Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Indus Festival of Charities, December 2010

Above: Bipasha Majumder and Parth Badheka setting up our stall at the Indus festival (Mumbai), 5 December 2010.

This was the first time we put the Sawra group's re-usable shopping bags on display in public. Sales were good, with customers stopping at the table through the day. Several people have also ordered bags (waterproof and polycotton), indicating that we should ask the self-help group to make an equal number of each.

People who want to help this initiative can try and arrange more such outlets for us. Perhaps visits to corporate offices in their lunch breaks? Another way to help is to take a few bags from us and sell them to your friends and acquaintances. Each bag has a label inside the pouch, explaining that it was made by the Sawra self-help group as part of our effort to reduce forest-dependent livelihoods.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Art for tigers: Lili Menon's show in support of Satpuda Foundation

23 November 2010: Another city-dweller helps the tiger, in her own unique way.

These are photos from the preview of "Rewind," Lili Menon's art show in partnership with us. (Click here for an earlier post announcing the exhibition.)

Above: Lili Menon
Below: Lili and Kishor Rithe, President, Satpuda Foundation

Lili has always loved forests and this was her way of helping the wildlife conservation cause. Apart from donating all the proceeds of sales to Satpuda Foundation, she used the occasion to create awareness about our work, displayed our poster and literature at the gallery and also asked Bombay International School to let us conduct an education programme with some of their students during the exhibition week.

The show was a huge success, with 16 out of 17 paintings sold!

Even after the show, Lili hasn't stopped crusading for the tiger. She is using every opportunity she gets to put out the message that tigers need help. For instance, last week she asked for "save tigers" to be included among the themes at a T-shirt painting contest she was judging. And she asked the college for permission for us to give a short talk to the participants.

All of which shows you don't have to run off to the jungles to save tigers. You can do it right here in the city, using your own unique strengths.

Thanks Lili, on behalf of all the tigers of the Satpudas!

Story in the TOI Nagpur

Photos: Courtesy Lili Menon

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Tiger, Water, Tree


This beautiful film was created and submitted by Lindsay McFarlane of the UK, for the Mofilm global video contest (International Film Festival of India, Goa 2010). Here's the earlier post on the contest.

Out of the entries for Satpuda Foundation, 17 videos were shortlisted by Mofilm and we then selected our favourites. This was my choice for first place. I think it's powerful and moving, apart from the aesthetic appeal. It's a lovely translation of our brief (to show the link between tigers, forests, water and humans).

After a fun awards night in Goa, creators Lindsay and Su have gone to Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve. Here's wishing them a wonderful safari holiday.

Thanks Lindsay, Su and Mofilm, from all of us at Satpuda Foundation!

People, please share this film on your profile pages, websites, blogs. Let's spread this important message as far as we can.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Volunteering at the health camp in Tadoba Tiger Reserve

This is a report by volunteer Umesh Lalit of Thane, who joined our ambulance in Tadoba last month. Umesh has also made some very good suggestions about how a few of the procedures can be streamlined or simplified.

Satpuda Foundation’s Mobile Health Unit camp at Moharli range

Dates: 9 - 10 October, 2010

Villages: Dewada, Adegaon, Palasgaon, Karwa

After getting an email from Rajashree Khalap I decided to go to the MHU camp of Satpuda Foundation. After the initial arrangements with NCSA Conservation Officer Vishal Bansod I finally landed up directly at Moharli.

Day 1:

This was my first experience of such a medical camp. We got together at Satpuda Foundation's office, Moharli in the morning. Got to know the other volunteers and the doctors along with Guddu the driver, the co-ordinator at the office. After the doctors, Guddu made the initial check of the supplies and medicines required (for which I was just an observer). Then we went to Dewada, a village nearby.

We reached the usual place where they set up the mobile clinic. Doctors, volunteers started to arrange the clinic with equipment, medicines, patients' records, etc.

