Tuesday, April 6, 2010

African Primitive Tribe Siddi, Will be Eco-Guide at Gir.

Premal Balan/Ahmedabad | Apr 05, 2010

The men folk of African primitive tribe, Siddi, who were brought here as slaves by the Portuguese, are being trained to become eco-guides of the Asiatic lions last abode - Gir Sanctuary - by the Gujarat government.

This is a part of the project initiated by the state Tribal Development department in order to improve livelihood, housing, access to safe drinking water and electricity, increase literacy, health facilities and roads to the five major Primitive Tribal Groups (PTG) of Gujarat, namely Kolgha, Kathodi, Kotwalia, Padhar and Siddi.

"Looking at the concentration of Siddi tribe near the Gir forests in Junagadh, we thought of training them to become eco-guides, which will help them take advantage of the growing eco-tourism in the state, especially around Gir forests region," Secretary, Tribal Development A M Tiwari told PTI.

"As such we would be working with five primitive tribes in the state, but we have started with the training of Siddis, while the project with others is in the pipeline," he said, adding that the project for Siddi community was designed with focus on potential of eco-tourism in the area.

"This project is also aimed at conservation and development of the Siddi community," he said.

Since the Siddis know the Gir forest well, they could become good guides and could provide information to tourist and also could earn a livelihood, Tiwari said.

He said that for training purpose, they approached the Gujarat Education and Ecological Research (GEER) Foundation, an autonomous body under the Forests and Environment department.

The first batch of 22 men from Siddi community have completed 15-day training last week for becoming an eco-guide.

"Besides theoretical lectures, practical sessions were also organised which included field trips to the Gir forest and other nearby places," Deputy Director (Environment education) at GEER foundation N K Nanda said.

"Since they are going to be guides, they need to know about the do's and dont's of being in wildlife sanctuary. Also, besides the forest area, they should have some knowledge of history and importance of near by area which are of tourist interest," Nanda said.

"We have given them training on how to interact with tourist, the do's and dont's of being in a forest area," he said, adding that they have also been given training in driving jeeps and other vehicles which could help them during safari trails.

Nanda said that in order to make a good livelihood, they have been given information about places of interest around the Gir forest area.

Siddi population, which is roughly 8816 in the state, is largely concentrated in Gir area of Junagadh district in Saurashtra with some habitations also in Bhavnagar, Rajkot, Jamnagar and Amreli districts.

The group also has presence in states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra besides Gujarat.

Ancestors of Siddis were brought about 300 years ago from Africa, by the Portuguese as slaves for the Nawab of Junagadh.

Although in Gujarat, Siddis have adopted the language and many customs of their surrounding populations, some African traditions have been preserved, these include the Goma music and dance form, which is also called Dhamaal.

The efforts of the Tribal development department is part of a major strategy of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's Ten Point Programme for development of tribal families.
Filed At: Apr 05, 2010 15:03 IST , Edited At: Apr 05, 2010 15:03 IST
Source: http://news.outlookindia.com/item.aspx?678670

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