Want to plant a tree but not sure how to go about it? Just log on to this website and you will soon have your very own tree taking root in some part of the country.
“I was born and brought up in a hilly region in Uttarakhand. On moving to the city I noticed a stark difference with respect to the environment. There were concrete jungles coming up around us and people didn’t know what to do about the receding green cover. But there were also people who wanted to contribute towards the cause of Mother Nature by planting trees – they just didn’t have a convenient medium to do so. Someone says there is no space to plant trees and someone else complains that there is no time. This was the initial trigger that motivated me to start this platform,” says 37-year-old Apurva Bhandari, the co-founder of Sankalp Taru, a technology-enabled NGO that works on reforestation and environment conservation projects across India.
From Ladakh to Tamil Nadu and the Thar Desert to West Bengal — the organization is helping people plant trees in diverse locations across the length and breadth of the country, using just a simple website or a mobile application.
The process involves three people/stages:
1. A user who plants a tree online.
2. A rural beneficiary who is a farmer and plants the tree at the physical location.
3. A Sankalp Taru coordinator who provides the beneficiary with the sapling and resources to nurture the tree.
The goal of the organization is to help people reduce their carbon footprint while also providing farmers with alternate sources of income like selling fruits and making non-timber forest products.
Founded in 2012, Sankalp Taru has planted four lakh medicinal and fruit-bearing trees to date, working with a team of 35 people. The number of beneficiaries currently stands at 21,500.
Users who want to plant trees log on to the website or app and click on the option of planting a certain number of trees at a particular location. A notification is sent to the coordinator at that place. He/she then works with one of the rural beneficiaries to plant the trees. After this, the coordinator clicks a picture of the planted sapling/s and an email with information about the beneficiary and the location of the place on Google Maps reaches the user. Additionally, the user also receives constant updates about the growth of the tree and how it is impacting the farmer.
Coordinators, spread across all 13 states where Sankalp Taru is operational, work closely with the beneficiaries to maintain and nurture the trees. They identify farmers who have land for planting trees, train them in sustainable farming methods, and provide them with facilities to irrigate the trees.
This model of planting is called the rural livelihood support programme. Sankalp Taru follows three other models for wider reach:
• Clean and green programme – The organization works with students and teachers to help them develop a sense of responsibility towards nature. “Not only do we plant trees at schools but our coordinators also work with children to make them environmentally conscious and help them make eco-friendly decisions. The students adopt trees, watch movies on the environment, attend quizzes and drawing competitions on environmental themes, etc.,” says Apurva. The team also conducts cleanliness drives with students. Sankalp Taru is working with over 150 schools and has planted more than 15,000 trees on their campuses.
• Plantation in panchayat land – In this case, instead of working with a single individual on his/her land, the coordinators work with panchayats and plant on community land. In the long run, the community becomes responsible for maintaining the trees. In this way, the organization empowers village residents, especially women who are trained on producing forest products, to sell and improve their livelihoods.
• Plantation in cities – This is a recent model and is progressing at a smaller scale because of space limitations for planting trees in cities.
Users have to pay a certain amount when they choose to plant trees. The cost varies based on the location – from Rs. 149-251 per tree.
People also have the option to gift trees on behalf of others, to celebrate birthdays by planting trees, etc. The NGO works with corporate organizations as a part of their CSR projects, and this model is its source of funding too.
Users also have the option to plant trees for different location-based projects like Project Green Deccan, Project Protect Himalayas, Project Green Thar, etc. Sankalp Taru plants native trees in different localities – like walnuts and apricots in Ladakh; neem, pomegranate and dates in the Thar Desert; and guava, cheeku, mango, etc., in South India.
Apurva is an MBA graduate who was working in the IT industry prior to starting Sankalp Taru. He founded the NGO with Balachandra Bhat who manages the technical side of operations at the organization.
Today, thanks to these men and their team, thousands of people are planting trees that will support generations to come. For example, a beautiful lush forest is coming up in 50 hectares of barren land owned by various gram panchayats in the Barmer and Jalore districts of Rajasthan. In a few years time, it will act as a source of “fuel, fodder and fruits” for the local communities. Then, there is a government primary school in Sabu village of Ladakh that had no tree cover at all – it is now turning into a green zone and the kids there are learning about the importance of environment conservation. These are only a few of the several stories of change that Sankalp Taru is bringing about in many corners of the country with the help of ordinary people like us.
You can decrease your carbon footprint too. Plant a tree now.