. During the practical PBR methodology was used by the field staff of KVK to document and develop management plan for Moha (Madhuca latifolia) trees in the project village.

Video documentation

A training programme for village volunteers of WAYAM, a CSO working in Jawhar taluka of Thane district was conducted in May 2009. The entire workshop is video documented. This will help explain addressing participants queries, developing check lists of bioresources and documenting important biodiversity issue in the village. These live video clips will be useful help in the training CD.

Interview with PBR practitioners

In June 2009 field work was carried out in Washim district to interview Phase Pardhi volunteers of Samvedana, a CSO in Washim district. Samvedana has effectively used PBR as planning and management tool since 2001. We have interviewed Phase Pardhi community members instrumental in raising nursery and protecting a few hectres of grass land for future use. These members unequivocally shared that used PBR methodology to develop management plan and selection of plantation species. These interviews will be useful aid in the training programmes.

Field visit to Basudha, a field station of Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, Kolkata

Two RANWA volunteers visited Basudha, a field station of Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, Kolkata. Basudha hosts Vrihi, a live gene bank of 650 rice varieties and 100 varieties of other cereals. It is run by Dr. Debal Deb and his colleagues. Basudha is located in a small village Binod Badi near Durgapur in north 24 parganas district of West Bengal. RANWA volunteers accompanied Debal and his colleagues in planning for cultivation of rice varieties in Kharif 2009. Dr. Debal Deb explained the way these varieties are documented and stored. This visit was certainly a realization of neatness and meticulousness needed for documentation crop germplasm. Photo documentation of this visit will contribute to the PBR training CD.

A CD as an aid to conduct PBR training spread over year, with quarterly contact sessions

The training CD preparation is under process. Various resources will be pooled and will be used to develop the training aid. Salient points of the PBR training are: (1) skeleton of the training program – We envisage a year long programme. Participants will meet at some common place for example field station of the host organisation every three months. (2) Target audience of the training CD is primarily CSO staff and volunteers (3) In the first contact session introduction to PBR, identification of pecularities of Biodiversity in particinats work area will be covered. The first contact session will conclude with some exercises to be accomplished by the participants (4) In the second contact session participants will come prepared with the exercises. They will have identified priority topics in biodiversity management in there are. Detail deliberation will be done on these identified topic in the second session/ It will conclude with draft action plan to address the topic so identified by each participant (5) Third contact session will be on feed back from the participants (6) Fourth and last contact session will wrap up and document learning of participants.

The CD will have video clips, audio clips, interviews, photos, graphics, maps etc to make the training interactive. We have collected all resources. CD preparation in HTML format is under process

Free downloadable material on RANWA website

RANWA collection on PBRs – training material, soft copy of PBRs in India, methodology manual in English, Marathi books on PBR etc will be made available on RANWA website for free downloading. The website is under renewal.

B) Process documentation of (first ever effort of) registration of farmer’s varieties as if a lay farmer would file the application

Registration of FV flagged in MGB proposal

A draft concept note of proposed Maharashtra Gene Bank Project flagged National Gene Fund. Prof. Gadgil had prepared this note. It was later refined after two stakeholder consultations and widely circulated. The note mentioned that CGR theme of the project would link up with National Gene Fund created as a provision of the PPVFRA. In the concept note it was also suggested that CGR theme collaborators of MGB would take up registration of farmers varieties as an activity under the theme.

Steering committee meeting

First draft of MGB proposal was ready for the perusal of the steering committee in December 2008. It was sent to the steering committee members for the comments. The committee met in January 2009 at Pune. Prof. Arunachalam and Dr. Bala Ravi shared their comments and suggestion elaborately. Both of them suggested giving priority to on farm conservation over market linkage and organic farming. In the draft proposal these three – on farm conservation of varieties, organic farming and market linkage for sustainability of the project – were equally weighed. Dr. Bala Ravi suggested MGB-CGR participants share revised draft in March 2009.

Proposal revision and meeting with subject experts

According to suggestions of Dr. Bala Ravi and Prof. Arunachalam the draft was revised. In March 2009 two members of MGB-CGR met Dr. Bala Ravi and Prof. Arunachalam at MSSRF Chennai. Detail discussion on the revised draft resulted in finalizing the proposal.

