Pune Students Embark on 15-Day Journey to Document Local Biodiversity and Empower Communities

Initiative Aims to Foster Ownership and Participation in Conservation Efforts

In a vital step towards grassroots conservation, 27 postgraduate students from Fergusson College, Deccan Education Society’s Pune University (DESPU), are enrolled in a unique 15-day certificate course on Peoples’ Biodiversity Register (PBR) development. This collaborative initiative by Raintree Foundation and Srushti Conservation Foundation (SCF) aims to empower local communities and safeguard India’s rich biodiversity.

The PBR, mandated by the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, serves as a crucial tool for documenting and preserving bio-resources and traditional ecological knowledge held by local communities. With human activities posing severe threats to biodiversity, urgent action is required to protect natural heritage and ensure sustainable development.

“Documentation of traditional knowledge is not just about understanding the community’s relationship with their environment, but also about fostering ownership and participation in conservation efforts,” emphasizes Ms. Namita Dandekar, Chief Operating Officer, Raintree Foundation. “This experiential program offers students practical exposure to PBR development and community engagement, preparing them to be future leaders in environmental stewardship.”

The course boasts a comprehensive curriculum, blending classroom sessions with hands-on fieldwork. The initial five days will be dedicated to theoretical learning at Fergusson College, led by SCF experts. Students will delve into topics like climate change and biodiversity, traditional knowledge systems, and the PBR concept, gaining a thorough understanding of its purpose, structure, and applications. Interactive sessions on Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) techniques and awareness generation activities will equip them with essential skills for engaging with communities effectively.

From January 7th onwards, the program shifts to Gunjavane and Sakhar villages, where students will engage in a nine-day intensive field experience. This immersive phase will involve documenting fading oral histories about local biodiversity, preparing awareness materials, and actively participating in the PBR development process. The collected data will be collated, compiled, and edited into a comprehensive document, culminating in a final exam and certificate distribution on the concluding day. The prepared PBRs will then be submitted to the Maharashtra State Biodiversity Board for official approval.

This collaborative effort between Raintree Foundation, SCF, and Fergusson College marks a significant step towards empowering local communities and bridging the gap between traditional knowledge and scientific conservation. By equipping students with the tools and understanding needed to effectively document and safeguard India’s biodiversity, the program lays the foundation for a future where communities and nature thrive in harmony.