ATREE has worked with Soliga Abhivruddhi Sangha (SAS), a local partner, to form Forest Rights Committees (FRCs) at the Gram Sabha level. ATREE has also prepared a manual on the Forest Rights Act, 2006 in Kannada for distribution to Gram Sabha members.

This manual familiarizes the reader with the processes required to claim forest rights. In addition, ATREE and SAS jointly conducted capacity building workshops for submitting documents for claiming community and individual rights as made possible by the Act.

Skills training

Over 250 families have been trained in the use of lantana over the last seven years, over 60 different products designed and produced, and a network of rural and urban market linkages established. With the help of the local forest department, ATREE has also undertaken restoration planting of the local flora.

Our experience has taught us that women, more than men, tend to stay on with the programme. With this learning, this year we consciously focused on training women in selected sites; with at least three sites that are nearly all-women. Viewed from a sociological perspective, we believe this is significant because the only other local employment option for women is marginal farming. Women are more vulnerable, with perhaps a daily wage at coffee estates, often far removed from their villages. We believe that the women-centric groups could have important spin-offs such as greater family stability.

There are five lantana craft centres, which directly market their products in and around the different sites, with profits shared among member artisans. ATREE has assisted artisans connect with mainstream markets, especially with existing government cooperatives such as TRIFED (Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India), unit of Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India. In the beginning of 2009, Mr. Ramanathan, Regional Manager and Mr. Balasubramanian, Senior Finance Officer of TRIFED accepted ATREE's invitation to visit Lantana Craft Centres (LCCs)at MM hills. After this, ATREE and TRIFED jointly organized a value added training programme on lantana. It was conducted by Mr. Sandeep Sangaaru, alumni of National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad. Mr. Sangaaru and the artisans developed 15 new designs and modified 10 existing products designs with newly learned skills.

Diversifying the portfolio of lantana products: customizing products for rural and urban markets

In the period 2009-2012, the MM hills CCC team initiated several activities to popularize lantana craft and provide forward and backward market linkages. ATREE linked the Lantana Craft Centre (LCC) with NABARD-Karnataka for financial aid. With support from NABARD, ATREE organized a design workshop for the artisans (December 2010 to May 2011) at MM hills. ATREE invited Mr. Benny, a designer from Uravu, Indigenous Science and Technology Study Centre, Wayanad, Kerala to conduct the workshop at MM hills. This was initially conducted with five master craftsmen at MM hills. The objective of this workshop was to develop new products with more functional and utility value. The team developed 45 products. After the prototype development, local artisans in Palar and Hanne hola villages were also trained. Some products were not machine based, but were handicrafts. The range included key holders, key chains, candle stands, photo frames, clocks, mobile phone stands, necklaces, studs, lampshades etc. ATREE developed a training manual for the benefit of the local artisans.

Weed replaces depleting Pala indigo tree populations

Channapatna is 60km from Bangalore and world famous for its lacware toys made from Wrightiatinctoria, (Pala indigo). The toys are exported to Europe and USA in response to a booming demand for Channapatnalacware. In recent years, due to excessive harvesting, Wrightiatinctoria populations have been completely depleted in this region. ATREE developed toy prototypes using lantana instead of Pala indigo with the help of Channapatna artisans. More than 25 toy designs were approved. ATREE then established a lantana toys training unit in Hanne hola village in MM hills. The unit can accommodate six trainees. The trainees are exposed to different types of toys and utility products from lantana with the help of a trainer from Channapatna. Tribes India, a marketing outlet of TRIFED, Bangalore has come forward to market these toys through their chain of stores under their TRIBES India brand across India. TRIFED also promoted this innovative technology in Javadi Hills and Palani Hills with the help of Soliga artisans and the ATREE team at MM hills.