In 2015, when the Government of India announced that the tiger
population in India surged 58 percent in seven years, it was a moment to
cheer the efforts put in over the past two decades towards tiger
conservation. It was also a moment to take stock of the factors that
worked in favor of the big cat and those that needed a relook. A key
success factor for tiger conservation has been the participation of
communities that live close to tiger reserves and have traditionally
been dependent on the forest for their livelihood.
Ironically, more tigers were killed by poachers in the first four months
of 2016 than the entire year of 2015. This year till July, the number
of poaching related tiger deaths recorded was 31. These sobering
statistics by the Wildlife Protection Society of India prove that India
needs a holistic approach towards tiger conservation where short-term
methods of improved surveillance and intelligence gathering must be
complemented by long-term efforts of community participation.
One such project is Pukaar, run by The Corbett Foundation (TCF), a
non-profit, non-government organization. Pukaar provides training on
alternate sources of livelihood to forest-dwelling and forest-dependent
communities in four prominent wildlife protected areas in the country.
Launched in July 2012, with the support of Axis Bank Foundation, Pukaar
has reached 446 villages and benefitted 2,522 people till February 2016.Tiger Conservation in IndiaAccording to the latest figures, based on a tiger census carried out in
2014, India has 2,226 tigers in the wild, constituting over 70 percent
of the world’s tiger population. The country has 49 tiger reserves and
has spent more money on saving this magnificent endangered beast than
any other wildlife species. Two of the biggest challenges in protecting
tigers are depleting habitat and poaching of tigers to meet the demand
for tiger parts from other Asian countries.All the tiger reserves together occupy just over two percent of the
country’s total geographical area. Conflicts often arise between tigers
and villagers who live on the fringes of these reserves, and compete for
the same space and resources. It is estimated that there are over 400
million forest-dependent people in India.
“Local communities such as the Gujjar, Baiga, and Gond have for
generations been sharing their habitat with tigers and other wild
animals. No one knows and understands wildlife and animal habits better
than these communities. Their knowledge about forests and wildlife has
often been misused by poaching gangs and timber mafias. Due to the lack
of basic education and alternate sources of livelihoods, they are easily
lured into such activities,” TCF director Kedar Gore said.The Genesis of PukaarTCF launched Pukaar with the primary goal of providing vocational
training and encouraging a sustainable and environmentfriendly lifestyle
with minimum dependence on forest resources and an adverse impact on
wildlife. The foundation works with forest-dependent communities and
tribes who live close to the protected areas in Corbett in Uttarakhand,
Kanha and Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh, and Kaziranga in Assam.
It is a five-year long project that will come to an end in June 2017.The project, with a budget of over Rs. 1.4 crore, has been funded by
Axis Bank Foundation. The budget is strictly monitored by the sponsor
and expenses are on track.
“TCF has been working in Corbett since 1994, Kanha and Bandhavgarh since
2010, and Kaziranga since 2013. Through our work with the villagers, we
realized the need for an intensive sustainable livelihood program to
prevent human-wildlife conflict,” said Mr. Gore.
Once the idea was firmed up, TCF conducted village-level meetings in
which it involved village panchayats and ecodevelopment committees. It
conducted a survey to obtain baseline data about potential beneficiaries
and training components. After launching Pukaar, TCF had to work with
villagers to convince them that these trainings could change their
“We held street corner meetings, networking events, and meetings with
gram pradhans (village head), schools teachers, local members of
legislative assemblies, and forest officials to create awareness about
Pukaar,” added Mr. Gore.
The next step was selection of trainees to ensure sustainability of the
project. Some of the selection criteria for Pukaar training are
unemployed men or women in the age group of 18-40, interest in
self-employment or wage employment, having some knowledge of the area in
which he/she will receive training, and early school or college
So far, TCF has been meeting the annual target of 710 beneficiaries. Of
these, 61 percent are women, who have received training in vocation and
livelihood skills from a selection of 30-odd skills such as basic
hospitality, sewing and tailoring, beauty care, mobile and computer
repair, soft toys making, sustainable agriculture, and nature guide.
More than 80 percent of them have found jobs or have started their own
entrepreneurship venture. A total of 50 self-help groups have been
formed that provide a modest, additional source of income by engaging
the community in vocational activities.
Mr. Gore expects another 710 people to get training between July 2016
and June 2017, thus taking the total number of beneficiaries by the end
of the project to 3,550.Implementation StepsThe following measures played a critical role in the successful implementation of the project:
Project Monitoring“Close monitoring, follow ups, and evaluation have been extremely
important for the success of this project. We conduct regular field
visits and home visits, meet self-help groups, and organize monthly
meetings between the project team and the supervising authority to
discuss the project’s progress,” said Mr. Gore.
The project’s progress is documented through reports and recording of
data from social and financial audits, and follow-up activities. The
monthly progress report details the trainings conducted in a month, the
list of trainees, documents the success stories, and the trainings
planned in the near future. A copy of the monthly report goes to the
project sponsor, Axis Bank Foundation.
Besides this, TCF prepares quarterly and half-yearly reports that
updates expenditure incurred on trainings and associated programs. The
funding agency also makes yearly site visits to training locations.
The success of Pukaar led TCF to win the TOFT-Sanctuary Wildlife Tourism
Award for the best Wildlife Tourism Related Community Initiative of the
Year 2014 and the Kirloskar Vasundhara Mitra Award 2015. TCF also
received a Certificate of Merit 2016 at the World CSR Congress held in
“Pukaar has enabled forest-dwelling and forest-dependent communities to
lead a sustainable lifestyle in harmony with nature. They can now opt
for non-forest dependent sources of income. The story of Pukaar is a
story of change in the lives of these communities,” remarked Mr. Gore.
He hopes to see the project scaled up and replicated in other regions
that face similar issues of conflict between wildlife and
forest-dependent village communities in India.
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