In an effort to gain an up-close understanding of wildlife and human behavior, Himani Nautiyal began her journey in the Mandal Vallery of Uttrakhand in 2014.
As she began to observe animals and their reaction to the environment, she also interviewed locals to understand their socio-economic status, for example – which mainly depends on their livestock for a living by selling milk.
Himani said, âThe forest served as the main feeding ground for the livestock and hampered the quality of the forest, which caused the wild animals to move towards the fields. Therefore, my projects revolved around improving wildlife, forest and reducing the source of income for Himalayan households. ”
Her curiosity for wildlife and the forest prompted her to pursue a career there. Currently, to help the women’s self-help group of Rudranath Mahila Gram Sangathan, Uttarakhand, she is raising funds to raise their life status.
Himani was born and raised in a village in the Indian Himalayas, so she knows well the life of the people who live there in such a difficult landscape. Lack of exposure and rigid patriarchy did not allow local women in the village to receive a quality education.
Wildlife research is a rare concept and a challenge for women to work alone in the forest, especially as a wildlife researcher, but her family and supervisor continued to motivate her throughout her journey.
Graduated with a B.Sc in Forestry from HNB Garhwal University, Uttarakhand, Himani went on to an M.Sc. in Wildlife Biology from Bharathidasan University of Tamil Nadu. In addition, he obtained his doctorate in primate behavioral ecology from Kyoto University of Japan.
She recalled – “When I went to Mandal Valley for the first time, people were very supportive of me. Over time it has become possible to make people understand that I don’t just support the wildlife, but also work for the betterment of the village. It became really important to make them believe in my work and to treat both wildlife and humans equally.
Seeing all the appropriate aspects like a suitable climate, high market value, no damage from wildlife and very little labor, Himani found kiwi cultivation to be an ideal solution to the problems. Himani’s kiwifruit cultivation focuses on conserving wildlife and providing a stable source of income for women farmers. She said – “if I can, then other rural women can too. I believe they would be an idol for thousands of rural women in India.
As his project did not fit into the ideas of international grants, Himani resorted to crowdfunding on ImpactGuru.com. Each structure for the cultivation of kiwi costs between Rs 50,000 and Rs 60,000, which is an ideal income for a single family. Himani explained – “As we want the structure to last 60 years, the material used is iron which will increase the cost of production. We are targeting around 50 to 60 women farmers to support. However, it can fluctuate depending on the funding received.“
“Women have received very little for their efforts and do not get the right financial support from men. In addition, women in India are not recognized as farmers, thus having less access to land, loans and machinery than men.She said. Overexploitation of women is one of the major problems in the Himalayas. All domestic and agricultural work is done by women, including collecting grass and firewood in the harsh Himalayan forests Farmland is frequently destroyed by wild animals, despite the fact that these women follow the traditional farming system, which requires high labor labor, but in turn see insufficient food production.
Rudranath Mahila Gram Sangathan – a self-help group (SHG) of women farmers provides a suitable economic base to start cooperative businesses and helps them bring peaceful coexistence between humans and wildlife. All funds raised are invested to help these women farmers start their organic kiwifruit growing business.
“This will eventually facilitate the agricultural process for all women. It is also a safer option as it will save crops from wild animals. After development, I would like to record the documentary for women farmers and portray the success stories of these women, which can be an inspiration to others.” she said.
Over the next three to four years, Himani plans to make kiwifruit cultivation a stable source of income for all women farmers, which will turn the Mandal Valley into a kiwi farming area.