Back in 2010, residents of Jharkhand’s Hesatu village were sharing their worries about the wastelands in their area. During the discussion, someone proposed growing a forest of their own on the land. A draft was prepared by around 25-30 villagers and it all began.
Today, around 93 households from the village have successfully raised forest cover of more than 1 lakh trees on 365 acres of wasteland – all by themselves.
All this while, the villagers have kept government and NGO intervention at bay. They are happy with what they have achieved and are doing well on their own, they say.
“We started our work six years ago on Holi. We dug the earth, ploughed it and planted vegetables the first year. With profits from vegetables, we started working on the bigger project — that of growing trees. We were already cultivating lac on kusum and ber trees on 200 acres. We added the numbers on the community forest of 365 acres,” Jagnu Oraon, a village resident, told Village Square.
The village of about 800 people put their skills to best use and built the forest on the wasteland and now earns an annual income of Rs 40 lakh to Rs 50 lakh through its agro-forestry initiative. Residents of the village, which comes under the Ormanjhi administrative block, around 27 km from Ranchi, applied their knowledge and carefully planted each tree – eight feet from each other, with each tree having 1.5 feet radius trench around it.
Their income development pattern allots 30% each for land development, the community, and to feed people who work hard in the forests, the remaining 10% is utilised on welfare.
The villagers have even started an open school of training where they charge a daily fee of Rs 100 for people who want to learn how they work. Following the monsoons last year – which they say was a boon for them – the villagers even earn though dairy after earning Rs 4 lakh by selling grass and purchasing around 70 cows.
“Now, the villagers are earning Rs 5,000 per day by selling milk. And last year’s income through forestry was around Rs 40 lakh,” said villager Devendra Nath Thakur.
After Hesatu, the villagers have now started developing small nurseries in barren patches around the area. Thanks to their efforts, they say that even seasonal migration has come to a stop. After they started earning profits through forestry in 2014, they convinced family members of those who migrated to work on their own land instead.
“In the years 2015 and 2016, the rate of migration was lower. And in 2017 we can safely claim that our village is migration-free,” said Sunita Devi, a villager.