An integral part of Rajasthan’s culture, the Orans are sacred village forests that are an important source of water in the form of small springs, ponds, and rivulets and are rich in biodiversity. Floral diversity of orans constitutes dhak, kadamb, keekar, khair, and guggal, etc. which are used by local people for food, fodder for livestock, and medicines. Sambhar, nilgai, wild pigs, and peacocks constitute the faunal diversity of Orans. They serve as a source of water and pasturelands, and people use these places for cultural gatherings, festivals, and other social events. Communities practicing agro-pastoralism are dependent on these Orans for centuries. But now, these orans have undergone degradation and are severely under threat.

Need for the Initiative

The main reason for the degradation of Orans is the exclusion of local people from their management. The panchayats showed little or no interest in their conservation and restoration. Traditionally, the Orans were looked after by village institutions called ‘Thain’, but the arrival of modern institutions like panchayats and subsequent disintegration of ‘Thain’ had led to little or no maintenance of these Orans. The decline is also attributed to the weakening influence of religion with the spread of modern civilization and legislation. With various threats like mining, quarry, encroachment, clearfelling, and other depletive factors, the Orans are in dire need of conservation. Krishi Avam Paristhitiki Vikas Sansthan (KRAPAVIS), an NGO formed in 1992, stretched its hands to conserve the Orans, which are an integral part of the culture and were left to be degraded due to a lack of awareness, legal and illegal mining, and urbanization. KRAPAVIS, along with support from the local community, rescued the Orans contributing to the sustainability of livelihoods, and protecting and restoring the glory of the highly biodiverse areas of Rajasthan. This organisation undertook various activities including creating awareness, preparing an Oran Atlas, formation of Van Samiti, and the Oran Forum implementation, etc. Today, there is a cadre of over 500 rural women and youths who are associated with KRAPAVIS. Their hard work has brought fruitful results with an increased number of Orans leading to protection of the numerous associated flora and fauna. KRAPAVIS is supported by the Rajasthan SBB as well as the State Forest Department in its conservation activities. It also receives funds from various National and International organisations. The state universities also collaborate with KRAPAVIS for research purposes.

conservation initiative and its impacts-

KRAPAVIS addresses the environmental management and sustainable livelihood problems by undertaking conservation and management measures on these lands (Orans) by reviving traditional water harvesting structures, checking soil erosion, plantation as well as tree nursery raising, sowing grass seeds and planting saplings of those species that used to be present in Orans. One of the most significant features of the conservation effort is the role of communities as the prime actors in the conservation of these Orans. Krapavis took major actions by initiating the community awareness programme and involved the local people in the conservation of orans. They documented the diversity of 100 orans in “Oran Atlas’ and also came up with “Oran Novel’’ for local people and members of KRAPAVIS to guide them for conservation. Panchayats were sensitized to take initiatives to protect the Orans. The NGO has also laid down a set of rules for the local governance and management of the Orans called ‘Gram Stariya Sanghatan Niyamavali’. Construction and repair of Oran ‘taalaabs’, water harvesting structures, and trenching units on the Orans land was aided. Sustainable farming and low external input agriculture (e.g., compost, vermin-compost, seeds of local traditional varieties, traditional mixed cropping systems, bio-pesticides, etc) was promoted. The documentation of endemic species of Orans was done and native seed banks,tree nurseries were maintained. For studying composition of flora and fauna, detailed GIS mapping of 100 Orans was carried out. Key motivators from the village were identified and opportunities were provided to them to be resource persons for Oran management in other areas. KRAPAVIS reaches out to people in various ways and one of the most important channels being the newsletter/bulletin named “Devbani Re Baat ‘’ which is a quarterly publication. Its content which comprises the results of the research, resource materials, case studies, feedback, drawings, stories etc inspires more people to take part in this great chain of conservation initiatives.
• Prior to KRAPAVIS entering the picture, the local communities lacked a sense of ownership over the sacred forests, and their active participation in the conservation activities was not a common scenario. KRAPAVIS empowered the local communities by expanding their administrative and managerial abilities, thus filling a void in leadership and information on community rights. Several years of commendable work by KRAPAVIS with the help and support of the local communities has been fruitful.
• Around 200 degrading Orans that covered large pieces of ecologically critical ecosystems have been restored.
• By engaging government officials, the organisation has ensured recognition of Orans under Rajasthan’s Forest Policy, 2010, and for laying down provisions to create a directory of Orans.
• A clearer picture of the floral diversity of Orans is of great significance. The conservation status of the flora has been recorded and different ways are being planned to improve the present situation. This will help in ameliorating their carrying capacity so that utilization levels are sustainable. With financial assistance from ‘Global Giving’, a small tree nursery is being grown with 5000 saplings of suitable agroforestry species. Declining and dwindling species are prioritized, on which the elderly locals can provide information, in addition to records, gazettes, and published/unpublished material. KRAPAVIS has selected tree species that could provide 4 E-driven benefits: 1. Ecology 2. Employment 3. Energy 4. Economics.

Recognition in India Biodiversity Awards

KRISHI AVUM PARISTHITIKI VIKAS SANSTHAN (KRAPAVIS), RAJASTHAN Sustainable Use of Biological Resources (Institution) WINNER 2021