The Central Himalayan Environment Association (CHEA) was initiated in 1981 by a group of persons deeply concerned for the preservation of the environment and appropriate development of the Himalayan region in general and the Central Himalayan region of India in particular. CHEA is a registered non-profit independent body, and is accredited as a science and industrial research organisation by the Government of India. In the course of about three decades CHEA has contributed to creating conditions that enable village communities to manage natural resources and benefit from them on a sustainable basis. The Association is committed to the cause of sustainable development.

Website: http://www.cheaindia.org

Possible volunteering opportunities

1. Trans-boundary Value Chain and Heritage Tourism Development

CHEA is implementing the Innovative Livelihood Options and Climate Change Adaptation component of the trans-boundary Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KSLCDI) in Pilot Sites of India since 2013. The programme component aims to increase the income of target communities including poor and vulnerable and women by 10-15 per cent through promoting 5 niche value chains i.e. Chyura Honey, Chyura by Products, Off Season Vegetables, Kidney Bean and Bamboo handicrafts. 17 villages of Pithoragarh district have been selected for developing 5 value chains and ensuring market linkages. One site has been selected to develop as a heritage tourism site and helping increase the income of local communities. Steps have also been taken to enhance communities’ resilience and adaptation to climate change through a holistic approach. Volunteers can contribute to the documentation of findings and project learning, and to capture lessons to assess project impacts.

2. Integrated Tribal Development

The project is focused on capacity building of tribal communities for improving their livelihoods. The tribal community targeted under the project includes one of the smallest tribal populations of India - Van Raji (only around 700 persons). The second tribal community is Rung. These tribal communities have been involved in sheep rearing, carpet weaving and wooden handicraft for a long time, but the changed economic scenario has posed challenges to the survival of handicrafts. The project is being implemented in 3 developmental blocks of Pithoragarh district. Students will work with village communities to build their capacities for improving livelihoods through adopting various productive skills. They will help in developing strategies for the sustainability of interventions as well as in documenting the case studies for wider dissemination with digital documentation.

3. Rainwater Harvesting and Spring Rejuvenation

The Himalayas are the source of countless perennial rivers, but paradoxically a substantial number of mountain populations largely depend on spring water for their sustenance. Rainwater harvesting has been taken up at large scale across 4 districts of Uttarakhand benefiting 65 villages and more than 600 families. These families are using rainwater harvested from rooftops during the dry season for domestic use and irrigation in homesteads. Two villages in Almora district have been saturated by rain water harvesting tanks. With limited rainfall and increasing population, there is an ever increasing demand for spring water in the Himalayas. Efforts to protect these vital resources can help ensure water security and improve the management of land and water resources. To rejuvenate dying springs and to increase the water discharge the efforts are being made in 6 villages applying geo spatial techniques in Pithoragarh and Almora district. Interventions have been introduced to increase discharge in 15 springs and are monitored using scientific techniques. The volunteers can contribute in providing socio economic studies on the impact of these interventions, along with possible suggestions to make them more effective.

4. High Altitude Ecology and Livelihoods in a Warming Climate

Understanding environmental changes associated with the high altitude limit of forests, generally called the “timberline”, is of crucial importance in the Himalaya. Climate change-induced structural and functional changes in timberline vegetation may have implications for biodiversity, wildlife habitats, provisioning of ecosystem services to people, medicinal plants, grazing sites for migratory livestock, recreational use, etc. Therefore, timberline zones in the Himalayas need to be studied holistically to formulate mitigation strategies and conservation of important taxa as well as the gene pool upon which the livelihoods of many rural communities depend. Since the timberline varies considerably along the east-to-west Himalayan arc, and this involves a complex assemblage of ecosystems, this project is conducting a coordinated multi-site study. The volunteers can study the socio economic aspects and document the dependency of communities on natural resources as well as conduct a needs assessment for sustainable livelihoods in context of climate change.

5. Community Forestry

CHEA has worked on Community Forest Management through Van Panchayats (VPs), a traditional village-based institution in Kumaon which has been involved in managing natural resources and bamboo based activities since the 1920s. This project supports livelihood based management of natural resources and is being implemented in Almora and Bageshwar district. Students will be involved in field based studies and documentation to further develop plans to take forward the initiatives in 30 Van Panchayats, and will draw lessons for policy advocacy and management of natural resources through community participation in 15000 VPs of Uttarakhand.

With limited rainfall and increasing population, there is an ever increasing demand for spring water in the Himalayas. Efforts to protect these vital resources can help ensure water security and improve the management of land and water resources. To rejuvenate dying springs and to increase the water discharge the efforts are being made in 06 villages applying geo spatial techniques in Pithoragarh and Almora district. The interventions have been made to increase discharge in 15 springs and are monitored using scientific techniques.

Preferred Skills

Open to students with both social sciences and physical sciences backgrounds with keen interest to be in close association of highland nature, environment and mountain communities.

Approximate cost

You should expect to spend about £900 for eight weeks - this covers costs for food and accommodation, as well as local travel. There are no programme fees payable to Camvol.

In addition to these local costs, volunteers will need to book return flights to India (typically about £550 if booked early), and apply for an entry visa, as required by the Indian High Commission (for visa charges, please check the Indian visa facilitation service website for exact fees).

Vaccination and other medical costs have NOT been included in estimated costs, and applicants should take this into account while planning their budgets. If you intend to travel for recreation and tourism, these costs will be additional, so please budget accordingly.

Financial support is available, including Camvol-CMEDT Commonwealth Travelling Scholarships; support from Colleges; and from the University. If selected, the Camvol Director can advise about funding opportunities.