Action research is an integral part of Keystone’s work and has helped us improve our approach and methods of work along the way. We have also engaged with the practical application of science and implemented systematic inquiries whether it be in the field of Non timber forest products (NTFP) or ecology of wild bees or sustainable agriculture. Today the research group in Keystone is poised to carve out a space for itself within the organisation.



But what is the need for a research program within an NGO one may ask? The opportunity to start a research program within an NGO is a way to get researchers closer to reality and to allow for questions to rise from the ground, answers to which, will have a bearing on the people and environment. The program has to be a process of evolution – not one that can be forced.

The program has to be a process of evolution – not one that can be forced. To garner funding, locally relevant questions will have to be balanced with questions of relevance on a broader scale. In the case of NTFP which has formed an important part of our research agenda to date, this is generally not too hard as different classes of NTFPs have so little research globally, and research examples in one area can shed light on NTFPs in general.

Some guidelines for research within Keystone from Dr. Patricia Shanley
  • Allow questions to evolve from Keystone’s research and work on the ground
  • Catalyze local input to questions – listen to different segments of communities (women, children, elderly). • Document creative methods to involve women and voices that are often unheard
  • Bridge scales by considering how these local issues tie into regional and global questions
  • Bust myths - feel free to bust/amend/comment on them using real life examples
  • Explore ways to celebrate and affirm local customs traditions and to pass knowledge across generations - this is an underutilized way towards deep seated, culturally embraced conservation.
  • Explore new ground where research never treads

Since September 2014, the research program has started essentially by focussing on the community based ecological monitoring program or Barefoot Ecology, as it is commonly referred to. The project funded by CEPF through a small grant was completed on 31st January. The team of barefoot ecologists completed a 12 months of primary information collection about the quality of forests around their village and also processed data to produce result charts and tables. These results were then taken to various villages and discussed with the people. Finally, Forest Department staff from Coimbatore, Sathyamangalam, Erode and Nilgiris under the leadership of the Conservator of Forests, hosted a one day workshop on Barefoot Ecology. At the workshop, we were able to share the methods and results of our work. This was an interesting session where 56 forest officials were able to hear and interact with the barefoot ecologists directly. The workshop had a high impact and was well appreciated by the department. They have requested Keystone to share the methods with their staff and to train them to undertake this activity. As a follow up action point, Keystone Foundation has been asked to offer a field ecology course to the field staff of the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve. The modules have been worked out and will be implemented over April, May and June. We have also been asked to start the Barefoot Ecology work in forest villages of Sathyamangalam. All discussions about this have been completed and the work will begin from May.

Work in progress:

  • Discussions have been undertaken with other research organisations on collaborative research at a national level to assess the quality of forest patches under different human use regimes.
  • Collaborations are also being developed to develop a repository of oral histories of people and nature of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
  • Concept notes are being prepared to start a field ecology course which will be open to students at post graduate level and implemented in the NBR
  • Building stronger links through networks of the IUCN and SSC of the IUCN

The Research group is evolving and is gathering momentum within Keystone. Much needs to be sorted out on what should it do and who should be part of the team and what will it achieve. At this point there are four starting points which are outlined above and each of them will be strengthened. This will be the launching board to the how, where, why and what of the research program.

lastforest Aadhimalai Radio Kotagiri nnhs
Nilgiris Water Portal NTFP South East Asia

Keystone Foundation
Keystone Centre, PB 35
Groves Hill Road, Kotagiri 643 217
The Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, India

Telefaxes: +91 (04266) 272277, 272977
Email: kf[at]keystone-foundation[dot]org

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