After 10 or 15minutes, people lined up. I was amazed to see the discipline they had. They queued up and waited for their turn. Volunteers helped in registration, finding the patient's history record in case of old patients. Doctors examined them one by one and gave prescription. Two of the patients were very scared to take injections and one of them ran away!!

Volunteers dispensed medicines according to the prescription.

Since the villagers couldn't understand the written prescription, the envelope containing the medicine were torn to indicate the number of doses.

After two hours we wound up and went back to the Moharli SF office by which time lunch was being prepared by a lady (sorry I didn't get to know her name). We had a good lunch, rested for a while and then started out for another village, Adegaon.

Here, we set up the clinic in the front porch of villager's house. They also served us lemon tea which was very good.

Here the people were more expressive. I observed here that the female population was more (at least among the people who turned up to the clinic) and they were loud, some of them even seemed to follow the latest styles! Also many women here seemed to have deficiencies and were anemic. We also saw a Durga idol being decorated for Navaratri.

The day ended with our return to Moharli and planning the next day's camps.

Day 2:

Next day I reached the Satpuda Foundation office at 9 a.m. as planned. We had poha prepared by Guddu and left for Palasgaon which is in the core area.

We reached the village entrance and walked to the school where we were to set up the clinic. People turned up in large numbers and here they were also very insistent about taking the injection! They believed that without injections, they couldnt get better! Quite the opposite of what I had observed the previous day!!

After the camp we had time to take a stroll while lunch was being prepared. Got to see and talk to some villagers. I happened to meet three or four girls who were doing bamboo work. They told me that they have neither gone to school nor studied at primary level. I wanted to get more information on this and spoke to a couple of other women. They too had not got the required primary education. Most of them had worked from their childhood.

After lunch we left for another village, Karwa. Here we rested for a while and then started with the setting up. I think the highest number of people turned up here. We didn't have sufficient time here to attend to all as we had to leave the core area within the stipulated time.

Then we had tea in a restaurant and dispersed.

The camp duration was 3 days, but I could make it only for 2 days as the third day's visit was in the core area villages and I had to return to Nagpur by evening for my return journey. Once we enter the core area there is no reliable means of getting back to Moharli by noon, so I decided not to attend, which I was not happy about - however there was no option. The team came to the hotel that I was staying in to say goodbye.

All in all it was a very good experience and the dedication of the doctors, staff and volunteers is appreciable.

Umesh Lalit

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Making the bags...

The most active members of the sewing group in Sawra are Vaishali Kumre and Ram Tilak. Ram Tilak tailors clothes as well.

I took these pictures in Vaishali's house in September.

Near Pench Tiger Reserve,

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Shopping bags made by the Sawra Self-Help Group

A few members of the Sawra Self-Help Group (SHG) have been busy since the sewing course we had arranged in May. They are sewing competently and are working on making a large number of re-usable shopping bags which we will help them sell in Mumbai and Nagpur.

We had shown you one of the shopping bags in this earlier post.

Here are some pictures showing the bags in different fabrics and colour schemes. They all fold away conveniently into a small pouch that fits in your pocket or handbag.

The fabrics used are cotton, poly-cotton and waterproof raincoat material.
Note: the poly-cotton bags need to be washed separately as some of the colours are not fast.

Above, below: Polycotton bags inside the pouches

Above, below: Colour schemes in the poly-cotton bags

Above: The bags are strong and can hold quite a lot

Above, below: More colour schemes in poly-cotton

Below: The waterproof bags in raincoat material

Below: The waterproof bags are available in four colours, blue, red, grey and green. They also fold into a pouch (not shown in these photos) like the poly-cotton bags.

The cotton bags are similar in design but haven't been photographed yet.

The Sawra SHG will be making more designs over the next two months, one in hand-woven hand-dyed fabric. We'll keep you posted through this blog.

The bags will be priced at Rs 100 each.

We hope people will volunteer to sell these bags for us, in Mumbai and in other Indian cities.

