Brazilian Couple Created 1,502-Acre Forest In 20 Years, Which Houses 500+ Endangered Plant & Animal Species

Image Credits: Instituto Terra

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In the early 1990s, Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado was stationed in Rwanda to cover the horrific accounts of Rwanda genocide. The on-ground experience left him traumatised. In 1994, he was returning to his home in Minas Gerais, Brazil, with a heavy heart, hoping to find solace in the lap of a lush green forest, where he had grown up. But, instead, he found dusty, barren land for miles and miles, in place of the forest. In only a few years, his beautiful hometown underwent rampant deforestation, leaving it fallow and devoid of all the wildlife. For him, everything was destroyed. “The land was as sick as I was. Only about 0.5% of the land was covered in trees,’ he shared in an interview with The Guardian. Salgado was shattered.

Saldago’s wife wanted to recreate the forest

It was at this time that Salgado’s wife Lélia made a near-impossible proposal. She expressed her wish to replant the entire forest. Salgado supported her idea, and together the couple set out on a heroic mission.

Brazil Photographer Forest

Salgado bought an abandoned cattle ranch from his parents and started building a network of enthusiastic volunteers and partners who would fund and sustain their mammoth project. In 1998, the couple founded Instituto Terra – the organisation which tirelessly worked to bring a forest back to life.

Brazil Photographer Forest
PNHR Bulcão Farm | by Weverson Rocio – 2012

Salgado sowed the first seed in December 1999. The couple hired around 24 workers in the beginning and was later joined by numerous volunteers over the years. They worked day and night – from uprooting the invasive weeds to planting new seedlings. Soon, their hard work bore fruit as tropical trees native to the region started flourishing in the area. They received a donation of over one lakh saplings which gave rise to a dense forest. The handcrafted forest comprises mostly of local arboreal and shrub varieties. Latest satellite imagery revealed how a soothing green forest cover has enveloped the area which once was a devastating arid eyesore.

Since 1998, they have planted more than 2 million saplings of 293 species of trees and rejuvenated 1,502 acres of tropical forest. The biodiversity-rich zone has recently been declared as a Private Natural Heritage Reserve (PNHR).

The impact of Salgado’s forest

The afforestation project, which is undoubtedly one of the greatest environmental initiatives in the world, has also helped to control soil erosion and revived the natural springs in the area. Eight water springs which once dried up, flow at around 20 litres per minute at present, relieving the drought-prone region of its woes. Salgado’s forest also happens to solve the much-debated notion about climate change, proving that the trend can be reversed if tried. His forest has resulted in causing more rainfall to the area and cooler weather, bringing a drastic and desirable change in the climate.

Brazil Photographer Forest
Instituto Terra’s Fauna | by Leonardo Merçon – 2012

The most important positive aspect of the forest till now has to be the return of the lost fauna. More than 172 species of birds, 33 species of mammals, 15 species of amphibians and reptiles have been spotted in the forest interiors, something which was beyond imagination two decades ago. Many of the plant and animal species in his forest actually feature on the endangered list.

Efforts For Good take

Climate change is a harsh reality. Mankind is bearing the brunt of the relentless destruction they inflicted on the planet. Yet, people like Salgado and Lélia fill us with hope, proving that patience and persistence can be our keys to heal the wounds of nature. If two people can create a 1502-acre forest in just 20 years, then imagine how much can be done if everyone comes together to protect the environment. It must be reminded that for every tree we plant, we are adding 118 kgs of oxygen to the air every year, and reducing the carbon footprint by 22 kgs.

Efforts For Good urges all the readers to actively engage in planting trees and gradually turn this into a fixed habit.

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

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A Group Of Karnataka Women Pushes Alcoholic, Abusive Husbands & Social Stigma Aside, Earns Through Recycling Workshop

Image Credits: Instituto Terra

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At thirteen, Neela was married off to a husband much older than her. At sixteen, she became a mother, and at nineteen, she was a widow. Despite having no regular income, she was faced with the daunting task of taking care of her in-laws, her own parents and of course, her little daughter. For young Neela, life has never known a trajectory where her voice is heard and her destiny is not blamed. That was until she came under the ambit of Hosa Belaku Artisan’s Foundation and discovered a new identity for herself. The taste of financial independence was indeed delightful for her, but her zeal to work hard for a newer, better life stood at the helm of it all.

No one has ever become poor by giving – Anne Frank

Founded by Kameshwari from Bengaluru, the foundation works with distressed women in three Karnataka villages, helping them to earn their livelihood by handcrafting a wide range of decorative or daily-use household items. Like Neela, nineteen women with struggles similar or worse, have found a new lease of life at Hosa Belaku Artisan’s Foundation. Every piece of item created at Hosa Belaku is recycled from leftover fabrics, paper, dry waste or scrap metals.

