Manoj Gautam
Author: Pemu Lama
2023

Manoj Gautam

Indigenous Rights Champion

a nomad’s wisdom

meet manoj

Manoj Gautam is known for his sustainable community-based approaches to conservation, fearless advocacy of animal protection, compelling story-telling, and relentless pursuit of his humanitarian convictions. An Oxford graduate native to Nepal, Manoj grew up in a tight-knit community in tune with the natural world and developed an innate understanding of the fundamental aspects of conservation: community psychology, livelihood, local indigenous knowledge, and ecological services. Nicknamed ‘Nomad’, he documents powerful stories, relating the impacts of changing environmental and resource-governance scenarios, and designs interventions empowering communities living closest to Nepal’s wildlife, sharing them worldwide at talks and keynotes.

a nomad’s wisdom
Nominated by: Natalie Schmitt FI'22
Class of 2023 Location Nepal
Manoj with Jane Goodall
Manoj with Jane Goodall Author: Gabriel Diamond

A thoroughly non-conventional conservationist, I have exploited political willpower and legal tools for policy changes and new legislative provisions and instigated a trend of youth-led conservation organisations. My work takes me to the most troubled species and/or communities where I devise the simplest approach to resolve crises, proving that locals, empowered and with simple but crafty measures, are more than sufficient to create solutions. The systematised and routine conservation machines that parachute in as imposing alien experts become irrelevant. Much of modern conservation practice distances itself from real sustainability and the organic way of life in indigenous and local communities. Colonial venturing and modernisation’s rampaging of indigenous strongholds were a big blow to conservation and indigeneity. My inclination is to apply cultural anthropology in conservation.

“To see these communities gain agency over conservation decision-making, with the realisation of how their ancestors acted as stewards and how they could continue to do so, is a legacy that I would like to leave behind.”

- Manoj Gautam
Talk in the wild
Talk in the wild Author: Dakshina Khadka

I work with mainly six ethnic communities across Nepal to help revive withered, dismantled institutions, traditional ways, knowledge, and belief systems that not only still make sense but are superior to available options, to create robust communities where conservation does not rob indigenous rights, isn’t so erratic, and doesn’t completely depend on foreign aid. It is crucial that these communities understand where they were (historically) and where they stand now (in modern context) in terms of practice and philosophy of conservation, resilience and sustainability. Much of that ancient wisdom needs to be documented, even brought back to life from faraway libraries, and matched with newer means to create a long-lasting and self-governing mechanism. To see these communities gain agency over conservation decision-making, with the realisation of how their ancestors acted as stewards and how they could continue to do so, is a legacy that I would like to leave behind.

My storytelling has an impact on thousands of people and groups across the globe. I believe I am a force still under-utilized, and that gives me an immense hope for the future, of my own, of meaningful exploration and that of the work I do with its help.

Discussion about conservation with local people
Discussion about conservation with local people Author: Gabriel Diamond

there are 49 other visionary explorers

read about the class of 2023