My Story: “My Love For Wildlife Photography Led Me To Turn A Wasteland Into Lush Green Forest, In Just 3 Yrs”

Image Credits: Shivshankar Banagar

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“I was born and brought up in Kamalapur, Bellary district – Karnataka.  After completing my Diploma in mechanical engineering life has taken me through many paths leading to my current position as a conservator, bird watcher, guide, travel organizer and also allowing me to play my part in the rescue and rehabilitation of various species but mainly snakes.

My inspiration to plant a forest

When I started working with the forest department as a volunteer, I got attracted to tree planting works & the benefits derived from it.

During the same time, I was elected as the President of Kamalapur town Panchayat. I observed that in so many functions and events, the opening ceremony started with tree planting and watering of the trees in well-prepared surroundings. However the very next day on visiting the same places, I would notice that the trees have been uprooted, missing or the trees have died a few days later due to lack of watering and care.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

I was highly concerned about the impact this made, especially in the minds of children when trees planted in their school would vanish the next day.

This is what made me decide that I had to do afforestation by myself to inspire a change.

I was lucky when Mr Ranga Reddy, the then secretary of the Tungabhadra Board asked me to be a birdwatching guide for him and his family. He was impressed by my wildlife photography and took some of my photos for his office and for exhibition at the Fish Aquarium in his park.  Encouraged by his response towards nature and wildlife, I requested him to give me permission to plant and protect a wide variety of native trees in the land adjacent to mine with the assurance and undertaking that I would have no claim over the land or the trees.

When I received the oral permission from him, my work began. I started my work in a wasteland filled with all kinds of debris like boulders, rubbles etc. These were discarded during the construction of the Tungabhadra high-level canal.

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My hurdles and my success

The first challenge was to clear all the debris from the area and selecting the right place and the right tree to plant. This was an impossible task for just one person.  I had to hire some labourers to help me with clearing the debris and planting the trees.

I took the risk of planting the saplings very close to each other as I was not sure of the survival rate in such conditions. I estimated approximately 2 out of 20-25 saplings would survive and grow in that land. I still had to take that chance.

The next challenge was to ensure a good water supply for these saplings. Here in Bellary district, there are just two seasons, summer and extreme summer. The region also falls in the rain shadow area and has an average rainfall of only about 450-500mm. I also faced the problem of safeguarding the young saplings from the nomadic shepherd communities and their herd who used to pass through my land each year and trample the saplings.

For this, I had to put up a local fence first and guarded the area from sunrise to sunset. I had to hire a few labourers to help in watering them from the canal. My friend K. Manjunath then stepped forward to help by supplying water from his borewell.  We laid some pipes and sprinklers and the resulting yield was a success with 90% of the tress growing up to be very healthy.

My visions, dreams and way ahead

To start with it was the very worst barren land. When I started the plantation, I had prayed to God to at least make 4-5% of the trees healthy. I also dreamed to see flycatchers and other birds visiting my land one day.

Now, I am happy to say there are nearly 75 species of birds that are regular visitors to my tiny forest. I’ve also introduced a small water body in this place and added some fishes in this water body.  Now water birds, turtles, water snakes etc. are also regular visitors to this small pond. The best surprise was the visit by an Indian Pitta (a migratory bird that is usually seen only in cooler areas) that decided to stop in my farm in November last year for 11 days during the migration. The flycatchers have become regular visitors to my land now.

Till date, I have never used any chemical fertilisers or pesticides in my tiny forest and it is now becoming a butterfly garden also. Beehives have also started forming here.

Now my next initiative is to try and convince other commercial landowners next to mine to allow me to plant trees in their land too, again with no ownership claim over their land or the trees.

I am also in the process of setting up a small stay and interpretation centre in my land where people can come and stay, learn and explore nature along with understanding the impact a small forest like this can also have overall.

Currently, I am investing more than 50% of my income towards the further improvement of this land and forest. That is the reason that over a short span of 3 years I’ve been able to achieve this kind of a change.  I wish to further make more impact in the future and I am hoping this will encourage others also to do the same.

The planet belongs to all of us and it should be the moral responsibility of each and every one of us to do our bit protect it, particularly now to deal with climate change and global warming.

Apart from work

I am lucky to say that my passions, interests and hobbies are my work too. I am an avid birdwatcher, photographer and a guide as well as a travel organizer. This also helps me to travel to a lot of places and explore nature and introduce them to others.

I am well known as a snake rescuer and this helps me to introduce the students to various species of snakes before releasing the snakes in the wild.  This has inspired many young students to come and work with me as interns after their school and college and I’ve also nominated a few of them to go ahead and pursue the naturalist training program.

My photographs have been exhibited in a lot of places and I’ve won a few awards for my photography as well. These images have also been published in a number of newspapers as well.

I had served as SDMC president in Sri Thoppala Channappa Government Model Higher Primary school where I strived towards the overall development of the school and staff motivation to encourage better education for the students.

I’ve also organised health campaigns, awareness programs for pulse polio, blood donation camps etc. I’ve also been actively involved in educating students in various schools and colleges about our environment, wildlife, birds and snakes through slide shows and presentations. This has been very well received by the schools and the students and I am being invited as guest speaker very often to impart this knowledge to the young minds.

With my experience in afforestation, voluntary work with the forest department, rescue and release of birds and animals and as a keen birdwatcher, I try to encourage as many people as possible to experience nature in the most beautiful way.

I also work as a tourist guide and travel organizer in Hampi and introduce my guests to both the nature aspect and the ruins of Hampi.”

– Pompayya Malemath, Photographer

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

‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

Image Credits: Shivshankar Banagar

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Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

Posted by The Logical Indian on Saturday, October 27, 2018

Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

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Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

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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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