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In 2007 He Planted Just One Tree, Now Every Year His Organisation Plants More Than 1,00,000 Trees

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In 2001, when Kapil Sharma first arrived in Bengaluru as a young collegegoer, the charm of the ‘Garden City’ captivated him at once. Hailing from a place in North India where summer temperature soars as high as 48℃, the cool, breezy climate was a much welcome change for him. “When I started working, I had to travel from one end of the city to the other every day. The green canopies alongside the roads were so soothing,” Kapil narrates his experience to Efforts For Good. Within a few months, Kapil started noticing rampant deforestation here and there – be it for widening a road or constructing a new highrise. “The streets which I once loved, were now lying barren. I could sense an uncertain future for my beloved city. I felt I have to do something,” he shares.

Kapil Sharma at United Nations summit representing India during World Forestry Congress,2015.

Fast forward today, Kapil Sharma’s foundation Say Trees has planted over 3 lakh trees, determined to make Bengaluru green again. The nine-member team headed by Kapil has also partaken afforestation initiatives in Mumbai, Delhi, and villages of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Recently, they have also started rejuvenating lakes in Bengaluru.

To restore the green glory of Bengaluru

“Every weekend, I used to visit the offices of BBMP or Forest Department seeking their help to save Bengaluru from impending environmental peril. I started looking for places in the city where I can plant trees, with the assurance that they won’t be cut down within a few years for infrastructure projects,” narrates Kapil.

He started with planting one sapling outside his house in 2007. Through his friends and family, the movement amplified to the extent of regular plantation drives in different areas of the city. Contributions started pouring in, so did the help from nature-lovers, who volunteered with Say Trees to plant saplings. “My aim was to bring out the nature-lover in each and every citizen, so together we can restore Bengaluru back to her former green glory,” asserts Kapil.

Say Trees volunteers planting saplings on a lake bund.

1 lakh saplings per year

Kapil, a software professional himself, figured out a unique strategy to involve the booming IT industry of Bengaluru into the plantation initiative. “I approached the top software companies and suggested they involve their employees in our programmes as a team-building activity. Our community soon grew in leaps and bounds, standing today with a staggering 24,000 volunteers,” he informs with pride. In fact, some of their large-scale plantation drives have seen more than 700 volunteers dropping in, in a single day.

Volunteers planting Miyawaki forest.

For the past few years, Say Trees has been planting more than 1 lakh saplings every year, with a survival rate of over 80%. Inside Bengaluru’s community parks, around 23 lakes of the city or in the fallow lands of the suburbs, one can relax in the shade of the trees planted by Say Trees. Their work involves a wholesome approach towards increasing the green cover – starting from planting the sapling in monsoon months, to taking care of them throughout the harsh summers. They have collaborated with Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) to procure a water tanker for themselves, christening it as ‘Wheel Of Hope’. The tanker gets water from the Sewage Treatment Plants and goes around watering the plants across the city.

Hope On Wheels

Miyawaki & agro-forestry: what makes Say Trees stand out?

The foundation has recently adopted the popular Japanese ‘Miyawaki’ technique of planting trees and fostered 11 mini forests in Bengaluru 50,000 saplings. “This is what sets us apart from other environmental organisations. We are constantly upskilling ourselves with global techniques. We are using the power of social media to create community engagement,” remarks Kapil, briefing about the success of Say Trees.

In 2016, United Nations invited Say Trees to participate in World Forestry Congress. Interacting with international foundations there, Kapil came to know about the ‘agro-forestry’ scheme, where saplings of fruit-bearing trees are planted. This has created an additional income source for farmers in many developing countries. He recalls, “That was the year when India saw a huge number of farmer suicides, especially due to droughts and crop failure. I realised that agro-forestry has to be the future for India.”

Say Trees soon started their first agro-forestry venture in Ananthpuram in Andhra Pradesh. So far, 274 farmers have benefitted from the initiative, with over 36,000 fruit-bearing trees being planted.

Agro-Forestry

Almost entirely funded by a number of corporate organisations at present, Say Trees continue to practice innovation in planting trees. In 2018, they joined hands with IISc for adopting the ‘seed-bombing’ method, which involves the launching of seed balls with the help of drones. “With guidance from IISc experts, we have identified a 3000-acre area in Gauribidanur in Karnataka which we plan to afforest using through seed-bombing,” Kapil reveals.

