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  project name ~ PEAK (People, Empowerment and Indigenous Knowledge) 2006

category ~ Rural Development and Environment




  Project Name


PEAK (People, Empowerment and Indigenous Knowledge) 2006



Community Awareness Centre (CAC),



Rural Development and Environment







  Budget Approved


$ 0


  Year Approved







  Chapter Coordinators


Anitha Sampath
Venktesh Kalyanaraman
Nirveek Bhattacharjee
projects aid_tucson
Nitn Verma


Johns Hopkins
Tucson Arizona
New York









The people of Kumaon region are facing a problem. Their fields, after centuries of lush greenery, have faded to brown. Their wells are running dry. Their cows can find no fodder. Their seeds are fading away , varieties are disappearing, with every successive season. But the people of Kumaon have a solution as well. It is a secret in their soil, their hands, their memories. Farmers in the Himalayan foothills, in the Almora and Nainital district of Uttaranchal, are facing their enemy armed with a knowledge of their land; a knowledge that has endured over centuries, and has changed forms as it has changed hands. This knowledge is saving their seeds, their soil, and their livelihoods. In partnership with the Community Awareness Center, an NGO based in Nainital district, marginalized villagers are finding strategies for development in which they are their own masters. They are creating their own food security, learning to provide themselves with nutritious, safe, and sufficient foods, using sustainable, efficient and effective traditional methods.

Geography: The two main project areas are in Maniager and Bheerapani, located in the Almora and Nainital District of Uttaranchal. Uttaranchal was created, In the year 2000, carved from the most mountainous region of Uttar Pradesh.

People’s Knowledge
It is these most marginalized groups that hold the key to hill’s sustainable development. People’s knowledge, in all of its manifestations, tends to be found in the most oppressed corners of society. Women and dalits and the poor, as agricultural workers, hold within themselves a vast knowledge of their land and survival strategies. This knowledge, these systems, are not stagnant. Rather, they are still dynamic and relevant . They have changed over centuries of oral and experiential transfer from generation to generation. These changes are adaptations to social and environmental change.

Community Awareness Centre through its units in Almora and Nainital district — has been working to systematically document, protect and promote indigenous knowledge as a vital ingredient for survival in the Uttranachal Himalayas for the last five years. This proposal outlines the current work occurring in the crucial area of traditional knowledge as well as the advocacy for the rights of local peoples to those knowledge systems.





