Our work continued with a visit to the village of Dhalamukkai located about an hours drive from Kotagiri where the local savings group held their monthly meeting. The community faces a number of challenges when it comes to livelihoods, and as with many other villages in the area wildlife intrusions are a major concern. The farmers are set to start cultivating millets next year but they are worried about the damage caused by elephants and gaur. In addition, this years late rains have been a reminder that crops can fail. Read more about the Dhalamukkai visit here.
Back at the office we have settled in to the rhythm of the workplace. Keystone has a sort of relaxed but professional atmosphere where a sense of purpose, rather than rigid rules and structures, dictates the everyday workflow. It is a dynamic workplace where microscope-wielding biologists work shoulder to shoulder with social activists.
The Keystone campus is located on a hill opposite our house. Tea plantations on two sides and a eucalyptus forest on top of the hill surround it, and as is the case in most areas of Kotagiri the local wildlife recognizes human habitation as a nuisance but not an obstruction in their daily foraging. There are frequent sightings of gaur at the office and a few days ago Ida and I spotted a couple of barking deer rummaging in the tea. Coming back from the afternoon tea break a couple of days ago we suddenly realized that a wild boar was staring at us from about twenty meters away. It must have discovered us at the same time as it quickly scurried away into the tea bushes. The subsequent pig chase ended up on top of the hill with a fantastic late-afternoon view of the valley below….just another day at the Keystone office.