Planetary Health Information Centre, Pakke Tiger Reserve

In this project, we document the co-production space for our scientific engagement in creating a planetary health interpretation center in Pakke Tiger Reserve. This ties into larger and integrated thinking with respect to One Health which requires collaborations at multiple levels (from local, national and global experts) across related disciplines (eg: public health, forestry, veterinary care) in working towards optimal health for all (humans, animals, and the environment).

Our prior health-related work started in 2011, where a study on malaria showed that 70% of forest guards in Pakke Tiger Reserve suffered from malaria over a three-year period, causing a significant disease burden and decreased park management efficiency. Our research was also used to inform the ten-year tiger conservation plan from (2012-2022) where we outlined the need for planning health contingencies for front-line anti-poaching staff of the forest department. In 2016, we then scaled up to try and examine site-specific health and social inequality patterns across three tiger reserves (BRT, Pakke and Kanha). We found that were no generalisable inequality patterns with respect to overall Scheduled Tribe and non-Scheduled Tribes, making it important to gather in-depth site-specific data. We then focused on Pakke Tiger Reserve where we collected data on 486 households from 21 villages around the area. This work that is in the process of being published, found that NCDs (Non-Communicable Disease) risk factors such as the use of tobacco and alcohol were especially high as also the incidence of hypertension and diabetes among the people living around Pakke Tiger Reserve, and was used further (see research section).

While the first goal was to create a better resolution of some of the health problems, especially non-communicable disease that are prevalent around Pakke Tiger Reserve, in the process of collecting data for the planetary health centre, we also wanted to characterize stories about individual processes pertaining to a person’s goals, values and expectations along with self-efficacy. For instance, how does an ASHA worker look at her own work, how does she feel? Does she feel that she does enough? Does belonging to a particular community give meaning and work towards being an ASHA?

Our second goal was to provide people with enough access to the natural environment and day-to-day relationships with nature for their own health (Kahn. P. H., & Kellert. S. R., 2002). This article focuses on the ongoing interactions for setting up the Planetary Information Centre at Pakke and collaboration between the forest department and residents (from the Aka, Miji, Nyishi and Puroik communities) along with stakeholders such as the conservation biologists, medical doctors, ASHA workers, public health experts, illustrators, graphic designers, film-makers, graphic designers, students. Through setting up possibly India’s first Planetary Health Centre, we discuss the themes and explore the relationships between multiple skill sets and disciplines to arrive at an iterative process of co-producing this centre and outline it below.

 

The  project began in November 2020 and despite the challenges associated with covid-19 lock-downs and restrictions, we used a combination of direct and indirect methods as our participatory methods. We interacted with 85 stakeholders in total; through focus group discussions (FGDs with forest guards, their wives, ASHA workers, small group of government officers and Panchayat members); one-on-one interviews with the Range Forest Officers, medical doctors, Anganwadi & Asha workers, teachers, tourists, students, local artists.  We have so far interviewed of forest staff on what they feel their role is and will be in the centre. Many felt this centre is important as such platforms allow for forest staff to share their experiences and information to the other family members and it creates multiple effect among the community. We also interviewed Anganwadi and ASHA workers about their health and natural world representations and they were interested in knowing about about the different species of the forests and they were inspired by the parental care of hornbills.

We also conducted multiple virtual addas (FGDs) where final year 8th semester design students who could not travel to the field site collected site-specific data from residents. This was mediated through two field-based two researchers who coordinated small and socially-distant virtual gatherings in Pakke (Fig 1). The main aim was to create an online platform for students and stakeholders in Pakke to share their experiences and stories and other creative work and art. Our Addas included the following themes: meeting Range Forest Officer, field biologist of Pakke Tiger Reserve and learning about challenges and opportunities about working in Pakke. Working with the front-line staff of the Special Tiger Protection Force of Pakke Tiger Reserve to learn about the camera trapping experience. We also met story-tellers from all across north-east India (forest guards from Dampa Tiger Reserve and Manas Tiger Reserve) and Green Hub alumnus.

Another adda focussed on meeting a house-bound artist and the son of a forest watcher and we had another meeting to learn about food recipes from folks living around Pakke.