Rejuvenation of lakes

In ten years, Say Trees have branched out beyond the domain of saving trees. The latest addition in their list of objectives includes the rejuvenation of the dying lakes of Bengaluru, once famous as the ‘City Of Lakes’.

“The world was shocked to learn the news of Cape Town nearing Day Zero, with their water supply running completely dry. What shocked me more was that the next city on the list was our Bengaluru. That’s when I started the water conservation projects through Say Trees,” shares Kapil.

Rejuvenation of Vabasandra Lake, Anekal, Bengaluru.

Through a series of steps, the organisation has restored two lakes in South Bengaluru – Vabasandra and Konasandra, additionally creating a nature park and walking trail surrounding the lakes. “We plan to rejuvenate at least three more lakes in the next six months,” says Kapil.

Today, Say Trees is synonymous with a cleaner, greener and better Bengaluru. In the past decade, the organisation has successfully created a strong, integrated community dedicated to saving the city. Efforts For Good urges readers to start similar afforestation initiatives in their own areas. It all starts with a single sapling.

Also Read: Fire & Termite-Resistant Pallets From Coconut Husk That Save 200 Million Trees A Year

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KHAANACHAHIYE: Fighting Hunger In COVID19

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Goonj Is Working With 1000’s Of Volunteers & Partner NGOs To Provide Covid-19 Relief In 18 States

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With the extension of the lockdown the crisis of migrant labourers and daily wagers has just grown bigger due to uncertainty and fear of future. In the migrant colonies, slums and for people in the villages hunger and desperation is building up day by day. This is high time we step up our efforts to support our people who are in dire need of food and hygiene essentials to survive the pandemic, Covid-19.

After the India-wide lockdown, a lot of jobless migrant workers are stuck in cities with hardly any resources while many started retreating back to their villages. With the loss of livelihoods, a large number of them are now struggling to support their families.

Goonj activated its pan India teams and a pan India network of partner organizations and volunteers in urban and rural India. This network, built over the last two decades, helps them learn from the ground, reach material quickly and review and adapt strategy periodically. Intensifying this network has helped Goonj reach and start work across 17produced states/UT in the last three weeks.
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2,00,000 meals served

KHAANACHAHIYE: Fighting Hunger In COVID19

95,07,689 Raised
Out of 1,00,00,000

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Goonj’s focus: 

Majority of the Covid-19 relief work by non profits right now is in the metros and cities but Goonj is the only non profit that is also simultaneously focusing on the people in the villages and the ones stuck on highways or somewhere.

Goonj is targeting daily wagers, migrants and other vulnerable groups, who even traditionally are left out like the disabled, sex workers, LGBTQ community.

“COVID-19 is a crisis, yes…But, it’s also an opportunity for us to build the society anew. Not ‘for’ the people…but, ‘with’ the people. And in the process, we will build ourselves too.” – Anshu Gupta, Founder-Director, Goonj.

Direct Monetary and Material Transfer

Wherever Goonj got the permission to open their centres for packing and disbursement of relief material kits, they are creating a kit consisting of 20-30 kgs material including dry rations, masks, sanitary pads and other hygiene material and reaching them to people, as per needs and as per regulations with all safety precautions. This kit will help a family survive for 30 days.

Information till 10th April 2020:

  • Distributed 15,100 ration kits reaching thousands of people
  • Reached 17,700 families
  • Supporting 12 community kitchen across India with 16,600kgs of ration
  • 77,800 food packets provided to migrant laborers and daily wagers walking on the roads across the country.
  • Provided direct financial support to 32 organisations
  • Made 42,800 cloth face masks
  • 24,900 cloth sanitary napkins produced
  • Produced 1500 litres of organic sanitiser

In Goonj’s processing centers its trained team of women are making cloth face masks and cloth sanitary pads (MY-Pads), keeping all the precautions and with the permission and cooperation of the local authorities.

In this lock-down phase if you are facing any difficulty getting sanitary pads or you are running out of stock, here’s a detailed but very simple process of making Cloth Pads at home created by Goonj. “This is how we make Goonj MY Pads.” This is how our mothers and grandmothers turned their spare cloth into pads.

This disaster, unlike any other, is unprecedented in its scale and impact and that’s why we all must do our bit with Goonj to continue its relief work for millions of people in this still unfolding long-tailed disaster.

The need is huge.. We are there.. Need You too !!

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