In the course of proposal revision a meeting of MGB-CGR group with subject experts was conducted. Dr. Debal Deb of Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, Kolkata and Dr. Sanjeev Saxena, Senior Scientist, IPR Division, ICAR guided the participants. Dr. Sanjeev Saxena explained that. As a result of this meeting MGB-CGR participants became aware of, (1) registration of farmers variety is time bound (2) the authority has notified certain crops for which it is accepting the applications (3) the authority has published guidelines for these crops. Dr. Debal Deb explained salient points of on farm conservation of crop germplasm and importance of seed purity.

Twp MGB-CGR members subsequently met Dr. BAla Ravi and Prof. Arunachalam as mentioned earlier. In this meeting farmer’s variety registration was discussed. The experts suggested prior to filing the registration application, description of the candidate variety should be developed. For this Dr. Bala Ravi suggested using formats developed by Bioversity International. These formats are available on the website. These formats are good aid because line drawings and dichotomous key for describing the variety are given.

First meeting of CGR-MGB participants in the context of farmer’s variety registration. In June 2009, all participants of MGB-CGR group met at IIRD, Bidkin. MGB planning phase spared a small grant to facilitate registration of farmer’s varieties on experimental basis.

In this meeting pre lunch session was devoted to understanding registration process. Later participants shared description of some farmer’s varieties from their areas. Post lunch session was on developing line of action for registration of some farmers varieties on experimental basis. Major discussion points were: description of the variety, institutional structure for filing the application and field level follow up MGB-CGR group found that PPVFRA did not have specified form for describing farmers varieties unlike breeders (read commercial) variety. The group decided to use form number 22 in the People’s Biodiversity Register Methodology Manual. For this Prof. Gadgil and Dr. Bala Ravi were consulted. Prof. Gadgil shared that form number 22 of Peoples Biodiversity Register Methodology Manual was primarily contribution of Dr. Sanjeev Saxena.

In case of institutional structure initially common interest group of farmers cultivating the candidate variety was thought to be suitable.

In the Chennai meeting Dr. Bala Ravi had shared that NGOs helping farmers in filing registration needed to be authorized. For this, he had explained there was PV1 form provided by the act.

The meeting of CGR-MGB collaborators concluded with: a tentative list of candidate varieties and time line for developing detail description, set up institutional structure and filing the application with the authority.

Field level follow up – July, August, September and October 2009

A meeting with farmers cultivating Vandi variety of Sorghum was conducted at Atpadi. This was followed by a meeting with Gidghap, a variety of Sorghum, cultivaors in Vita taluka of Sangli district. In these meetings farmers were explained objective of PPVFRA. They were appealed to participate in the farmers variety registration experiment. Following points were explained to them: (1)Farmers variety registration does need any fee, (2)in case of benefit sharing, the monetary benefit will be deposited in the National Gene Fund which later will be directed to the community, (3)the cultivator community needs to authorize the NGO in case the NGO filing application on behalf of the community. However benefit sharing, if at all it comes through, would be in the name of the community. 

Each meeting was attended by 20 farmers. Vandi Samvardhak Sangh and Gidghap Samvardhak Sangh were established. Both the Common Interest Groups developed rules and regulations. A meeting was conducted on the similar lines with Kalbhat, a rice variety, cultivators. Kalbhat is an aromatic variety of hilly area of Akole taluka of Ahmednagar district. This meeting was convened at Sangamner.

A field visit to Deothan village in Sangamner taluka was conducted. A pearl millet variety named Deothan Bajri is in existence. Presently it is cultivated by a single farmer in the village. Randomly we enquired with the villagers about the variety and its availability. Everyone mentioned no one, except that specific farmer, was cultivating the variety.

