Coming from a background in a farming community in the US I was able to empathize with the struggles and difficulties of rural farming, but common land in my area back home is almost nonexistent. To see the people of multiple villages band together to deflect destructive mining projects or for an entire community to agree to sustainably manage their firewood sources was inspiring. It has taken a great amount of effort from the FES field workers and highly efficient management from the FES organizers but over the past twenty years they have worked to rehabilitate land in over 5,000 villages all across India. The villager’s dedication and resolve was matched only by their passion and eagerness to demonstrate the amazing transformations that are happening when they begin to effectively manage water usage, grazing patterns, firewood usage, and agricultural inputs.
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Foundation for Ecological Security, India
Recently my colleague Patrick and I spent two weeks traveling all across India to film the great work that the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) is doing. They are training and coordinating with rural villagers who are working to regenerate land across multiple climates and biomes throughout the country.
Much like China, India has been developing rapidly over the past 15-20 years and in the government’s quest for development resources and capital, they have seemed to overlook the needs of the vibrant and traditional ways of living. We traveled to five major cities and more than fifteen small villages (ranging from just a few families to over 200 households) and investigated their struggles and triumphs in protecting what is referred to as “the commons”.
Villagers were seeing water return (all year long) in wells that had been dry for the past fifteen years, they were seeing animals like Peacocks, Barking Deer, and Sloth Bears return to the hillsides when before they were bare. They were adopting energy technologies like biogas and highly efficient cooking apparatuses. They were utilizing traditional knowledge of planting and seed saving to maximize their yields with an open eye to the effects that pesticides, herbicides, and genetically modified crops (GMOs) would have on their land and water sources. They were learning and teaching sustainable practices that will not only help them today, but will provide a secure future for generations to come.
Documenting and learning about the commons and the work that the villagers are doing in conjunction with FES has provided a vision of what can happen when dedicated people stop at nothing to help protect our common future. It is no wonder that they were awarded with the 2013 United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification’s Land for Life award and I hope to see more projects like this spring up all across the globe.