Notably, Nagaland’s Y Nuklu Phom, and Assam’s Bibhuti Lahkar, are the only two conservationists from India who have been shortlisted for the prestigious award. Every year, six grassroots conservationists are honoured with Whitley Awards.
By Imna Longchar, Dimapur
An avid believer of the Bible where it also teaches about nurturing plants and overseeing the environment, Nuklu Phom, a grassland conservationist, from Yaongyimchen village, Longleng, Nagaland, is amongst the 15 names shortlisted for prestigious “Whitley Awards 2021” along with Assam’s Bibhuti Lahkar.
The only Indians, who have been able to get their names on the shortlist for this year’s from amongst the 106 applications received from across the globe for their exceptionally high standard, representing diverse approaches across a broad range of countries, habitats and species in the Global South.
Following a comprehensive assessment, the top 15 candidates have been identified all doing incredible work with communities to safeguard wildlife, habitats and the future of society for which the name(s) of the winners would be announced on May 12 this year.
A man of dignity, who doesn’t want to be addressed as a “conservationist” but a person who has a passion for addressing the many issues especially with regard to the gradual depletion of the “eco-system” that is prevailing in the state, Y. Nuklu Phom, in interaction with this correspondent disclosed that he founded an organization “Lemsachenlok Society”, Yaongyimchen village, Longleng, in 2007 which has been working for bio-diversity conservation and after which within a decade of the organizations’ inception, they were feted with a national award “India Biodiversity Awards” in 2018 for their work in the conservation of wild species by the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), Hyderabad, Telangana.
A recipient of Governor’s Gold Medal this year on the Republic Day, Nuklu also shared that under the shadows of rampant hunting and deforestation, the Yaongyimchen Community Biodiversity Conservation Society, Lemsachenlok, took up community biodiversity conservation initiatives from 2008 and since then, hundreds of endangered wild species have returned to the conserved areas.
“One of the most notable success stories in the community conservation efforts has been the roosting of the Amur Falcons which has seen an increase in recent years,” he said while also adding that in the last two to three years, more than ten Lakhs Amur Falcons have been roosting in the Yaongyimchen Community Biodiversity Area.
Disclosing that it was during his masters where he took up a course on “Environment Science” which according to him had “sowed” in him in identifying his passion to read more on ecology, Nuklu who at the moment is working on his Ph.D programme under Sam Hegginboton University for Agriculture Technology and Science (SHUATS), Allahabad, also shared that it was during his teaching stint in college, he gradually volunteered to take upon the environment and also decided to pass on this concerned issue(s) to his students as well as his teaching colleagues how humanity cannot sustain life unless humanity become convicted to honour and care for nature in order to live in coexistence with the entire “eco-system.”
To engage more radically, Nuklu said that between 2006 and 2007, he spoke to his community leaders about the depleting environment and how it was affecting the entire “life system” including that of the extensive and uncontrolled hunting, logging and uses if different chemicals in the rivers or streams which had resulted in the extinction of hundreds of wild species.
Moreover, he said that though the only dependency for livelihood sustainability was forest, the drained out environment was becoming a huge challenge because, the Jhum cycle was becoming more shorter, and more forests were being cut and burned, and as a result, there was a huge pressure upon the land, and the quantum production was going down.
Therefore, when these concerns were shared, Nuklu, who has already planned to expand the “bio-diversity corridor” to other districts in the state as well as the northeastern states and if willing nationally and across the borders, lamented that though the elders were convinced, but the biggest challenge was convincing those who were engaged in the hunting for several years as hunting and logging are considered as income-generating activities by those hunters.
“Despite a resolution being passed on the same issue (s), they continued to engage themselves in hunting, and at some stage, whenever they were caught, I was single out and criticized. However, the Village Council and the Student leaders were very supportive and by 2010, there was a complete end to hunting and logging,” said this Naga crusader for “Biodiversity”.
Given this situation, the Lemsachenlok Society founder, Nuklu, also said that now it had started to bring in the hunters by introducing a new mechanism not to “shoot with guns” but to shoot with binoculars and cameras thereby, whenever, the hunters identify a new species, they are acknowledged with some cash incentives which according to him the “mechanism” has convincingly worked.
He mentioned that in the year 2010, the Lemsachenlok Society, had declared huge forest areas as the “Yaongyimchen Community Biodiversity Conservation Area” and slowly, from then on, wild species started regenerating, and Amur Falcons started roosting in its Biodiversity Conservation Area, where even scientists from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, had visited the site and Amur Falcon satellite tagging exercises was taken up.
