grantees » Manoj Hemant Kumar Raju, 1979

Manoj Hemant Kumar  Raju, India

Manoj is an environmental lawyer from an adivasi, or tribal, background. He is originally from one of the poorest districts in the country, where the economic situation and political insurgency over the past decade have pushed most of the youth to look for ways to migrate. Manoj however, chooses to contribute to the communities, and after completing his LL.M. in Environmental Studies in 2007, he aligned himself with the Legal Environmental Action Forum (LEAF). LEAF is a mainly adivasi organization based in Chhattisgarh, focusing on legal empowerement of the tribal people and encouraging a sustainable relationship with the forest through Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs). NTFPs allow people to gain economically from the products of the forest without harming the forest and logging trees.  Manoj built and now manages the LEAF centre in Orissa: “I dedicate myself towards the rural folks thereby creating a sense of social, legal, and ethical awareness among them.” Not only does Manoj provide legal assistance, but he also helps create local legal leaders that can continue his work in the future.

With the help of the JWH initiative, Manoj followed an intensive personal leadership development plan. He firstly participated in an internal advocacy campaign where he learnt about the customary tribal laws and indigenous social judidiciary system, documented them, and “learnt how to solve problems, such as matrimonial or cock-fighting disputes, through the local systems.” Manoj also visited various other NGOs in other states, learning about the relationship between the community, climate change and the environment. He says, “in this program I came to know about the lack of basic knowledge of constitutional provisions among the tribals in central India.”

Manoj also learnt a lot about sustainable resource management in relation to NTFPs, as well as nursery management and seed germination. With his newfound knowledge, Manoj started a nursery in Orissa bearing indigenous species, as well as shared new tips and tricks with other LEAF nurseries. This dissemination of knowledge is a vital piece of his work, which was further enhanced by a village journalism course and skills gained in digital media.  “From this leadership program, I gained many communicative skills in policy and lobby aspects of community natural resource management, and can better communicate legal issues affecting the tribal people.”