Photos: Kirti Chavan

Holes in the jungle

Sneha Koilada recently volunteered at one of our mobile health camps, in Melghat Tiger Reserve. She sent us her impressions of the experience, the communities she met and their impact on the forest...

I was to volunteer for a medical health camp with NCSA. I made my reservations, did the shopping and sat in the train not knowing where I’m going! There was no warm welcome and no one guiding me about the camp. Professional expectations led them all to believe I knew what to do, when in fact I had not an inkling!

We started at 6 am sharp for Melghat, picked up the doctors on the way, brought the veggies at Paratwada, made a breakfast stop at Harisal and kept going. The first place we reached was the Knowledge Resource Centre in Harisal. It was set on about 2 acres of land, a tiny utility building with a few people hanging out in the porch, setting off to work. The education officer Manasi Sharma wasn’t around, so I still didn’t know who to talk to!

The bathroom break now done, we ascended the ghat roads and then began the endless journey of twists and turns. The forest got thicker and thicker, the roads got rockier, the sun started beating down the windshield and the people on the roads dwindled to none. We had our breakfast under a huge tree on a tiny bridge as the clear water trickled from under us in the shallow lake.


The first village on our itinerary took us longer than expected to reach. It was past twelve and most men and women had left to work in the farms already. Dhokda had thirty households, all uniformly grey and earthy looking. We set up in a hut beside the primary school which was the first building in the village. The men and women who had stayed back home took their time to decide which of them was sick and trickled down slowly to the doctors’ sitting area. The doctors were pretty fast in diagnosing the twenty odd patients who came their way, most of whom suffered weaknesses from vitamin and mineral deficiencies. The villagers were all humble and accommodating. They did not understand much of what was going on. They had no idea what the doctors were doing or prescribing. They just knew that the pills they were going to receive would make them feel better. Rest is irrelevant.

We traversed through undergrowth filled roads, the undergrowth sometimes being as high as six feet to reach Dhokda. There were so many streams in between which could have potentially ruined the roads in the season. There was no other way to reach the village. But the villagers seemed unconcerned. When asked what they would do in case of a medical emergency, they nonchalantly replied that they would take the ailing person to Rangubilli or Dharni when they could. Apparently mortality isn’t something they were afraid of.

The quaint little resthouse in Rangubilli. Apparently Jim Corbett stayed here when he was called in to track down a man-eating leopard.

We stayed in a rest house in Rangubilli which is a fairly larger village with two Dhanas and a Patel (a village head). We were renting one large room with four beds and a makeshift bathroom in an interior room. The kitchen was quartered separately and ran on firewood. The dining quarters were separate as well. Our resthouse was on the foot of a hill and I did trek on to the top of it when I could. It was so full of trees and undergrowth and scary looking spiders screening the pathways with cobwebs. The area was impeccably green and the pathways were gravelly.

Occasionally I would come across animal feces and get excited despite it looking like cow dung. Apparently it was, as Guddu, the ambulance driver kindly pointed out to me. "Yes, this far up the hill." "Yes, cows can climb." The entire area, so thick with vegetation was rendered useless for wildlife due to the constant grazing that goes on in the area. As a result of that, I did not have my fantasy of screaming a bear into submission, fulfilled.

Never mind, the trek was awesome and I did manage to find a view that showed me the exact demarcation of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh and the exact line where the forest ended.


Guddu and I handing out the medicines

On Day Two, we went to another village called Khamda which was set up on the clearing in between a couple of hills. As the other ones, this village too was a short kutcha road lined with huts on either side. At the beginning of this road was the primary school with a long corridor where we set up the camp. In front of the village were fields growing all kinds of mixed vegetation. At the end of the road was a small clearing that led into the forest.

Most of the men and women who came to be treated at the camp were extremely thin, quiet and with children. The kids got multivitamins and the women were prescribed a slew of antibiotics. We left quickly but not before attending to the last patient. We were to visit another village called Kund, but a stream flooded the road that reaches there. Guddu aka Sanjay traversed the length of the stream and decided that it was too risky to pass. We bathed in the stream instead, its water warm and the surface mossy and slippery.

