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Afforestation

In Andhra Pradesh about 22 per cent of the area is covered with forest, of which only 10 per cent falls in Ananthapuram district. The forest is highly fragmented, with sparse vegetation. RDT promoted measures like barren hillock regeneration, social forestry and avenue plantation.

Of the aggregate land area of Ananthapuram (19,135 sq. kms.) vegetation covers only 2.5% and forest cover 10.5%. The reason is high climatic temperatures and the higher incidences of summer fires, in a landscape punctuated by hilly, and undulating terrain. Of the remainder, according to the survey of National Wasteland Development Board (NWDB), New Delhi, 16% was wasteland- i.e. barren land, hillocks, stream/river beds and saline lands. This land was declared as ‘Common Property Resources’ (CPR), and allocated to village communities for common use. To address the issue of growing desertification and forest fires, RDT and the villagers partnered in an afforestation drive. This program emphasised to bring one third area under vegetation, to optimize use of wastelands and agricultural lands through agro forestry, improve socio-economic conditions of the people living in the region by providing avenues to gain employment and other livelihood source and enhance environment with green cover.

“It is due to RDT's intervention that we could see after 20 years, a green belt of forest in the region which has once been a desert”
Ivan Alvarez,
Development Co-operation Technician, Spain

At present 1,305 hectares of barren hillocks have been covered and social forestry has been applied on 210 hectares of land.

Some of the initiatives undertaken were, horticulture production on hillocks and ridges- i.e. fruit trees like Custard Apple –Sitaphal and avenue plantation– i.e. tree plantings alongside roads. School plantation-drives were also extensively practiced where the children were sensitised about reforestation, and were placed in charge of the saplings they planted. To bring back forest-cover, forest tree plantings of eucalyptus, tamarind and neem among others, and lastly, tree plantings were carried out for village-beautification.

Around the year 2000, there was an initiative from AP state called ‘Chinta Nischinta’, literally ‘worry-free Tamarind’, which promoted tamarind plantation on wastelands as a means of income generation for Panchayats. This programme ran in tandem with RDT’s initiatives in afforestation. For all these, RDT sourced saplings and seeds from government and private agencies and entrusted village committees to oversee plantings, protect the resulting growth from those who would cut trees or use the land for cattle-grazing.

To a limited extent, RDT also gave saplings to landowning villagers wishing to practice afforestation, even if for commercial purposes. Improved afforestation levels increased the avenues for gainful employment and eco-friendly livelihood patterns. Afforestation has also had a positive impact in increasing the district’s green cover, averting soil erosion and in conservation of soil moisture. Resultingly, the district has seen the optimized use of wastelands and agricultural fallow lands through agro-forestry practices.

HIGHLIGHTS
 
STAFF SPEAK
 

“Rural Development Trust focused to address the challenges of Ananthapuram’s ecology. With this project of replenishing the natural habitat of the region, we could pave the way for further growth of the region in terms of occupation, vegetation, and maintaining ecological balance. This growth has taken years of efforts of education and maintenance, and has helped RDT and people of Ananthapuram to build strong bond of friendship and trust which looks to improve the future.”

Sri. B. Lakshmikantham, Retd.
Deputy Conservator of forests.

SUCCESS STORY
 

Palavenkatapuram is located at 15 km from Kalyadurg Mandal headquarters and hosts 500 households in the village, which includes 70 families belonging to Schedule Caste/Schedule Tribes. RDT workers have been associated with the villagers since the 80s with initiatives in agriculture and horticulture.

Previously, people used to cut trees heavily for fuel and timber purposes. Slowly, with inputs from RDT’s sector workers, villagers were sensitised about protecting vegetation & trees in the hillocks. An Executive Committee of 15 members was constituted and set common rules and regulated them collectively with the support of community members. Some of the rules were:

No one should enter the designated hillocks with an axe
Free grazing for the cattle is allowed
For cutting of grass Rs.10 per head-load was charged
If anyone cuts trees, heavy punishment would be imposed

With time new resolutions are passed by the committee, and many new members are leading the program. Nearly 40 members have participated in extending voluntary labour to carry out the planting operations and nearly 3000 trees have been planted.

“This initiative by RDT has not only helped replenishing our village but also helped in farming, getting employment and preserving our natural resources.”

 Villager

PARADIGM SHIFT
 

Initially, people wouldn’t think twice before slaying a tree. Now, seeing the hardwork in planting and maintaining a tree, people have become more sensitive and considerate towards nature and ecology.


EDC (Ecology Development Committees)
EDCs were constituted in 2010 to coordinate the various activities of the Ecology sector in their areas, since it was found that project-specific committees were limited in nature. Members of the committee range from 6-12 depending on the size of the village with an equal representation of women. These members are provided with regular trainings and are also given timely updates in technical knowledge, special trainings by subject-matter experts, workshops and exposure visits for women. This improved accountability and sharing of best practices enables the committees to oversee the various ecological endeavours underway in their communities.

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