I. Mundu mata
Nallamala forest in the midst of Andhra Pradesh spread over 10416 .76 Sq.kms in 6 districts of A.P. 3568 square kilometers is wildlife sanctuary and also a tiger reserve in this forest. It is inhabited by a PVT (Particularly Vulnerable Tribe) Chenchus, having a population of 70,000. Nallamala is a rocky region supporting moderate forest but rich in wild grass. The forest being a catchment provides ecological security for the dry land parts of surrounding districts, supplying fuel, fodder and water. Apart from food gathering, Chenchus used to work as guides to the pilgrims visiting the temples in the inaccessible areas by walk. They were also engaged by farmers to protect their crops from the wildlife.
But the “educated” in the government thought that these tribes should come out of the forest, settle in the colonies, make out a living from the lands distributed them and get education etc. there by derive benefits of development. But the schemes were not successful anywhere. Their life became miserable. Meanwhile the forests were encroached and degraded. At last, the governments all over the world realized the need to recognize the traditional enjoyments, management of resources and intellectual property rights.
Nallamala forest is encroached @ 0.930 square kilometers every year. So there is every need to motivate the Chenchus by recognizing then as knowledgeable partners in the conservation of forest.
The ROFR act recognizes the dwelling site, religious places, burial grounds, village council sites along with places of MFP, water sources, biodiversity etc and also PVT tenures. The Tribal Welfare dept engaged SAKTI to train the ITDA staff and tribal community leaders in preparing the maps with the above uses. The ITDA of Chenchus extensively conducted trainings in this regard. As the programme boils down to title deeds for house sites and lands under cultivation, SAKTI engaged the Chenchu youth to document their traditional knowledge in their idiom and dialect in encouraging them to assert as inborn foresters, capable of managing these resources as envisaged in the act. The contents of the act are illustrated on the lines of a popular game “tiger and a goat”. (Puli-meka game)
The documentation in a diagram depicts the cosmic world of Chenchus(p.136), the twists in remodeling the mainstream stories according to his lifestyle, (Chenchu laxmi story (page:53) – forest dwellers) the table of the terms of relationship referring to the wildlife as members of his extended family. (p.267) The techniques in training his pet dogs, a must follower in his pursuits in the forest. The variety of forest grasses and wildlife feeding on them (Ubagaddi, Kaarugaddi etc.), the differences between the Chenchus and others in extracting the bamboo, the pilgrim and tourist places are also portrayed.
The five types of honeys and honey bees, their habitats and seasons,(p.187) the home ranges of different animals around a Chenchu habitation, (p.379 Allimatta-Memecylon edule/Umbellatum, Sagamatta-, Korinda, Yelkanakkari-Brahmin poison nut/Patridge pea climbing/Olax scandens, Pariki podalu) the place names of landscapes(p.75(2)), and the folklore associated with them. The documentation is enriched with sketches of pugmarks, sculls, etc. of animals, the feathers claws, beaks of birds, shapes of leaves, flowers etc with corresponding popular English and scientific terms to the Chenchu idioms. Thus the book enables the Chenchu to communicate his knowledge to the ‘educated’ and helps as a guide to the ‘educated’ to understand and see the forest with the eyes of Chenchus. Some of the villages illustrated in this book such as Thummalabayalu, Chintala, Chinartula, Marripalem are along the road from Dornal to Srisailam pilgrim center. So a visitor with the help of in this book can get the Chenchu into conversation and know much more about the forest and his knowledge. Such exposures develop communication skills and leadership qualities among the Chenchus.
A comparative analysis with a wildlife management plan of the ‘Tiger Reserve’ with the Chenchu knowledge proves his edge .In support of this documentation of Chenchus, the literature which can be cited as evidence in the act, from the works of eminent anthropologists Heimendorf, Bhowmic, Gangadhar, Anil Gupta (IIM), Census of India, gazetteers, also (English synopsis, translated Telugu versions) are added in this book. The ways and concessions allowed by forest department for pilgrims and Chenchus, which can be recognized as community rights, are also available.
SAKTI claims this documentation by tribes by themselves is one of its kinds in India and hopes that similar efforts in other places help in empowering the tribes and thereby conserving the forests. Along with this book SAKTI published another book on the status of governance of natural resources and the lapses and efforts in protecting the interest of Chenchus, alternatives such as fishing against hunting the game, which is prohibited according to the Act.
The biology teachers (zoology, botany) in degree and junior colleges are not capable of identifying flora and fauna in the field. So a handbook enabling to become a field naturalist engaging local tribe as a guide is the need of the hour. Not with standing with this requirement, there is a need to familiarize with the jargon of forest administration. The Pivotal role of local tribe Chenchu in managing the forest is described right from the 1885 in the Kurnool district manual, Census of India ethnographic notes, village monograph(Byrlutigudem) and also by eminent anthropologists Haimendorf and Bhomick.
While a propaganda was unleashed pointing out that tribes, marine fisher folk, pastorals moving in vast tracts are over exploding the resources, studies were taken up all over the world highlighting the sustainable methods of local communities in utilizing the resources. The “Social ecology of a tribe: The Chenchu (A food gathering tribe in Andhra Pradesh)” of V. Gangadhar and Anil Gupta is one among them. The editors of the book provided brief translation of this literature at appropriate places.