Since I am always interested in this kind of work, I asked a few friends too, and we set off. After a productive morning of birding at
which delayed us quite a bit, we drove to
where we met Avinash Chowdary of
Foundation for Ecological Security (FES)
Srini tries to offset the carbon footprints of his clients in the travel company he runs, by donating to
and wanted to see the planting efforts on the FES site. FES is the local partner of Grow Trees for planting trees as a part of its efforts in ecological restoration in co-ordination with local rural communities.
We found the tiny hamlet of Kollimapalli nestled in a rocky, scrubby landscape:
Blue skies greeted us as we entered the tiny village and walked up the forest path.
The local people whom we met said that what was earlier a barren, arid area was now quite green with the establishment of the scrub jungle, with planted trees growing well.
However"The objective," says Srini, "is not about planting trees only - rather, it is a broader perspective of ecological restoration through water conservation, planning, planting trees (local and at the right place), educating the communities, providing expertise and then working along with them and the local government. It is all about providing a sustainable solution at the local level."
Here we are (at the end of the site visit) :
It is critical that the rules and practices resolved by the local panchayat are followed, for the success of the project, as they allow everyone to participate in the effort.
FES follows a system of CRPs (Community Resource Persons). CRPs are not employed full time - but devote about half of their time for a fixed payment. The CRPs monitor, report, and co-ordinate with local people. Each CRP is responsible for 4-5 villages. They have 350 villages under their project.
They have corporate sponsors like Grow-trees, Say Trees, HUF (Hindustan Unilever), Axis Bank etc.. - who fund them under their CSR budgets. The Community Resource Persons we met were Chalapathi (also a committee member) and Nagaraj; Sunil was the representative from Azim Premji University.
Grazing is allowed in certain areas, and others are 'prohibited' zones for grazing, to allow for vegetative regeneration. Here is a river of cattle flowing down one of the paths in the permitted area.
The impact of all these efforts is felt when the local stakeholders accept the results; the results are synergetically more than just the number of trees planted to prevent erosion.
Efforts also include building of bunds/tanks at strategic locations to provide for water throughout the year, and providing for 'cattle ponds' at strategic locations. Here is Srini, talking to Avinash and the CRPs, at one such cattle pond, which had been dug before the monsoon.
Without co-operation from the local community, merely planting trees (even if the trees are monitored) is of no point whatsoever and is doomed for failure. It was, therefore, heartening to see the good equation that has been developed with the villagers; we were welcomed, we enjoyed seeing the children of the village playing.
After the visit, the hospitable people gave us some delicious buttermilk to slake our thirst!
We found that FES had planted Neem, Jamun,Indian Gooseberry, and other species of trees suited to the rocky, rain-starved environment. On our walk around the area, here are several beautiful creatures which we spotted, proving that the place is, indeed, a haven for all kinds of wildlife.
Small Salmon Arab
Oriental Garden Lizard male
Oriental Garden Lizard female
Catunaregam spinosa, or Mountain Pomegranate:
Givotia rottleriformis, or the White Catamaran tree (Butti Mara in Kannada)
As we walked back, a flight of Painted Storks overhead delighted us.
In spite of the challenges, Grow Trees and FES seem to be making an impact with their work with the twin goals of afforestation and conservation.
For Bhairasagara, click
For Kollimapalli, click
For Gulur Lake, which we visited on our way home, click