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