Forests, a precious renewable resource, are habitats of many aborigines and treasure house of a large numbers of flora and fauna. Any distortion to them imbalances the life of their inhabitants. Man and Forest series highlight the relevance of indigenous knowledge systems of various South Asian tribal communities in the sustainable management of local resources/forests. Here comes the importance of making a scientific enquiry into the application of indigenous tribal knowledge in rediscovering their methods of production, consumption and conservation, against the all-pervading impact of modernity and the ever-increasing demand for an unbridled use of natural resources.
This monograph – The Hill Bhuinya of Kendujhar – is the eighth in the Man and Forest series and fourth in the Forest Tribes of Orissa: Lifestyle and Social Condition of Selected Orissan Tribes. It helps in understanding how the Bhuinya perceive their ecosystem; how their sociocultural life is interwoven with the forsts and other elements of their ecosystem; their management systems for upkeeping it; and the role their indigenous knowledge plays in their production, consumption and conservation practices, against the backdrop of a considerable depletion of biodiversity during the latter part of the twentieth century.
This book is the result of a detailed study on the forest/hill-dwelling tribe of the Bhuinya of Bhuinyapirh in Banspal Block, Kendujhar District, Odisha since 1996 by a team of anthropologists, ethnosociologists, botanists and ethnobotanists. It was critically revised and analysed, using authentic methods due to changes in the state and central government policies, recently.
Klause Seeland is sociologist and senior lecturer at the Swiss Federal Institute of Tehnology, Zurich and professor of sociology at the University of Konstanz, Germany. He initiated and co-ordinated research on indigenous knowledge in several parts of India and the Himalayas and was project leader of the research projects Man& Forest for more than a decade.
More than fourteen years have passed since this manuscript appeared on my desk for first time. It had been submitted to the editions of the publication series Man and Forest in the context of a joint research venture to which the late Dr Nityananda Patnaik refers in his preface. Dr Patnaik’s research work on the tribal communities of Odisha that he performed over several decades became legend. Still in the later years of his life he was very much concerned about the destiny and development prospects of the various ethnic groups of Odisha, and the so-called primitive ones in particular. He was enthusiastic about being able to contribute to the betterment of their quality of life and likewise full of vigour to record their respective knowledge wealth and cultures.
It was very sad for us all who were involved in this research project for more than five years in Odisha and cooperating with the Social Science and Development Research Institute (SSADRI) at Bhubaneswar that was established by N. Patnaik and presided as Director and depressing for those knew Dr Patnaik personally to learn that he had passed away after a stroke several years ago. The manuscript that was submitted by the SSADRI team could, for various reasons, not be edited and published earlier and after Dr Patnaik’s death the question arose who could update and edit the first of it. Most of the collaborators who were part of the research team in the late 1990s were not available anymore and no funds at hand to facilitate this laborious takes. Furthermore many things had changed in the area where the research work was done; environmental, societal and political changes demanded a careful and thoughtful revision and updating of the earlier manuscript. After so many years it seemed necessary to me to update the manuscript in several aspects and correct some error that had crept into it.
In order to supplement and make the text of this manuscript more appealing to the reader with photographs of Kendujhar taken recently, I had to undertake a field visit together with my former team leader, Dr Mihir Kumar Jena, a distinguished Indian ethnobotanist then working in snother research group that was very active in the tribal areas of central Odisha at the same but in different regions and doing research on different tribal communities. He has become a collaborator and senior officer of the renowned Indian NGOO “Foundation for Ecological Security (FES)” Still working in what has recently been changed to Odisha (formerly Odisha). In the late month of December 2012 we could tour parts of Odisha, and make a bit of a survey in selected regions of the Kendujhar District and take some valuable photos providing the reader with an idea of the local conditions.
Apart from updating in the wake of the editing process, new policies had come into scope at the and Indian Union level during the decade and of course they could not be omitted. So the task that was taken up by Dr Jena an me to do the necessary or refresh the account on the Bhuinya without committing mistakes or misinterpretations on the earlier material. We did our best to do justice to both the authenticity of the earlier research findings preserving the then livelihood and environmental conditions of the Bhuinya of Banspal Block and relating it to the present social and political conditions that are featuring in everyday life in the second decade of Systematic Botany, University of Zurich, Switzerland, for checking, updating and, wherever necessary, correcting the biological terminology.
The research project relatin to the indigenous knowledge, environmental perception and traditional management system of forest dwelling tribes and non-tribal village communities in selected regions of India cover the Bhuyapirh of Banspal Block, Kendujhar District, Odisha. The research project is a part of the internation research project on “Local Management of Forest as Determind by Environmental Perception and Tradition Knowledge in a Wider Himalayan Contex” which was co-financed by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ) and the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ – now GIZ). The study of the Bhuinya was part of the project the was undertaken in the late 1990s by the Social Science and Development Research Institute (ssadri) located in Bhubanewar, Odisha, India. The field investigating data among the Bhuiya of Bhauinyapirh was taken up in the early periods of the year 1996. After the fieldwork was over the data gathered from the Bhuinya was tabulated, analysed and the final report of this study was prepared in the early part of the year 2000.