I was alone in a shallow stream in the middle of a dense forest, at a place where the settlements
couldn’t be reached if the water level is high. I was just on the brink of the Melghat Tiger Reserve and I couldn’t see a thing from the point where the vegetation started at the bank of the stream. And I was totally and utterly unafraid of wildlife, completely sure that not a tiny bird would make its way towards me. And that was not a good feeling. That was not what I wanted to feel in the middle of the forest. Cows and lambs were not what I wanted to see in the dense forest pathways. Yet that’s what I saw and I knew that the human encroachments were the only reason why vast areas of the thick forest were uninhabited by wildlife.

At Rangubilli: The midwife of the village (right) with her daughter and grandson that she delivered. She says the government doesn’t pay her regularly for her efforts in about five villages around Rangubilli.

Day Three: we went to Khokmar after another successful round at Rangubilli in the morning. Khokmar was fairly easy to reach compared to the other villages and was set in a sweet little clearing surrounded by hills. The view was spectacular from any point in the village, but the mood was ruined when I was informed that these are the kind of areas that the chital and other wildlife like to graze and inhabit. Since it is a fairly accessible village, the villagers weren’t very interested in the ambulance that passed their way.

There were only a handful of people who needed medical attention. I spoke to a man with a ghastly cut in his right foot haphazardly dressed. When I told him the medical camp was set up at the school, he was almost carelessly reluctant to have it checked. There were other villagers who looked on nonchalantly when I told them about the camp, some of them well above sixty five years of age. And there was no other medical help in the village itself. A woman with a grandchild shunned me away as I told her about the medical camp. I did not have enough time to get to the root of the situation, but I can only assume they either get regular medical attention or that they did not believe in the system.

Medical camp at the primary school in Khokmar

I met a couple of girls whiling away their time in a hut who told me that they do nothing the entire day if they did not go to the field. I am not usually one to judge and I am definitely not an expert, but it felt like the people in these villages are living an extremely laidback lifestyle, most times ignoring the problems at hand, even if it is health care. A woman and child both looking emaciated came to us as we were just leaving. I tried explaining to her that good food and sanitation were important for her boy to get healthy, but she did not try to understand me. I was an outsider for her, it was understandable, but she did not look like she even wanted a solution for her problem. The boy was diagnosed as malnourished and he looked extremely weak and lifeless. They have a Yojana that provides protein-filled food in the Anganwadi or the school, but it was obvious that the woman doesn’t send the boy to school enough for him receive any nutrition. She told me he doesn’t eat as much as half a roti on any given day.

I am not sure yet what kind of education the people in these villages receive. I was told that they get no assistance from agriculturists and their fields are generally filled with all kinds of random crops depending on what they need at the moment. The children have some kind of healthcare system in place, but it was doubtful that any one of them gets educated beyond the fourth or fifth standard education the school provides. The huts are illuminated through solar panels as these villages have no access to the grid, but there was no assistance for the non-functioning units. There is talk of yojanas for agricultural equipment and medical insurance, but there is no talk of any organisations talking among these adivasis about a life outside of the village, except for the occasional bazaar in a nearby village. None of the villagers have any plans for moving out and finding better things unlike the rest of the population in rural India.

We could not reach the last village on the itinerary because the rain had swamped the road, which also meant that no other supplies or assistance would reach that village till the ground dried and become accessible to the larger vehicles.

There are dozens of bridges like these all over Melghat and there is no way to repair them if they are swallowed by the stream, rendering the villages on the other side inaccessible.

The return journey to Amravati was largely uneventful and quiet as all of us felt mildly thwarted at being unable to reach the final village. I spent my limited daylight time glued to the binoculars swearing to myself that I wasn’t leaving Melghat without seeing something other than the monkeys!

