A Gold medallist in M. Sc (Botany) and PhD from Andhra University, Dr.Suryakumari continued postdoctoral research in Botany for some time. She then moved to NGO sector and worked for Bhagavatula Charitable Trust (BCT) led by Dr.B.V. Parameswara Rao, where she gained firsthand experience of working with the communities and led implementation of different projects. In 1999, she joined Centre for World Solidarity, headed by Sri.M.V.Sastri and provided leadership to the Joint Forest Management Programme. Sharing the Vision of Sastriji of an independent Organisation, working in forestry domain with community perspective, she played a crucial role in the establishment of the organisation – Centre for People’s Forestry, in 2002 and has been leading the same as the Director since then.
She is an expert in social, livelihoods (including micro-enterprises), and policy issues of community-based forest management and has been associated with the communities since 1991 through farm forestry, women’s self-help groups, participatory irrigation management, and Joint/Community Forest Management in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. In her various capacities, she participated in various international meetings, facilitated organisation of training programmes and development of resource materials, and served as member for many of the Government’s policy formulation committees (Green India Mission, CAMPA, IWST, and others). She has been a member in few Appraisal (EU project and BRLF) and Evaluation missions (Ford Foundation and Indo Canada Environment Facility) of donor funded projects. Many reports, papers, publications, Policy briefs, Designing and carrying out participatory action research are included in her work.
Dr. Suryakumari played substantial role in inclusion of pro-community provisions, by bringing community perspectives, in the Community Forest Management GO and implementation of the Government led programme. Her pioneering efforts of working in critical collaboration mode with Forest Department and formation of Vanasamakhya with 600 VSSs were much acclaimed. Her leadership for several multi stakeholder collaboration initiatives – involving NGOs, Forest Department, Tribal Welfare Department, Girijan Cooperative Corporation and Rural development departments contributed towards overcoming field level bottle necks.
She has been significantly contributing towards enhancing the livelihoods and empowerment of forest communities in the areas of – Forest Rights, Community forestry, Community institutions, Sustainable Natural Resource Management, Value addition to forest products, Climate resilient agriculture practices, Crop diversity and Access to government schemes – through various projects.
Indian Institute of Forest Management which was tasked by the MOEF & CC for drafting the New Forest Policy – 2019 sought inputs of Dr. Suryakumari, as one of the five expert committee members, to the draft Policy document and she contributed her insights to the same.