After three field visits we realized limitation of the Common Interest Group in the context of registration of farmers variety. Discussion with Mohan Hirabai Hiralal of Vrikshamitra, Chandrapur and Prof. Gadgil was important in this context. We gave afresh thought to biodiversity management committee being institutional structure. Following points were crystallized: (1) there are very few committed farmers in any given village that are into conservation of traditional varieties (2) None of these farmers is aware of PPVFRA and positive provisions in it (3) a BMC would have cross boundary dimension. This means in Maharashtra basic administrative unit is gram panchayat. A gram panchayat is set up on the basis of certain population. This has practical implication. Each natural village as understood by the local people may or may not have independent gram panchayat. There are group grampanchayts formed out of clubbing two three natural villages. Cross boundary dimension pertains to spread of a particular variety over more than one village. In case of traditional varieties one cannot ascribe just one village as the village practicing the variety. A BMC is formed as suggested in the BDA at the level of local body. That means at the gram panchayat level. This necessitates each village setting up BMC and passing a resolution of filing the application for a single variety. (4)A BMC applying for registration means the credit of conservation and registration of the variety would be shared among all villagers. This could prove to be a disincentive for those actually conserving the variety out of sheer enthusiasm and interest. (5) to over come practical difficulty mentioned in the earlier point, MGB-CGR group developed a model BMC resolution. This resolution specifically mentioned individual farmers cultivating the variety. In the same resolution NGO helping the community was authorized to file the case on behalf of the community. (6)There is hardly any BMC set up at village level in Maharashtra. (7)BMC being a constitutional body as provided in the BDA does need any registration unlike CIG which would need registration in case of legal matter.

In August 2009 MGB CGR representative attended a meeting a Bangalore. This meeting was chaired by Dr. Nagarajan, Chairman of PPVFRA Authority. Entire registration effort and proposed work of MGB-CGR group was shared in the meeting. Responding to a query on time limit for variety registration, Dr. Nagarajan mentioned that authority would take note of a common application moved by CSOs to extend the time limit and may perhaps allow the extension. However as of that time, he said farmers varieties also being extant varieties would have to comply with the last date. In a question related to DUS as applicable to farmers’ variety, Dr Nagarajan said these criteria have been relaxed in case of farmers variety. He appreciated MGB effort and appealed to the participants from other states to initiate conservation project on the lines of MGB.

Bangalore visit was followed by a field visit to Shekta village in Paithan taluka and Parla village of Vaijapur taluka of Aurangabad district. Shekta villagers shared that they would file the application for Maldandi Sorghum. Parla villagers have decided to file for a pearl millet variety. Another field visit to Bhandara district resulted in two villages resolving to file registration application for rice varieties. Continuous communication with KVK Nandurbar resulted in initiative to file two Peagon Pea varieties for registration.

In August, MGB-CGR got an opportunity to attend a meeting at MSSRF Chennai. This meeting was attended by Chairman of PPVFRA as well as Chairman of NBA. MGB-CGR work was presented in this meeting. Discussion ensued after presentation shed light on lack of (1) mass scale awareness generation on the act (2) text of the act available in local language (3) documentation of any precedent of farmers variety registration (4) guidelines for filing the application – description, institutional structure in particular.

Filing the application-November 2009

As a result of the combined effort of MGB-CGR group following has been achieved.

KVK, Nandurbar – two Peagon Pea varieties
Lokpanchayat, Sangamner – Deothan Pearl millet and Kalbhat, a rice variety
Lokparyay, Aurangabad – a variety of pearl millet
IIRD, Aurangabad – a variety- Maldandi- of Sorghum
Gramin Yuva Pragatik Mandal, Bhandara – two rice varieties

The application of each of these varieties consists of a covering letter in Hindi, description of the candidate variety in Marathi– filled in form number 22 of Peoples Biodiversity Register methodology manual, resolution of gram panchayat of setting up biodiversity management committee, in Marathi and resolution of the BMC to file the registration and authorizing the NGO in Marathi. Our stand on doing entire application in Marathi and Hindi is the community should know entire deliberation.

We tried to locate Hindi PV1 form for NGO authorization. We did not get it. Therefore none of the applications, except KVK Nandurbar have filled in PV1 form. Each application is separately sent by speed post to the authority.

During the entire exercise we assumed that 30 November 2009 is the last date of application. MGB-CGR planned entire activities based on this date. However on 22 November we came across an advertisement from PPVFR authority mentioning last date as 1 November. Dr. Sanjeev Saxena kindly scanned and passed on this advertisement by email 22 November 2009.