Hosa Belaku – a new dawn

“I have been working in the social sector for the past two decades. Since 2013, I got associated with Belaku Trust, who was working with rural women in Karnataka,” shares Kameshwari, a former legal executive. 

“Most of these women were victims of alcohol abuse and harassment on the domestic front. Some were widowed, single mothers or differently-abled – making life all the more hard for them in a patriarchal society. Unfortunately, circumstances led Belaku Trust to close their operations in 2015. The women were left in a lurch,” she narrates.

Some of these women desperately pleaded with Kameshwari to let them sustain their only source of income and independence. Moved by their plight, Kameshwari resolved to do her best to help as many women as possible. Investing a sizeable proportion of her own savings, she launched the Hosa Belaku Artisan’s Foundation in 2017.

At present, the foundation has active workshops in three villages in the suburbs of Bengaluru, namely, Halasuru, Achalu and Kadahalli. 

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The gritty women of Hosa Belaku

At the prime of her life, Pavithra’s husband left her for another woman. Heartbroken and devastated, she was clueless about how to earn her living. The story is similar for many other women in these villagers, with careless, abusive or estranged husbands, most being alcohol addicts. The pangs of poverty would sometimes become more unbearable than the constant physical abuse by their husbands. Yet, they had no way to have some respite from the ordeal. Few women did work seasonally as agricultural labourers. The backbreaking toil in the sun would take a toll on their health, while the deplorable situation at their homes would haunt them for the rest of the year.

Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

Kameshwari mortgaged her jewelery for Rs 6 lakh to start Hosa Belaku Artisian's Foundation. Most of the women employed in this foundation face domestic violence in their homes. Kindly donate here : bit.ly/hosabelaku

Posted by Efforts For Good on Sunday, July 21, 2019

Society, with its primitive doctrines, only made it worse for these women. For instance, nobody was willing to marry Shivlingi because she had a facial deformity. After a point, her own brothers abandoned her as if she had become a liability.

If one visits these women now, they would be found basking in their newfound success with Hosa Belaku. But, not only the women, Hosa Belaku’s workforce comprises a 19-year-old young man as well. All his life, Yogi, who is affected by Polio, had accompanied his mother everywhere. She used to work with the foundation until she recently passed away in an accident. Yogi’s father is visually-challenged, so the entire family received a major emotional and financial setback after his mother’s sudden demise. A helpless Yogi would painstakingly drag himself from door to door in search of work. “We took him in and trained him in toy-making. Now you would find him in a corner, making beautiful toys for children,” shares a proud Kameshwari.

Sunshine, Lamp and Dawn – Illuminating lives

The women groups at the three villages are designated with three unique names and assigned with a unique task each. Kirana (Sunshine), the group at Kadahalli is involved with paper products, making notepads, bags and jewellery.

The Halsuru group Deepa (Lamp) has adopted the art of block printing. Vibrant, stylish and beautiful handbags, cushion covers, stoles and notebooks are curated with the utmost care and precision by the women.

At Ushe (Dawn), needle and thread rules. Women who were already skilled in sewing and embroidery now earn by making stuffed toys, patchwork products and embroidered fabrics.

True to their names, the groups have indeed brought new light into the lives of their employees.

Suma and Jayamma are both senior workers at Kirana who have succeeded in constructing small concrete houses for themselves, a huge step up from the dilapidated huts they spent their youth in. Another aged lady in the same group has another compelling achievement to be proud of. Bearing the taunts and trauma from her drunkard husband all her life, she has single-handedly raised a son and a daughter with proper education. Her son, who is currently an aspiring engineer, was supported with a laptop from Hosa Belaku. Honamma, a young widow from the group Deepa is treading a similar path, raising her son all on her own.

The only solace

How much gratitude these women have towards Hosa Belaku is perhaps evident from Shri’s unwavering dedication. Diabetes is taking a toll on her eyesight yet she refuses to give up and continues etching her grit on the ornate block-printed fabrics.

The reason for such gratitude is manifold. For the conscious urban consumers, Hosa Belaku is striving to save the environment with their 100%-recycled policy. But, for the workers, it is the lifeline which not only offers them economic security but also allows them a place to voice, share and resolve the problems plaguing their lives.

“They come here and find a peaceful break from their household obligations. Some still face domestic violence regularly, the workshop is an escape for them. They discuss their issues and try to find feasible solutions. It takes the load off their tired minds. The work here is a breath of fresh air for them,” Kameshwari asserts.

“We have been assisted time and again by established non-profits and retail chains across Bengaluru, who have graciously showcased and marketed products made by our artisans. We would like more people to know about Hosa Belaku and its incredible women, and respect their brilliant spirit by purchasing their crafts,” Kameshwari expresses her wish.

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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