The loss of biological diversity—through the extinction of species, the disappearance and degradation of natural habitats, and disruption of the ecological balance—is occurring all over the world at an unprecedented rate. As plant and animal species and their habitats disappear, so too do products of present and future value, genes with which to improve crop varieties and livestock, and the natural resilience of the world's living resources to respond to climatic and environmental change. Nowhere does this trend present a clearer threat than in India, where human pressures increasingly jeopardize biodiversity. Paithan Taluka in Aurangabad, is one such region undergoing tremendous social, political and economic changes. Large scale industrialization has led to a rapid decline of land under agricultural use. This continuous industrialization is depleting the natural resources in the area and is also leading to a change in natural cycles and patterns. IIRD works with the residents of the villages in Paithanregion to generate awareness about the present situation, educate about the importance of bio-diversity conservation and explore opportunities to improve it. In order to implement eco-development and bio-diversity conservation programmes IIRD developed and trained women “Paryavaran Sevikas” (eco-volunteers) who along with the field workers were responsible for implementing the following action programmes:
- Participatory mapping and documentation of natural resources in the villages of Paithan Taluka region through development of community registers. These registers include basic information of the village like social, health, political and economic data as well as climatic conditions of the village like temperature, rainfall, wind direction and dust levels. The registers also included information about available wells, canals, presence of flora and fauna, fuel resources, forests and other natural resources. Using this data, the villagers are enabled to understand environmental issues and challenges of their village and are facilitated to develop tools and techniques for participatory conservation management of on farm and off farm bio-diversity in their region.
- Implementation of various community based restorative strategies for soil and water conservation, crop bio-diversity mapping and conservation, organic farming awareness and promotion and tree plantation.
- In collaboration with the Department of Social Forestry of the Government of India, IIRD embarked on a tree plantation drive along with the rural community. These trees of indigenous varieties were planted alongside roads, on community lands, and on the borders of farms. The community were also taught to understand the benefits of different trees for the ecosystem and for their farms.
- The village of Tondoli in Paithan Taluka has been developed to form a model eco-village with organic farms and biodiversity.
- Demo plots for cultivation of fifty two variety of indigenous seed of cereals, pulses, millets, oilseeds, spices, vegetables and fruit crops were developed in 10 village. The seed was distributed to the farmers and also stored in Seed banks.
- These trained biodiversity volunteers have set up community registers, seed registers, and seed banks in 6 cluster villages where CLCs are located. Indigenous seed and seed in the process of extinction are identified and documented in Seed Registers. The cultural practices and economic value of these seed as well as the characteristics of these seed is documented in aSeed Manual to propagate these crops in the region. Seed Banks have been established in the 6 CLCs and presently about 200 seed varieties of food crops are available at these seed banks and are exchanged among the farmers in the villages. IIRD hasalso facilitated the exchange of seeds with fourteen different partner NGOs in different regions within India.