Narrated by film-maker and ecologist John D. Liu, “Abode of the Clouds” is about how local communities in the Garo Hills, North East India are taking the lead in mitigating and adapting to climate change.
Since time immemorial people and the wilder beasts have co-existed in the Garo hills. The land, blessed with abundant water, fertile soil and thick forest cover, is home to one million people and wild animals — like elephants, gibbons and leopards. Since ancient times, the forests around the village communities are seen as sacred groves and have been preserved and worshiped. They appreciated and respected the fact that the forests provided them with food, water, shelter and everything they needed for life.
The traditional agriculture method practiced in these areas is the slash and burn cultivation known as jhum cultivation. After the first crop, this inefficient agricultural practice has decreased productivity over successive years and has led to reduced forest cover, the drying up of riverbeds and the destruction of the natural habitats of elephants, gibbons and other wild animals. This has led to a fall in gibbon numbers and a rise in human-elephant conflicts.
There is tremendous pressure on elephant habitat and corridors. Cases of elephant attacks are not uncommon. The elephants damage people’s crops, houses and sometimes even kill people. People retaliate by poisoning, spearing or shooting elephants.
As the human population is growing and pressure on natural habitat has increased, finding ways to provide for the needs of the people whilst preserving nature is essential. One of the ways is by creating elephant corridors or passages for the elephants to traverse from one forested area to the next. The general path taken by the elephants is secured by having an agreement with the villagers and by creating such corridors as village reserve forest.
By volunteerly choosing to set aside land for village reserve forests, the Gharo people are doing something of immense value. People have realized that jhuming is no longer feasible and can hardly sustain their families. People are coming forward to preserve their patch of land in return for some incentives in the form of capital investment and technical support.
As John D. Liu narrates “it is these people and not the bankers, or politicians or carbon marketers who can physically mitigate and adapt to the declining climate change. Their contribution is of enormous value. Their efforts need to be celebrated and they need to be supported.”
"Abode of the Clouds" is a film by Megan Haagh and Paul Hendrix. It is the result of two years of reporting on the elephant corridor projects in the Garo Hills and is a part of IUCN NL’s What If We Change project.