Kaigal Education and Environment Programme
Krishnamurti Foundation India
The Kaigal Education and Environment Program was started in the year 2002. It has a Conservation Center in Kaigal a village on the fringes of the Kaundinya Wildlife Sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh. The Center consists of afforestation sites, a Seed Bank, a Forest Nursery, an Educational Resource Center and a Training Center. It is located in a beautiful forested land with the Kaigal river flowing through it. We have also set up the Kaigal Trust Self-Help Group a livelihood enterprise for women and youth from the surrounding communities.
How did it come about?
All this started as part of the class 12 Environment Science program of The Valley School between the years 1999 and 2001. Students with their teachers used to stay at the Kaigal village, study the forest biodiversity and interact with the village communities. These initial years in the field helped us start work in the area of conservation of Non-Timber Forest Produce to support Livelihood for local communities in the year 2002. The Kaigal Education and Environment Program was initiated at this time.
This work brought us close to the ‘Yanadi’ tribal people who lived as small communities in the fringes of the Kaundinya Wildlife Sanctuary. We worked closely with them, used their help in understanding the ecosystem, documenting the vegetation, and identifying the endangered and indigenous species as well as the economically important varieties.
By early 2003 we had started a Seed Bank and a Forest Nursery; we had demarcated forest regeneration sites in the reserve forests and begun afforestation with the involvement of the tribal people and other youth from nearby villages in both community & private lands. Soon we conducted a field survey of about 80 sq.km of the forests, documenting the vegetation diversity, and used this to understand the vegetation status and identify species for conservation in the nursery. An income generation program was also started in a small way.
All this resulted in the formation of The Kaigal Conservation Center a place which housed the afforestation sites, Seed Bank, Forest Nursery and a Training Center for livelihood activities.
In early 2004, some of the elder members of the tribal villages where we worked (Mugilupodalurevu and Kalligutta) requested us to start schools for their children. These and many other tribal villages did not have schools nearby and their children therefore rarely went to schools. It was common to see even 10 and 12 year old’s never having been to a school! The Sanctuary Schools were started to address this situation and provide education to children in these tribal villages. We started three primary schools in 2004 and two more in 2006. Starting schools meant identifying and building a teacher body and along with this developing an Educational Resource Center. The Schools soon received government recognition under the Right To Education Act.
By 2007 the Seed Bank had a collection of germ-plasm from over 250 species of plants. We had researched and raised many endangered species from seeds and used them for reforestation. Our nursery team had successfully raised about 85-90 species of native plants by now. A herb garden was also started.
By 2009 The Sanctuary Schools were fairly well established. We were focusing on developing specific learning materials for pre-school since the Sanctuary Schools had a large number of children between 3 to 6 years of age by this time.
The livelihood activity had in the meanwhile grown in scale and diversity and in 2010 it took the form of an independent community-run enterprise, The Kaigal Trust Self Help Group.
One of our popular programs with many students and outsiders has been the Environment Education Program. This is open to any educational institution and many schools participate in it. Our first official Environment Education Program was in 2006. Since then we have schools coming every year.
Our vision is to make the entire initiative community owned in the next few years. The focus throughout these 12 years has been in working with people from local communities and empowering them. This has been by strengthening relationships, capacity building through skill development, supporting higher education and establishing linkage with different organizations and people.
We hope to extend our work in more ecosystems, to continue our work on conservation, education and livelihood – the three main pillars of sustainable development.
If you have no relationship with nature you have no relationship with man. Nature is the meadows, the groves, the rivers, all the marvelous earth, the trees, and the beauty of the earth. If we have no relationship with that, we shall have no relationship with each other.
– J. Krishnamurti