A project that fuels conservation, improves livelihood of tribal people
The setting up of more than 50 biogas plants in 10 tribal hamlets in Gudalur and Pandalur taluks by the Airbus Foundation has succeeded in saving forest cover, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and providing livelihood to some of the most impoverished primitive tribal groups in the Nilgiris.
The biogas plants have been set up as part of the India Biodiversity Programme launched by the Airbus Foundation, “the vehicle for corporate philanthropy” of Airbus, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Global Environment Facility – Small Grants Programme (GEF-SGP), the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Centre for Environmental Education and the Centre for Tribal and Rural Development Trust (CTRD) in 2010.
The programme aims at conserving the environment and simultaneously improving the livelihood of communities dependant on the forest for their fuel needs, said Suraj Chettri, Head of Human Resources, Airbus India and South Asia.
Cuts carbon emission
The effects of the now ten-year-long programme are being felt throughout the community, with the Airbus Foundation estimating that the use of biogas plants has saved around 761 tonnes of firewood from being used as fuel by the communities. As most of the firewood would have to have been collected from trees and other flora surrounding the hamlets where the communities live, the initiative has helped strengthen conservation, preserve biodiversity and prevent around 1,400 tonnes of carbon emission from burning firewood, according to the Foundation.
“Further, the biogas plants require two cows per household, which has helped generate profits for members of the communities through the sale of milk and manure, and has also had a beneficial impact on their nutrition, through consumption of the cows’ milk,” said Ramaswamy Ranganathan from the CTRD.
Another key aspect of the programme was the involvement of Airbus employees in the project, said Hania Tabet, International Director, Airbus Foundation and Airbus Responsibility and Sustainability. Ever since the programme was initiated, employees from Airbus had regularly visited and lived with the tribal communities, and helped in the construction of the biogas plants. “They, in turn, have learned so many things from the communities here, including being resilient and resourceful,” said Ms. Tabet.
“This is the tenth anniversary of the India Biodiversity Programme and the setting up of the biogas plants has been the Airbus Foundation’s longest running programme, with several of the UNDP goals in mind, including tackling climate change, conserving biodiversity, empowering women and promoting education,” Ms. Tabet said. Prabhjot Sodhi of the UNDP said that since the programme was started in 2008, the members of the Kurumba, Kattunayakan and Paniya tribal communities living in the ten hamlets have totally generated income amounting to around ₹60 lakh.