As the roads darkened and my hopes began fading, the pack decided to say hello. From a distance I thought they were just the regular village dogs out for a run, or some cattle. But Guddu was sweet enough to point out that we had just chanced upon a pack of wild dogs (Dholes). And oh my, were they majestic! All you wildlife enthusiasts know everything there is to know about them, so I’ll spare you the details and tell you just how my breath got knocked out of me for the whole five minutes they took to decide which way to go now that their plans were ambushed by the unexpected ambulance sighting.

So I smiled all the way back to the Resource Center in Harisal, met Manasi Sharma who I thought was awesomely ambitious to take up the job and the guys who run the resource center, who I’m sure were extremely capable of running such great activities as NCSA and the Satpuda Foundation conduct.

Text and photos: Sneha Koilada
Melghat Tiger Reserve
October 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

"Rewind": Artist Lili Menon in partnership with Satpuda Foundation

"Rewind" is Lili Menon's forthcoming exhibition of works in acrylics on canvas from 23rd November to 28th November 2010.

Wildlife and the environment is a cause that Lili Menon has always been passionate about and it has served as an inspiration for her art.

For her third solo show she has partnered with us. Along with the exhibition there will be awareness activities for tiger conservation. The entire proceeds from each painting sold at the exhibition will be donated to Satpuda Foundation.

About Lili Menon: http://www.lilimenon.com/new.html

Please visit the exhibition if possible and do spread the word!

Pench and Melghat, October 2010

Pictures from my trip to Pench MP and Melghat last month, with friends.

Pench, Madhya Pradesh:

Above: Friends clicking chital and langur

Above: I always find Pench langurs the most amusing - not scared of humans at all, sometimes sleeping on the rocks like drunks who've passed out after a binge!

Above: An unusual congregation of birds on the top branches of a tree. On the left, a Black-hooded Oriole, two Large Cuckoo-shrikes, White-bellied Drongo. On the right a Yellow-footed Green Pigeon. Not in this frame but climbing up the trunk was a Black-rumped Flameback.
They all flew away after a few minutes, because a female Shikra landed on the tree.

Above: Crested Serpent Eagle in a teak tree

Above: Beautiful Pench river, full of water after a heavy monsoon. Last time I saw it was in summer. Most of the rocky river bed was exposed then.

Melghat Tiger Reserve:

Above: Vishal Bansod, Conservation Officer, NCSA, showing the Community Resource Centre's medicinal herbs garden to a visitor. The CRC is a model of restoration of once-barren land. It now has a self-sustaining organic farm. There is also a campsite where nature orientation programmes are conducted for school children, and training programmes are held periodically for wildlife enthusiasts and conservationists.

Above: Rose-ringed Parakeets sitting on a haystack, in a village somewhere in central Melghat.
There are many villages around the reserve, and the forest has many such bare and disturbed patches because of agricultural fields and human habitation.

Above: Lizard. I don't know what species.

Above: One of two young bears we saw scrambling up a river bank.

Above, below: The beautiful forest - hilly terrain, dense jungle

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A second ambulance! And the Mobile Health Unit (MHU) schedule, November 2010 - March 2011

Great news about our Mobile Health Camp programme!

We have just doubled our capacity thanks to the donation of a second ambulance by our MHU sponsor, Born Free Foundation. The Hemendra Kothari Foundation has generously agreed to sanction the funds for the additional health camps.

So we have two ambulances now - the old one run by NCSA will be dedicated to the Melghat health camps, while the new one run by Satpuda Foundation will visit four tiger reserves in a month (Pench MP, Pench Maharashtra, Tadoba-Andhari, Satpuda).

Recent volunteers at the MHU were Sneha Koilada from Bangalore and Umesh Lalit from Mumbai.

If you'd like to volunteer, please go through this schedule, select the camp you want and then contact me.

Click to enlarge.

There are some pictures taken during our health camps in this quarterly report.
Earlier posts about our medical camps here, here and here.