Some of the achievements and impact of the work done by CAC in the last four years: 1) Women in the 16 villages have started understanding the importance and relevance of their own knowledge systems especially in the context of new emerging scenario; 2) Women have been formulating, implementing , monitoring and evaluating plans to stem the process of erosion of traditional knowledge and also to strengthen it (agriculture, health, natural resources, in particular) especially in the wake of increased inflow of goods and information from external sources; 3) Women have initiated and sustained a long campaign against alcoholism by registering complaints with the police, shutting down local wine producing outlets, taking action against those found guilty by slapping fines, social boycott etc. Youth too participated actively and gave strength and solidarity to this movement. These issues had existed in the community but had never been voiced; • Alcoholism consumption as well as its production ( country liquor) has gone down considerably over the last four years, as a result, in one of the areas. 4) Women have started participating in the formal and informal decision making structures/arrangements especially relating to forestry. One of the villages has a formal forest committee comprising only women (one of its kind in the area); 5) Women leaders from different caste group have started eating together (untouchability is still practiced in the area) –expressing a common bond which overcame caste barriers; 6) Women (as a group) have asked for a responsive services in reproductive health from ANMs; 7) Women have started raising issues of proper management of forests( including govt. owned Reserved forests) with forest officials; 8) Youth have started viewing traditional occupations with new respect; • Women have started taking leadership roles in the community; They are being invited by the neighbourhood villages to discuss the problems and solutions etc ,being faced by them 9) Community based plans on food security, forestry, and health have been initiated; 10) Dalits and women have started asserting their rights in local bodies; a) One of the dalit women pradhans within the area has been adjudged the best pradhan in the entire block , with 103 villages, in the Almora district b) Issues such as widow pension scheme, discrimination in schools, forestry issues pertaining to women, etc are being taken up for the first time through these forums( at least in three gram sabhas) c) The percentage of women participating in the gram sabha meetings has gone up , (almost in all the gram sabhas within the area) 11) Activities relating to the use and management of natural resources taking place in three of our villages have been taken up as case studies in a UNDP study on ‘community conserved forest areas’; 12) Community in the nearby areas have been taking up initiatives on their own to protect their forests inspired by the exemplary efforts made by women in the working area to manage and sustainably utilize the forest reserves; 13) Women have started demanding better health services and facilities from district officials. 14) Women have raised issues regarding the quality of education in govt. schools in the area with DM and SDM’s; 15) Women and youth are registering their protests on various forums (Panchayats, schools etc.) against the discriminatory attitude of teachers towards children in schools in their area; 16) Reputed educational institutions have recognized and included People’s knowledge and best practices as one of the important issues of their community extension programme and it is also being taken up by the M Sc students as a subject of their dissertation; now almost regularly, for the last three years now. This acquires special significance in the context of lack of recognition of this informal knowledge system by the so called formal knowledge system 17) Innovative attempts made on the issue are being recognized and appreciated by reputed networks; 18) One of the innovators from the area has been recommended for national award by National Innovation Foundation; 19) Success stories from the area being published in reputed weeklies, newsletters etc. 20) University of Delhi has decided to include the issue of People’s knowledge as one of the papers in their M Sc curriculum. Though it will be a cross cutting issue and would figure in other papers as well. 21) One of the members has been chosen as AID Saathi- partner /fellow, by an international organization AID – Association for India’s Development, USA. 22) We would be replicating the work going in our area particularly relating to Indigenous Health Care Practices in the whole of Uttaranchal Similarly it would be replicated in seven blocks of Uttar Pradesh too. 23) A local theatre group – a very close partner of our organization, working as agents of social change through traditional music based plays and songs on the burning social issues –AIDS, education, forestry, agriculture, violence against women, women’ s work burden etc etc, has been chosen to campaign on the issue of traditional knowledge based livelihoods in four districts of Uttaranchal. Through folk medium they are raising social concerns and initiate the process of thinking. 24) Some of the citizen organizations have started replicating the ideas on People’s Knowledge





Activities and Outcomes of the Food Security proposal. The activities of the proposed project can be broadly divided into two main categories: 1) community level activities; and 2) activities aimed at policy advocacy. The community level activities will be carried out by CAC in a total of 25 (by the end of three years) villages and technical support will be provided by Aadhar(unit of CAC). This will include an expansion of the current project area of 15 villages by an additional ten villages over the next two years. Where advocacy is concerned the primary responsibility will rest with Aadhar . Community level activities will basically include a three step process: 1) Appraisal and awareness generation of existing resources; 2) Conservation (in situ and ex situ); 3) Adaptation and development of appropriate technology. Policy advocacy will involve: • Building an appropriate environment • Documentation • Material Preparation and dissemination of information • Networking • Advocacy Objectives of the natural resources project proposal The long term objectives of the project are as follows : • Improvement in the economic status of the poor and dalit communities in remote rural areas through increased livelihood opportunities and options; • Women’s empowerment and greater access and control over the use of natural resources; • Dalit empowerment and increased respect for skills of dalit artisans; • Adoption of ecologically and economically sustainable practices. The short term objectives of the project are as follows: • To document and disseminate local practices based on people’s knowledge; • To promote, document and disseminate innovations based on people’s knowledge; • To improve the livelihood options and opportunities of communities living in the project area in the districts of Nainital and Almora; • To assist the process of women’s empowerment in both project areas; • To assist the process of dalit empowerment in the area of Buniyad (CAC)and increase sensitivity to caste issues in communities in the project area of Bheerapani of CAC. • To create a network of like-minded organizations and individuals and initiate a process of policy advocacy; For further details please refer to the attached documents.



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