Wrong route


Published: Thursday 30 November 1995

WHEN the Rural Litigation and Enlightenment Kendra (IRLEK), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in Rajaji National Park, initiated a programme to educate the Gujjars, they came up with resistance from the Drest department and some Dehra Dun-based wildlife Smups. While the latter claimed that the park can enly be saved by evicting the Gujjars, RLEK'S programme aimed at enhancing their conservation skills through a"t literacy programmes. Mw educational material am used was carefully pregwed, so as not to thrust a Afferent culture and vocabaikry on the forest dwellers.

Approaches like RLEK'S we becoming more and mwe common around the 059K as conservation strat6W moves a step ahead from lk hands-off policy of paw.wationists, and the ond for public participation becomes apparent. This book, edited by Susan K Jacobson, describes 15 education and communication programmes around the world which focused on doing exactly that, a -nd met with varying degrees of success. From saving baboons in Belize to giving bats a better reputation, the book collates descriptions by the project managers, from the planning stage to their final evaluation.

But the absence of any real effort at analysing the different educational or communication techniques used often, makes the work nothing more than a poor public relations exercise. Not surprisingly, some of the programmes fall short of their eventual goals.

Take, for example, the description of the crane conservation programme con- ducted in India and Pakistan. Launched 14 years before the Siberian cranes finally stopped coming to Bharatpur, the programme was a failure so far as saving the sibes on the Indo-Russian flyway goes.

But instead of analysing the programme's problems, the final evaluation simply justifies it, saying that it raised sufficient awareness perhaps from the view point of proving helpful to common and demoisfjle cranes in the future. In fact, the crane hunters and catchers in the Kurram Valley of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) had been blamed for the decline in the Siberian crane population as early as 1977. But conservation efforts were restricted to India till 1982, and an I education programme for the NWFP started only in 1983.

Besides organising conferences and releasing stamps as part 6f their communications approach, the educational programme included a radio feature for illiterate audiences, called Koonj Ki Judai, a 40-slide English-language audiovisual, and another English language filmstrip. The latter two have scant chances of being understood by the hunters, and the benefits of spending money on conferences and releasing stamps are questionable. Educational and communication programmes cannot expect to be successful with such a total lack of sensitivity to the socio-cultural situation of their target audiences. Conserving Wildlife would have certainly benefitted from a better analysis of the programmes, rather than just a cursory evaluation by their managers.

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