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Women lead hargila conservation initiative


GUWAHATI, March 1 - Dadara village on the outskirts of the city has earned global acclaim over its community conservation of the endangered greater adjutant stork (locally known as hargila). Much of the credit for this unique conservation feat goes to the women folk of Dadara who have persisted with their endeavour to conserve the bird despite the heavy odds confronting them.

The conservation initiative, which is going from strength to strength, has added another feature to its cap by forming an �Army of Women� to protect the great bird and its habitat. The all-women army, among other things, is blending tradition with conservation to ensure that the legacy of the conservation saga endures while they, too, get empowered economically.

�Seventy women from all age groups have joined hands to form an army ready to combat any obstacles in the path of hargila conservation. Their dedication and commitment have proved to be infectious � as corroborated by the encouragement and support they are receiving from diverse quarters, including the district administration and the State Institute of Rural Development (SIRD),� Purnima Devi Barman of conservation group Aaranyak said.

Purnima, who has been the motivating force behind the turnaround in hargila conservation, added that with the local women taking such keen interest in protecting the bird, its future seems to be secure. �It is heartening to see the families of Dadara adopt the birds that roost and breed on trees in their backyards,� she said.

�Earlier, we took it to be an ordinary bird but our conservation has earned global acclaim for this nondescript village. We are feeling empowered with this community conservation initiative. Now we are making the hargila an intrinsic part of our culture and heritage by weaving its motif on garments, including the famed Sualkuchi silk,� Pratibha Das and Purnima Das, president and vice president respectively of the local conservation committee, said.

The secretary, Charu Das, who took part in the recent Republic Day parade in the district wearing a greater adjutant stork mask, has even composed a naam (devotional song) in eulogy of the bird. �I sing the naam at the community naamghar. We want to make the bird very much a part of our existence,� she said.

Impressed with the women army�s resolute pursuit, the SIRD has agreed to provide training to the 70 women in creating exquisite hargila motifs in textiles. The SIRD has sponsored a four-month training for the women at its Fashion Institute at Sualkuchi. It has also donated 28 looms for the women.

�It was wonderful to see the women engaged in conservation so passionately. This, I believe, is a development with few parallels. The adjutant stork can well be the brand of Dadara, as it is now intrinsically linked to their lore. The women will also be economically empowered while engaged with their conservation efforts. Training apart, we will also try to market the textile with hargila motifs internationally,� Zakir Hussain, Director, SIRD, said.

The Kamrup district administration, too, has supported the campaign, and donated a hundred hoardings with messages of greater adjutant conservation.

There are only 1,200 greater adjutant storks in the world � 80 per cent of those found in Assam.

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