Although our stakeholders were extremely varied, for ease of explanation, we have further categorized our two-year engagement into stakeholders that were in three main groups: research associated, field-level, and communicators (Table 1, 2 and 3).

We also had a project manager who worked with the Institute of Public Health to coordinate Memorandums of Understanding with partner associations (Green Hub, a video documentation centre and Tippi Wildlife Range of Pakke Tiger Reserve) to ensure project progress, payments, logistics and to ensure completion of the project by May 2022.

 

Table 1: Research and scientific engagement

Researcher profiles Details of interactions
Wildlife researcher with 10 years of field experience around Pakke Anchoring point of the project with all teams and responsible for an implementation strategy. Part of the research team, guided researchers on the ground and part of the curation of the communication as well as the hands-on implementation.
Senior public health faculty Led the grant and logistics and facilitated communication with funder and medical experts and design students.
Early career wildlife researcher from Arunachal Exploring the application of the concept of planetary health on the ground. Interviewed ASHA, Anganwaadi, Forest department staff along with virtual gatherings for residents and designers.
Early career public health student and medical student based around a related project Once themes were derived from the field, worked with the senior wildlife researcher to write content related to these themes based on papers and fact sheets that were published in public health.
Senior researcher who collected data tribal medicinal knowledge in kerala in the past Collected interview data with multiple stakeholders on the field, including interviews with doctors on snake-bites, helped assist design students with their final semester project in terms of site-specific data and mapping.
Field biologist from forest department Presented and conceptualised data and posters related to snakes of Pakke. Also helped in conceptualising material on waste-management and segregation.

 

 

Table 2: Details of local engagement

Local engagement Insights
Doctors from Primary & Community Health Centres Focused on human-snake conflict. Stated anti-venom unavailability but were ready to stock and recommended prior training. Also interested in learning about snakes and snake-handling for conflict mitigation from forest department staff.
Range Forest Officer Coordination of logistics and implementation on the ground as well as stay and logistics for researchers. Focussed on snake bite and snake-management material and wanted the centre to also have material on waste management.
Front-line antipoaching staff Their focal points were on waste and importance of conservation of forest inside Pakke. Also wanted to share their experiences and precautions and full-presence one must have.
Wives of forest watchers Local ingredients and food and wanted to share weekly market procurement. Change in food habit of younger generation.
ASHA & Anganwaadi workers People use forests to a large extent, forest staff connected to residents as part of the same community and friendly, hunting a threat to wildlife.
Aka and Miji residents Waste management and lack of dealing with it at the household level an issue, use local ingredients eg: fermented soya, tubers. Worried about air pollution from steel factory. Inability to manage snake-bites results in killing of snakes.
School teachers from govt schools Very few amenities and more scope of engagement for children from schools
Tourists Direct interview conducted and interested in knowing how to fully enjoy Pakke
Panchayat members Worried about the rise of zoonotic diseases (eg: Japanese encephalitis) and other disease like canine distemper.

 

Table 3: Communication team1

Stakeholder groups Details of interactions
University final year students not been to Pakke 12 students conducted their semester 8 final projects of which 2 projects were selected by the graphic design and implementation team
Community-based Map A call out for illustrators from northeast India led to the selection of an Arunachali animation and illustration student who visited the field and is in the process of creating a community map of the area.
Graphic design and implementation team A graphic designer who worked with a wildlife researcher and a senior faculty from Goa College of Architecture designed 22 posters for the centre
Home-bound artist Created imaginative animal portraits from stories of his father who is a front-line patrolling staff. We used a vibrant colour palette for the centre based on some of his inspirations.
Film-makers Two film-students from the north-east who are training at Green Hub spent 2 months in Pakke consulting with stake-holders and will make a film about planetary health. One film-student is from the eastern side of Pakke.

1Design students background: Architecture, Public Space Design,  Information Arts & Information Design Practices, Human Centered Design, Creative Education,Visual Communication and Strategic Branding, Animation

Funder:
DBT/Wellcome Trust India Alliance (India Alliance)

Collaborators:

  • Tippi Wildlife Range, Pakke Tiger Reserve, Arunachal Pradesh
  • Srishti Manipal Institute of Art, Design and Technology
Duration of project
October 2020- May 2022

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