Empowerement of the the Adhivasi Federation

Project location: India, Tamil Nadu
Project start date: October 2010 - Project end date: October 2011
Project number: 2010-48
Beneficiary: Mani Tese

Officially recognized by the Indian government as "Scheduled Tribes" in the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of India, the Adhivasi are often grouped together with scheduled castes in the category "Scheduled Castes and Tribes", which is eligible for certain affirmative action measures. Apart from this, they receive protection through other specific Act and Rules stating the discrimination and the atrocities against these communities (i.e. the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act). Through these articles, the "Scheduled tribes" have the right to live in some protected areas, and they are allowed to have certain level of autonomy to enhance their progressive socio-economic development. Excluded from these articles and acts are the Adhivasi living in the South States of India, such as Tamil Nadu, where the original ethnic groups are around 36, spread in 18 different Districts, even if the percentage on the total population is no more than 1% (around 650.000 people). Almost 90% of them are living in rural areas, but they don't have any right on the land on which they are living (they don't have any written document stating their property) and on the natural resources of the forests. Due to this, they face everyday problems related to the alienation of land from non tribal communities and to the access to the forest natural products (Non Timber Forest Products). In addition to this, some International Organizations established in this area, especially during the last decades, wildlife sanctuaries to increase the tourism and the income related to it, and to protect animals like tigers and elephants, to the detriment of the local inhabitants. As a consequence of all these reasons, they are leaving their original areas and jobs, loosing their tradition and culture, and they are finally mainstreamed in the system followed by the majority of the population (the so called "detribalization" process). In most of the cases, they become coolies (daily workers) in some other local activities.
The main objective of this project is to bring together all the organizations working with the Adhivasi in Tamil Nadu and create at first a movement, and then a federation, capable of establishing significant relations with local Government institutions (Panchayat Raj Institutions) and claim the rights of the different communities.
Only through the strengthening of their leadership qualities and a deeper knowledge on their rights, these communities can protect and defend their world, and save the forest in which they have been living for so many years.
Protection of the environment, altogether with the protection of their rights, are the main sectors of intervention of this project, related to the Foundation's goals.

At the end of this project, which received a grant from the Nando Peretti Foundation, the identified Adhivasi organizations will be active members of the Adhivasi federation, their leadership skills and their capacity to make advocacy and lobbying will be increased. Through legal and paralegal aid and training, they will reach an in depth knowledge of their rights on land and forest products, and they will be able to address the local Government institutions to protect their identity and preserve their culture. The exchange visits to other organizations inside and outside the State will help the Adhivasi leaders to train themselves on how develop their own organizations, and on how to be sustainable after the end of the project.
Through the participation to some meeting, as the World Day on Indigenous Peoples, and attending to the performances of the cultural groups all the Adhivasi will learn the importance to stay and act together and how defend their rights.

think global, act local
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