The Indian wildlife biologist – Dr. Purnima Devi Barman will be conferred with the Champions of the Earth Award in 2022, the U.N.’s highest environmental honour, for her outstanding contribution to prevent, halt and reverse ecological deterioration.
Dr. Barman has been honoured with the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) 2022 Champions of the Earth award in the Entrepreneurial Vision category.
A wildlife biologist and founder of the “Hargila Army” – Dr. Barman, an all-female grassroots conservation movement dedicated to protect the Greater Adjutant Stork. The woman design and market textiles featuring bird patterns, contributing to raise awareness about the species and build their own financial security.
Dr. Barman serves as the Senior Project Manager for Avifauna Research and Conservation Division in Aaranyak.
“I saw storks and many other species. She taught me bird songs. She asked me to sing for the egrets and the storks. I fell in love with the birds,” said Dr. Barman, who has devoted much of her career to saving the endangered greater adjutant stork, the second-rarest stork species in the world.
“Barman’s pioneering conservation work has empowered thousands of women, creating entrepreneurs and improving livelihoods while bringing the greater adjutant stork back from the brink of extinction,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.
“Dr Barman’s work has shown that conflict between humans and wildlife can be resolved to the benefit of all. By highlighting the damaging impact that the loss of wetlands has had on the species who feed and breed on them, she reminds us of the importance of protecting and restoring ecosystems.” he said.
According to information on the UNEP website, to protect the stork, Dr. Barman’s work has demonstrated that conflict between human and wildlife can be resolved in a manner, which proves beneficial to everyone. By highlighting the damaging impact that the loss of wetlands has had on the species who feed and breed on them, she reminds us of the importance of protecting and restoring ecosystems.
He enlisted a group of village women to assist her in changing people’s opinions about the bird, locally referred to as “hargila” in Assamese (meaning “bone swallower”).
Currently, the “Hargila Army” consists of over 10,000 women. They safeguard nesting areas, treat hurt storks who have fallen from their nests, and host “baby showers” to mark the birth of young chicks. The greater adjutant stork regularly features in folk songs, poems, festivals and plays.
“Being a woman working in conservation in a male-dominated society is challenging but the Hargila Army has shown how women can make a difference,” she said.