The research team comprised Dr N. Patnaik, Director SSADRI; Prof. B.P. Choudhury, Projessor of Botany, Utkal University, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, Consultant; Dr Alok Rath (Coordinator); Shri Pramod Kumar Senapati (Research Scholar, Ethnobotany); and Mr. D.B. Giri, Ms Minakshi Mishra and Ms Pratiti Mohanty (Research Scholars, Ethnosociology).
Keeping the objectives of the study in view both ethnographic data and those related to the project were collected with the help of observation, interviews, statistic, and the case history method as methodologies of data collection. Moreover, cosmogonic myths were interpreted by hermeneutic approaches and applied in the study of the ontology relating to evolution various elements of the universe through the study of the Bhuinya myths, legends, folklore, folk takes, metaphors, riddles and other forms of oral folk lore.
The study of the Bhuiya in their particular ecosystem which relates to their relationship with any element of natural phenomena, be it forests, mountains or inanimate objects, is related to terms of the respective cultural perceptions that the Bhuinya have developed over the ages. The research question which have been tried to answer by the research project are as follows:
1.how are trees are forests perceived by the Bhuinya who represent one of the most primitive forest-dwelling communities of Odisha?
2.How is the social-cultural life of their cultural mosaic interwoven with the forest and other elements of their ecosystem?
3.What types of management systems do they have to upkeep the ecosystem on which they subsist?
4.What role does their indigenous knowledge play in their prudent management practices?
The resource-rich area of the Bhuiyapirh has undergone considerable depletion of biodiversity during the latter part of the twentieth century. With the massive onslaught on the forests and other elements of the ecosystem which has accentuated in the wake of mining operation, rehabilitations of displaced persons, infiltration of nontribal into the area, expansion of agriculture and commercial forestry. The Bguinya may not be putting a large pressure on the local resources, but the general population growth both of human being and animals largely responsible for fast depletion of fuel wood, fodder use for subsistence has changed to indiscriminate made of resource use subsistence changed to indiscriminate exploitation production. As a result, the cohesive ties of the local communities have undergone disintegration. Market economy has to a major extent replaced the traditional barter economy resulting in massive exploitation of resources. Many other developmental measures such as monoculture plantations and plantation of exotic plants, development projects, construction of dams, and iron-ore and bauxite ore mining are contributing to the reduction of forests and the quality of their richness in biodiversity.
With the diminishing cohesiveness in the tribal community, con-flicts between the villagers and officers of the Odisha Forest Department as well as of other state department, and between villagers and commercial forces have resulted in fierce encounters between aggrieved stakeholders and government agencies. Except sporadic attempts to stall the processes of disintegration in the form of afforestation any serious measures have been taken by the government.
Based on the objective of the project, the study consists of eight chapters, each dealing with a spect of Bhuinya’s environment and livelihood system.
After an introduction to the study area, an overview on the applied methodology is provided. Chapter 1 deals with aspects of the habita and salient features of the Bhuiya of the study area. Chapter 2 describes and analyses the social organization of the Hill Bhuiya which is followed by Chapter 3 that elaborates on their religious universe. Chapter 4 gives the reader a comprehensive picture of the biodiversity, natural resource and related indigenous knowledge to make use of the study area’s environment. This includes wild as well as domesticated plant and animal species, and covers the ethnobotany of the field crops. This chapter also highlight the genetic erosion especially of plant species in the study area. Chapter 5 is based the emic perception of natural phenomena and their classification from different angles of the Bhuinya woeld-view. The Bhuinya do have a broad-based knowledge of their immediate environment and are able to distinguish between and within phenomena according to their various utilities. The chapter discusses all the ethno-perceptions in relation to the scientific classification of the same features. Chapter 6 deals with the various indigenous uses of wild forest resources. It reveals the dependence of the Bhuinya on the forest resources for their livelihood. The entire dietary habits of the Bhuinya are reflected in Chapter 7 where the requirements for survival are recorded. It deals with the food availability calendar of the forest and their way to control its use and management. The natural and the supernatural worlds for the Bhuinya forest dwellers are almost the same and are reflected here. The concept of cultural ecology is discussed in this context as well as the occurrence and significance of wildlife in Bhuinya oral tradition and their world-view with particular reference to their surrounding biosphere. This man-plant-animal nexus is now considerably disturbed of infiltration and transgression of external forces into the Bhuinyapirh. The state’s role forest management, in controlling and protecting forest resources through forest laws is extensively discussed together with the impact of development measures on the social-economic life of these forest dwellers in Chapter 8 as this final chapter gives a broad picture of the Bhuinya life and culture as interlinked with the ecosystem and the problems that arise as a result of the impact of the external forces. It also includes suggestions to possibly achieve a long-term sustainability of resource use in their livelihood system.
(All the botanical and zoological names have been italicized whereas Bhuinya terms have been italicized and underlined).
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