A remote village near the city of Pune in Maharashtra, Ranmala, had been affected by drought for a long time. Felling of trees in the village had led to high levels of soil erosion, and whatever rains they received, the water would not be sufficient to last the entire year. The obvious solution to end this drought was to plant trees. But the main question was, who would plant them and who would take care of the saplings till they’re self-sufficient?
Here arose the genius of PT Shinde, a retired school teacher who used a simple tactic to include villagers in his vision to plant thousands of trees in Ranmala.
Shinde attached sentimental values to this task and encouraged villagers to gift a sapling to the families celebrating special occasions. He even encouraged them to gift a sapling to a family in memory of a loved one they lost.
The result was that the villagers grew an emotional connection to the saplings and nurtured them with passion.
If someone was born into a family, a gifted sapling was treated just like the child. If someone passed away, the sapling was their memory- a memory that needed to be nurtured.
Started in 2003, the project in a Pune village took off very well. The distributed responsibility and an emotional connection helped Ranmala grow about two lakh saplings in 15 years! What was once a drought-prone village is now self-sufficient in its water needs.
Vikas Kharge, Principal Secretary of the Maharashtra Forest Department, told The Times of India, “There are instances of a sapling being planted when a baby was born and the child, who is now a teenager, taking care of the tree and also relishing its fruits.”
The Maharashtra state government is now planning to use Ranmala as a model for its massive tree plantation drive starting next month.
The drive panned between July 1-31, 2018, is set to include gram panchayats and municipal councils in their efforts to reforest Maharashtra.
“We visited the village (Ranmala) and found this idea was working very well. If there was a birth in anyone’s house, they would be gifted a sapling- Janm Vruksha (birth tree) and the family was expected to take care of the sapling as they would the baby. Similarly, for a death in a family, a Smruti Vruksha (tree of remembrance), ‘Maherchi Zhadi’ (tree from the parent’s house) or Shubh Mangal Vruksha (auspicious tree) for weddings and Anand Vruksha for special occasions would be given,” Kharge told the publication.
Similarly, the state government plans to distribute occasions celebrated by each village in four categories. Each family will be given a sapling on 1st July to kick-start the project, and then it will adopt Ranmala’s model. They are also planning each tree to be geo-tagged and named, to have a greater emotional connection with the villagers.
The idea to adopt a sapling as a mark of a special occasion is a great idea to help villagers get a sense of responsibility towards it. In a state like Maharashtra where thousands of villagers face the wrath of drought almost every year, small steps like these will ensure a better, greener future.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)