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Transhumance Heritage
Agricultural Heritage
Biodiversity Heritage

Transhumance Heritage

Transhumance is the seasonal movements of livestock and shepherds over ancient routes to the best grazing grounds. It is an economic activity based on a unique relationship between nature and humankind. Moreover, it is one of the most sustainable livestock farming practices thanks to the in-depth knowledge of transhumance herders about the environment, ecological balance, and their animals. According to UNESCO, thousands of animals are driven by groups of herders together with their dogs and horses along steady routes across varied geographical and climatic regions, from dawn to dusk. In many cases, the herders’ families also travel with the livestock. Two broad types of transhumance can be distinguished: horizontal transhumance, in plain or plateau regions; and vertical transhumance, typically in mountain regions. Transhumance shapes relations among people, animals and ecosystems. It involves shared rituals and social practices, caring for and breeding animals, managing land, forests and water resources, and dealing with natural hazards. Transhumant herders have in-depth knowledge of the environment, ecological balance and climate change, as this is one of the most sustainable, efficient livestock farming methods. They also possess special skills related to all kinds of handicraft and food production involved. UNESCO has recognized the transhumance as intangible cultural heritage. The Grassroots Institute is geared to undertake foundational works on this aspect in Central Asia region.

Agricultural Heritage

Agricultural heritage is a living, evolving system of human communities in an intricate relationship with their territory, cultural or agricultural landscape or biophysical and wider social environment. FAO has recognized and evolved globally important agricultural heritage system. According to FAO, humans and their livelihood activities have continually adapted to the potentials and constraints of the environment and also shaped the landscape and the biological environment to different degrees. This has led to an accumulation of experience over generations, an increasing range and depth of their knowledge systems and generally, but not necessarily, a complex and diverse range of livelihood activities, often closely integrated. The Grassroots Institute is geared to undertake foundational works on this aspect in Central Asia region.

Biodiversity Heritage

In India, the Biodiversity Heritage Sites (BHS) are areas that are unique, ecologically fragile ecosystems having rich biodiversity comprising of any one or more of the components such as; species richness, high endemism, presence of rare, endemic and threatened species, keystone species, species of evolutionary significance, wild ancestors of domestic/cultivated species or land races or their varieties, past pre-eminence of biological components represented by fossil beds and having cultural or aesthetic values. Under Section 37 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, various state governments have recognized and created over 63 BHS. Referring the innovative and integrated project of the Indian central and state governments and the civil society groups, The Grassroots Institute strives to undertake special intervention as described below.

Special Intervention: Customary Institutions and Law underlying Biodiversity Heritage

No doubt the BHS are increasingly recognized as best conservation models carried forward by Indigenous people or local traditional communities. Nevertheless, the backbone of these BHS is the robust local governance system embedded in indigenous/customary institutions and their undercurrent customary laws/rules. In context of institutional analysis, institutional governance, customary laws/rules, management systems, national and sub-national integration of BHS, there is an urgent need of action research. Without customary laws/rules woven around customary institutions, the conservation function in a BHS area cannot sustain and the ecologically and bioculturally protected territory will decay, degrade and fragment. In conformity of the UNDRIP, resource rights of Indigenous peoples, biocultural resources, and biodiversity conservation are the core crosscutting elements of actions of The Grassroots Institute under this arena of Heritage Initiative. Under the BHS approach of conservation, excessive extraction and greed-based economic exploitation of natural resources from defined land territories should be excluded by Indigenous institutions in micro zones and in larger collective territories. To achieve larger goal, declaration and notification of larger landscapes and Indigenous territories as Biodiversity Heritage Site (BHS) would protect natural and cultural resources from unseen/unknown future threats of destructive development projects, extractive industries, habitat fragmentation, township projects, mining, hydroelectric projects, and so on. In Northeast India, the following set of activities are pursued:

  • Strengthening Customary Institutions and Networks
  • Tribe-Specific Documentation of Customary Laws on Conservation
  • Integration of Customary Laws for Improved Nature Management
  • Tribe-Specific Biocultural Community Protocols (BCPs)
  • Promotion of Resource Rights of Indigenous Peoples