1992 - Ongoing

Kalpavalli: the eternal source of abundance

Sri Sathya Sai District, Andhra Pradesh

Key details

About the project

Photo gallery


Key species

1992 - Ongoing

Kalpavalli: the eternal source of abundance

Sri Sathya Sai District, Andhra Pradesh

Key details

Aim of the restoration project

Community-led conservation initiatives, increasing the natural resource base and using it to enhance sustainable livelihood opportunities for local communities and enabling corridors and linkages for wildlife movement.


What was the condition of the land before restoration? And what are the past and current disturbances?

Prior to restoration, KCCA was a degraded land with barren hills, damaged by deforestation, overgrazing, forest fires, and lack of community ownership.

Some of the current and future threats faced by the KCCA are mining and quarrying, windmills along the hillsides, soil erosion and siltation (due to wind mills), climate change, large solar farms, hunting, and death of wildlife from electric fences.

What are the restoration activities that were/are being carried out?

Over the last 30 years, the restoration activities taken up were 

  1. Soil and water conservation including construction of water harvesting structures, trenching along natural contours, reforestation and desilting of major water harvesting bodies thereby revitalization of farming systems;
  2. Restoration of barren hills by broadcasting grass seeds, maintaining tree nurseries, planting and caring for saplings, seed dibbling camps with collected seeds;
  3. Forest fire management through maintenance of 54 km of primary fire breaks (AR-2021-22) and creation of secondary fire breaks, dousing unanticipated fires during dry months particularly March, April and May;
  4. KCCA is governed and managed by a federation of ten Van Samrakshana Committees (VSCs) since early 1990s. A team of watchers regulate grazing, guard against poaching and hunting of wildlife, monitor tree health and supervise the creation of fire lines in KCCA.
  5. Education and outreach to all age groups through educational film screenings, trainings, counselling sessions, exposure camps, exhibitions of native seeds and nature appreciation workshops;
  6. Managing Non-timber forest produce (NTFP) through sale of tenders for collecting date palm fruits & fronds, grasses and wild berries/fruits and an array of medicinal plants sustainably harvested and
  7. Regulated Livestock grazing through Shepherd counselling sessions.

Area of the project

1600 hectares


Sri Sathya Sai District, Andhra Pradesh


500-800 m

Annual rainfall

750 mm


12℃ - 45℃

About the project

History and Beginnings

The Timbaktu Collective believes that the sustainable livelihood of the marginalised is intrinsically connected to restoration and management of commons. The first initiative of the Collective was an experiment in restoration of a piece of barren land, which was called Timbaktu. As part of its eco-restoration programme, the Collective initiated community projects in soil and water conservation in common lands. This resulted in creation of the Kalpavalli Community Conservation Area (KCCA), otherwise locally known as Kalpavalli.

Today, Kalpavalli is a 4,000-acre community conserved reserve and is a unique initiative of restoration within degraded revenue “waste land”. It’s a remarkable and challenging effort to manage and conserve a unique dryland habitat – for people, plants and animals.

Innovative Approaches

Over the years the Collective has used various innovative programmes to sustain the restoration, protection and conservation of the commons. Most important being the creation of local ownership, especially among the youth, through active awareness building and promotion of Village Forest Committees (VSCs) as voluntary bodies. Working with the local communities, the Collective initiated the practice of collection of seeds of indigenous trees and bushes, using them for seed dibbling/broadcasting, creating fire lines annually to prevent fire, etc. The VSCs undertook a range of activities such as seed/sapling planting and large-scale soil and water management programs, digging trenches, creating fire breaks and desilting water bodies, etc. These activities required manual labour, the remuneration for which created incentive for participation in the programme. To ensure a sustainable income, an ethical ecotourism project has been taken up in collaboration with a hospitality vendor called Linger.

Conservation efforts in the KCCA are implemented by forest watchers who are appointed by the VSCs (one watcher per village). The watchers are the ‘on-ground’ staff responsible for ‘Watch and Ward’ – i.e., protection against forest fires, nursery maintenance, documentation of livestock, counselling of shepherds against indiscriminate grazing, boundary demarcation, seed collection, seed banks and critical care of trees. Currently there are a total of eleven watchers and they regulate the use and extent of natural resource extraction. The watchers have a wealth of traditional ecological knowledge, and their constant presence in the area makes them an integral part of the management of the KCCA.

