Traditional livelihoods and environmental stewardship contribute to conservation efforts in the Nilgiris mountains of southern India.

In the 1980s, large area of the Western Ghats was set aside as the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve to recognize the immense biodiversity of the region and protect the large number of vulnerable species that call the area home. The reserve is also the native land of 30 distinct indigenous groups and local communities with their own languages and cultural practices. These communities have livelihoods and traditions that have been interconnected with the Nilgiris Biosphere for centuries. Eco-development non-profit Keystone Foundation has been working with native communities to bolster traditional livelihoods, facilitate indigenous environmental stewardship and conserve the biodiversity hotspot that is the Nilgiris.

Traditional livelihood of amla harvest. Photo courtesy of Aadhimalai.
Traditional livelihood of pickle-making in Hasanur through the FPO Thumbithakadu. Photo courtesy of Aadhimalai.
Woman packing wild forest honey, one of many traditional livelihoods. Photo courtesy of Aadhimalai.
Mukurthi National Park.
Longwood Shola, Kotagiri.
Nilgiris landscape.
Strobilanthes kunthiana, or the neelakurinji shrub, which blooms once every 12 years.
Wild bison, or gaur, near human settlements.
Monitoring wild bison in tea estates is part of human-wildlife conflict management.
Apis cerana japonica queen cells.
Apis florae.
Non-timber forest produce.
Harvest from a kitchen garden.
A farmer in the Nilgiris.
A barefoot ecologist monitoring Nilgiri water bodies as part of keystone’s climate change program.
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