April 17 2020

Discovering Jharkhand, the “Land of the Forest”

Since 2015, Karuna-Shechen has been operating in Jharkhand, located in northeastern Indian. In this article, we invite you to discover this region, where natural beauty and a rich culture are juxtaposed with environmental disasters and extreme poverty.

Jharkhand, its land and people

Jharkhand was created in 2000 when it separated from the state of Bihar. It is a land of hills and forests, rivers and plains, wildlife and agricultural crops. Geology shows us that it is one of the oldest lands on our planet, its fauna and flora are a true biological treasure, and the people who inhabit it anthropologically unique.

The name Jharkhand means “land of forests,” and rightfully so. According to Indian Wildlife, Jharkhand is covered with more than 23,000 km² of forests, or about 30% of its total surface area. But what makes Jharkhand famous are the tribal people who live there. Among the thirty-two named tribes, most of them practice Sarna, an animist religion which means “the Sacred Wood” and worships nature.

These tribal people historically lived in the forest. Today they are settled in villages on the edge of the forests and live off of environmental resources. They continue to collect firewood and fodder for livestock, berries and fruits, herbs and medicinal plants, as well as practice family farming, processing and selling their products at local markets. For these tribes, forests play a central role in their economy, culture and overall organization as a society.

Mining and environmental disasters: a loss for the people

We often speak of a “geological scandal” to describe the gap between Jharkhand’s mining wealth and its economic situation. Although the state is home to more than 40% of the country’s mineral resources, 39% of its population lives below the poverty line and 20% of children under the age of 5 are malnourished. Mica, copper, uranium and bauxite can be found in almost infinite quantities in Jharkhand, yet the extreme poverty in which most of the people live is a stark contrast.

The harmonious way of life of the local populations is threatened by economic development projects, both from mining and agricultural development. The private interests and local authorities who undertake these projects are uprooting these tribal populations from their homes, and from their livelihoods. Between 1997 and 2007, India lost 70% of its forests due to the exploitation of the country’s mineral resources.

The tribal people are also vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The drought period – between April and June – tends to last longer and have higher temperatures. On the other hand, the rainy season – between July and September – is delayed and increasingly reduced. These changes disrupt activities such as harvesting and agriculture, as they reduce the amount of forest resources and the amount of water available for cultivating the land. On the ground, Karuna-Shechen has witnessed the effects of climate change on our development programs: in 2019, changes in climate considerably reduced the harvests of our kitchen gardens

According to the Global Migration Report, extreme weather conditions are now the leading cause of internal migration in the world, ahead of conflict and violence. More than 2.7 million Indian people were forced to leave their homes in 2018 due to tropical storms and floods.

Thus, when it is not mining sites driving people from their homes, impacts of climate change are making their lives more precarious.

From Inspiration to Action: Let’s cultivate our will to act!

The causes of extreme poverty in which the people of Jharkhand often live are many: exploitation and deforestation of the land, climate change, limited access to material and financial resources, and lack of professional opportunities. The solutions to help these people are interdependent: the implementation of stronger environmental protections and sustainable development projects, and the strengthening of ecological practices.

Struck by the beauty of nature and the challenges the people of Jharkhand face, Karuna-Shechen was motivated to act. With humility and determination, Karuna-Shechen works at its own scale, hand in hand with local people, to find and develop sustainable solutions to these challenges.

 

Support our actions with the people of Jharkhand and transform your inspiration into action.

 

 

« Evolving in wonder, we become aware of our shared humanity and we intimately perceive this link with our fellow men, with all the animated beings that populate the immensity of the world. We are then fundamentally connected to all animate beings and all inanimate phenomena.» ~ Matthieu Ricard, An Ode to Beauty