On his NGO being shortlisted for the prestigious international award, Nuklu Phom said that though society has been engaged in this process (bio-diversity conservation) for the last fifteen years, their story wasn’t getting beyond their borders which actually wasn’t their intention too, however, he along with the seven to eight members who work with him (5 members being full-time members) felt that their success stories need to be expanded and therefore started a new strategy under the banner and style “Biodiversity Peace Corridor” which caught the attention of many including the Whitley.
Under the “Biodiversity Peace Corridor”, he said that they strive to bring together communities of various tribes and concertedly work together in this mission of creating conducive environment where the wild species do not feel threatened, human being coexist with the entire ecosystems and thereby interweave a sustainable coexistence with the environment as well as with fellow human beings.
With its motto “Give Today To Receive”, Nuklu believes in hard work, manage their resources without depending much upon others and become sustainable while also adding that the new mission strategy under the “biodiversity peace corridor” would bring communities together, create “soil conduciveness”, research on crop compatibility and climate adaptability and steer livelihood sustainability where humanity coexists with the eco-system thereby create a sustainable environment.
Nuklu Phom besides involving in environmental issues, he is also into agri sector for sustainable lives, community health programmes while also giving more emphasis on “Morung Centre for Education” where traditional and cultural values are taught or imparted to children, teach different skills and impart the normal educational system for the children to be “holistically” equipped.
He also thanked God for the Passion and the Conviction conferred on him to invest his life in a very humble manner for protection and restoration the “Wonderful Creation of God” which is being exploited due to human’s craving for more, and most importantly, remain grateful to his community members of Yaongyimchen, Alayong and Sanglu for trusting him and convincingly giving their best in this venture, the officers in Forest and Wildlife department, government of Nagaland for their continuous support, the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, for always being supportive, giving their scientific and technical advice and giving a platform to participate during their Annual Research Seminars.
Y Nuklu Phom, married to Carolyn of Mangmetong village, Mokokchung, a government secondary school teacher at Longleng, and blessed with three daughters-Manjai (16), Liyan (14) and Denloi (10), comes from a Church ministry background and has been involved in teaching ministry in Theological institutions and church ministry for nearly two decades, where his last duty attended, was as the executive secretary, Phom Baptist Christian Association (PBCA), till 2017.
Presently, he is the chairman and team leader of Lemsachenlok-a community development society based at Yaongyimchen village, Longleng, and also involved in community mobilization-human resource development and sustainable livelihood, local leadership development towards social transformation and team building, resurging traditional education system, community biodiversity conservation initiatives, community health, peace building and spiritual development.
He is also engaged as member of State Wildlife Advisory Board (Nagaland), MARCOFED, Nagaland, State Biodiversity Board, Government of Nagaland, Secretary, North East Alliance for Leadership Education and Social Transformation (NEALEAST) and Convener, “Phom Day Commission” a Peace Building Institute of Phom People’s Council (PPC).
Notably, Nagaland’s Y Nuklu Phom, and Assam’s Bibhuti Lahkar, are the only two conservationists from India who have been shortlisted for the prestigious award.
Every year, six grassroots conservationists are honoured with Whitley Awards. Lahkar, who is a senior scientist at Aaranyak, a society for biodiversity conservation in Northeast India, is renowned for his research into the grassland ecosystems in Assam.
Lahkar did his PhD on the grasslands of Manas National Park with special reference to Pygmy hog. The His research work covers the man-elephant conflict in grassland ecosystems of Manas National Park and Kaziranga National Park in Assam. The other shortlisted conservationists from other countries included Risper Oteke from Kenya, Sammy Saafari from Kenya, Carlos Roesler from Argentina, Iroro Tanshi from Nigeria, Tatiana Arias from Colombia, Tulsi Subedi from Nepal, Rita Ratsisetraina from Madagascar, Joseph Onoja from Nigeria, Lucy Kemp from South Africa, Reynante Ramilo from the Philippines, Ransford Agyei from Ghana, Wahdi Azmi from Indonesia, and Pedro Fruet from Brazil.
The Whitley Awards Ceremony 2021, will be streaming live online on May 12 from 7 p.m. onwards. To be hosted live by WFN Ambassadors Kate Humble and Tom Heap, the ceremony would honour six grassroots conservationists with Whitley Awards – prestigious prizes providing winners with funding, training and profile.
Biodiversity Peace Corridor crusader Y Nuklu Phom, Whitley Award shortlist
The finalists will be announced on the night, where it will also reveal the recipient of this year’s Whitley Gold Award –top prize for WFN alumni who have gone on to make an outstanding contribution to conservation.