Under education and outreach, the Collective has targeted diverse audiences of all age groups and capacities. Programs include educational film screenings, training, counselling sessions for the shepherds, exposure camps for children and youth, exhibitions of native seeds and nature appreciation workshops. Shepherd counselling sessions are held to spread awareness about fire, ecology and the impact of overgrazing. The ‘Jungle Bandi’ is a mobile interpretation centre that engages children, youth, farmers, watchers, VSC members and others through a wildlife and ecology based experiential curricula. The focus of ‘Jungle Bandi’ is to create excitement about the grassland fauna/flora, improve the collective understanding of local ecology, foster a sense of pride about Kalpavalli and inculcate an ownership of the present and future generations of the KCCA’s unique savanna grassland habitat.

Impact on Flora & Fauna and Ecosystem Services:

Under 30 years of community-led ecosystem management at Kalpavalli, the local community has reported a gradual rise in natural flora and fauna. After the initial growth of grasses and trees, fauna from neighbouring forests began to colonise the area, thereby restoring fundamental ecosystem processes such as seed dispersal, pollination and predator-prey balances.

The KCCA has become an important wildlife corridor that provides habitat connectivity to various species of flora and fauna and also acts as a critical refuge for species. The KCCA is composed of a mix of habitat types characterised by tropical savanna grassland, dry deciduous forest, riparian and thorn scrub vegetation comprising approximately 350 distinct species of flora. The fauna is also diverse with 125 bird species, 22 mammals and 28 species of herpetofauna, including some endangered and endemic species. The KCCA is home to the endangered blackbuck (designated as the state animal). A small portion of the KCCA was a part of the abandoned Ramagiri gold mines, the abandoned tunnels now serve as denning sites for the Bengal fox, Indian sloth bear, Leopards and the highly endangered Indian grey wolf.

KCCA protects and conserves region-specific indigenous tree species that are otherwise fast disappearing. These tree species are drought resistant and hardy and are ecologically suited to this region. 

The KCCA forms an important watershed, feeding two major rainwater harvesting tanks and several irrigation tanks, which irrigate over 1,500 acres of agricultural land. Several studies prove that the soil and eco-restoration work had a positive impact on the water levels at the Mushtikovela tank.

In addition, there are numerous supporting, provisioning, regulating and cultural ecosystem services provided by Kalpavalli. It is also home to a number of sacred sites where local deities reside alongside endangered flora and fauna.

Impact on local Community:

Over the past 25 years, the KCCA has provided security to the lives of shepherds, landless farmers and daily-wage workers during recurrent seasons of drought. KCCA hosts an average of 1,00,000 small livestock for grazing annually, which in turn reduces the grazing pressure on the district. The conserved area also provides an expanse of common land to provide ecologically beneficial wage labour under various Government schemes including NREGA. The productivity enjoyed by the farmers downstream of the KCCA is directly related to the ecological integrity of the KCCA.

The main revenue source for the VSCs is from the sale of tenders for collecting NTFP such as date palm fruits, date palm fronds, grasses and wild berries/fruits and an array of medicinal plants sustainably harvested. Apart from this, the other revenue sources are affordable annual user fee charged on sShepherds and the annual membership subscription from VSCs. The revenue thus generated is then used for civil infrastructure in villages.

Kalpavalli has provided a platform not just for the local community but also for the academia, researchers, nature enthusiasts and tourists primarily from urban areas to experience the unique ecosystem.

Sustainability of the project:

The strength of this work lies in the community’s dedication and stewardship over natural resource management (NRM). Over the years, the members of the VSCs have developed a sense of ownership over the KCCA.

In 2018, the Timbaktu Collective has roped in experts to study the history of the KCCA, identify its shortcomings and recommend management actions for the next 10-year period. A robust education and outreach model ensures continual participation, especially from the youth sector. This ensures that future generations take up the heritage they inherited. A ‘Watch and Ward’ policy for monitoring, documenting and reporting of activities is implemented by the VSCs to minimize over-exploitation of the resource base.

With 30 years of community-led ecosystem management and focus on involving local communities, the Timbaktu Collective and its partners are poised to sustain the work in the future. The livelihood opportunities for the marginalised people, the outreach activities of the Collective, the pilot initiative of responsible tourism in the area, the focused work on getting legal protection for the land and attempts to network with similar initiative will all go a long way in sustaining this initiative.

Get in touch

Team: Mary Vattamattam, Peruri Srikanth
Chiranjeevi, Mukesh, Ravi, Ishita
Address: behind Model School, Chennekothapalli, Andhra Pradesh 515101
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