Community organisations take up eco-friendly business

A group of community-based organisations from across the world have showed that biodiversity and business can go hand-in-hand for the benefit of the people.

Updated: Oct 11, 2012, 20:52 PM IST

Hyderabad: A group of community-based organisations from across the world have showed that biodiversity and business can go hand-in-hand for the benefit of the people.
The organisations from as diverse places as western Kenya and Tamil Nadu shared their experiences and knowledge on a platform `Community Palle` (village), supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), on the sidelines of the ongoing UN biodiversity convention here.

"In particular, we look at biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction. Every two years, in line with Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) Conference of Parties (COP), we bring together some of these leaders, so that they can tell their stories to each other, tell the stories to the world," UNDP programme officer Joseph Corcoran said.

A case in study is the Muliru Farmers Conservation Group, a community-based organisation located near Kakamega Forest in western Kenya, officials said.

The group generates income through commercial cultivation and secondary processing of an indigenous medicinal plant to produce the `Naturub` brand of medicinal products, organisers of the group said in a presentation at the convention.

Kakamega is the last surviving rain forest in Kenya and is home to a unique variety of eco-systems and diversity of flora and fauna.

A species endemic to Kakamega Forest is Ocimum kilimandscharicum, an indigenous medicinal plant, which has been used by the local population for the treatment of cold, flus and coughs.

The Muliru Farmers Conservation Group, formed in 1997, promotes the commercial cultivation of the plant by the local communities and creates revenue for them by processing, producing and marketing its products, officials said.

It also stimulates the participation of the local communities in conservation activities.
The total revenue from the project thus far has been USD 70,000 and it has impacted the biodiversity and also the socio-economic spheres of the local community, they said.

Similarly, the `Aharam Traditional Crop Producers Company` from Tamil Nadu works with the socially marginalised rural producers to conserve biodiversity in the semi-arid and "a marginalised and impoverished region" of Ramnad plains near Madurai in the state.

The initiative uses a producer group model focused on women and landless labourers to promote organic farming practices that improve crop biodiversity and agro-biodiversity, Utkarsh Ghate, the official from the company said during the presentation.

The group`s work is aimed at reducing dependence on cotton cultivation by increasing the commercial viability of farming small-scale crops and harvesting medicinal plants.

Besides providing training in organic farming practices, the initiative has encouraged the formation of savings and micro-credit self-help groups, as well as supporting fledgling micro-enterprises.

Founded in 2003, the company benefits about 15,000 rural small-scale producers, he said.

The Aharam Traditional Crop Producers` Company (2010) and the Muliru Farmers Conservation Group (2006) are among the winners of the Equator Prize.

"Every two years, the Equator awards, (are given). So, this is a UNDP initiative to recognise local leadership. What we also believe is that change comes from that ground up, that community-based practitioners are also advancing innovative solutions in sustainable development. Our goal is to put the two in conversation with each other, get community-based practitioners talking to national governments," Corcoran said.

The Equator Prize given by UNDP has helped the community-based organisations improve their visibility and profile in their respective countries and the platform provided by UNDP at the international conferences helps them to connect with each other, he added.