Conservation and Promotion of Endangered Medicinal Plant Species from Western Ghats of India

Western Ghats of India is one of the 34 globally recognized biodiversity hotspots known for its rich diversity of medicinal plant species. Several plant species are becoming globally important due to newfound curative properties. They yield high value metabolites and are threatened globally and endemic to Western Ghats. Unsustainable harvesting in large volumes by forest contractors through local tribals was found to be one of the reasons for its depletion. Reducing harvest pressure on wild population of ‘red list’ species and promoting viable commercial cultivation with the community and government participation is a huge challenge. The present project involves local collectors in conservation, training them in raising quality planting stock and mass propagation / cultivation.

Ecological Assessment of the Mutha River Front and The Rivulet at The Proposed Nanded City, Pune

Funding agency : Nanded City Corporation, Pune.

RANWA was assigned to do the ecological survey of the (a) the Mutha right bank (the river front of the proposed Nanded City) and (b) the Nanded rivulet (odha) by the concerned developers.

The survey encompasses following objectives :
1. To identify existing and potential green habitats including geomorphic features of interest.
2. To make floristic inventory that includes unique, endemic and invasive elements.
3. To make faunal inventory covering mainly birds, butterflies, fish and mammals.
4. To assess the water quality.
5. To identify eco-sensitive habitats, zones, species.

Plants and their Uses: Botany of the Sahyadris

Funding agency : National Geographic Society, US

Supported by National Geographic Society, US the current project looks into the floristically under explored areas of Maharashtra and BRT & SRF sanctuaries of Karnataka. Documenting ethnbotanical knowledge of the local community forms an integral component of the project.

Objectives :

1. Vascular plant inventory and comprehensive checklist of the some of the lesser known forests of northern Western Ghats
2. Collecting information on the ethno botanical uses of plants by local people

Area covered :

Protected Area -Bheemashankar WLS, Radhanagari WLS
Non protected are - Amba ghat, Amboli, Tillari

Wild Edible Plants : Documentation and Assessment of Nutritional Quality

Funding Agency : ATREE
Duration : Aug 2006 – July 2007

Present study documents the diversity, nutritional qualities and traditional recipes of Wild Edible Plants from Maval taluk, northern Western Ghats of Maharashtra. Information has been documented and compiled in the form of a field guide which includes (i) season of occurrence, (ii) edible plant part, (iii) time and method of collection, (iv) storage techniques, (v) cultural and nutritional importance, (vi) processing and recepies, (vii) associated folk medicinal properties, and (viii) whether harvested for commercial purpose and sold in the market.

Recovery and domestication of endangered Nothapodytes nimmoniana (Grah.) Mabb. through community participation.

Funding Agency - Rufford Maurice Laing Foundation, UK
Duration: 2006-2008

Nothapodytes nimmoniana (Syn. Mappia foetida, vern. Narkya) is an endangered medicinal tree from Western Ghats of India, a global biodiversity hot-spot. It is the most convenient source for large-scale production of camptothecin (CPT) which is used in the treatment of cancer and HIV-I. Because of destructive harvesting, habitat loss, the population of this species has declined 50-80%. In view of the mounting demand and perceived threat to the native populations, it is highly essential to develop an appropriate strategy (mass cultivation) for its conservation.

Objectives :

a) Transferring the standardized technology to mass propagate the species.
b) Developing protocols for a sustained and managed utilization of the wild pool.

Accomplished / Results :

Field Setup :
1. Nursery at 2 places in Pune District
2. Plantation activity at different places

Mapping and Quantitative Assessment of Geographic Distribution and the Population Status of Plant Resources of Western Ghats

Funding Agency - Department of Biotechnology through UAS, Bangalore
Duration: 2004-2009

Supported by Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Govt. of India, current case study generates a high-resolution data on woody species diversity at 6.25 km X 6.25 km scale over an entire Western Ghats eco-region level. Plant resources have been intensively sampled from northern Western Ghats. Masters' students of Biodiversity (Abasaheb Garware College, Pune) are involved in the data generation whereas RANWA provides technical expertise.

Districts : Pune, Satara

Accomplish/Results :
Completed grids: 240 out of 300 grids

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