This year people of many poor and developing countries have experienced loss of livelihood on a very large scale within a very short period. Various countries are trying to resolve this problem within their own limited capacity but this is not adequate in most places. These efforts will certainly be helped if there is in addition a big global initiative to provide livelihood on a large scale.
At the same time there is clearly very urgent need for checking climate change and other related problems. Hence this should become the main focus of a global program of livelihood support . In other words, a global program of generating employment in various labor-intensive tasks of ecological regeneration is the need of the hour.
Massive, perhaps unprecedented funds should be raised for this so that regular funding for at least about five years can be assured. These funds should be used mainly in rural areas on afforestation and water-conservation works as well as protection and conservation of traditional seeds.
By afforestation we do not imply merely planting trees. This can also take the form of support for protecting existing natural forests and regenerating degraded forests in various ways. When planting trees the effort should be based on local tree species and the effort should be try to imitate a natural forest as much as possible. Indigenous tree species which provide good water and soil conservation , as well as fruit and fodder trees should be emphasized wherever possible.
A special effort should be made to involve communities that have been living in or close to forests for a very long time, including communities mentioned as tribal and/or indigenous communities as per official terms used in various countries. This opportunity should also be used to increase the local availability of nutritious and safe foods whose availability has been declining in many parts where natural forests have been replaced by commercially oriented plantations of trees. An important aspect of this plan should be to document and save the wisdom and traditional knowledge of natural forests that exists with these communities, more particularly their elder members. If this wisdom can be incorporated into forest-protection, regeneration and afforestation work then chances of success will be much improved.
Secondly water-conservation work should be emphasized under this program. Many traditional water conservation works which have been languishing in neglect should be revived under this program. Again, an important aspect of this effort should be learn from tradition wisdom in water conservation which is so well adapted to local conditions.
Thirdly the work of saving and conserving rich diversity of traditional seeds of various crops and plants should be emphasized under this program. The focus here should be on such community efforts that the seeds do not just remain in a collection but are regularly grown by farmers as per their needs. Such systems should be created that ordinary farmers have the necessary information about these seeds, their suitability for various conditions so that they can obtain these seeds as per their need and the need of their land.
A global labor-intensive, livelihood-generating and supporting program based on these aspects of ecological regeneration is an urgent need of these difficult times and should get very wide support.
Bharat Dogra is Convener, Save the Earth Now Campaign with SED Demand. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children and Man Over Machine.