Combating Desertification: Vanvadi of Maharashtra Testifies to the Magic of Forest Regeneration | The Weather Channel – Articles de The Weather Channel

Tribal women, trudging to their village with drinking water from Vanvadi, an open well, with an innovative rotating water tank. (Sanjiv Valson and Rishi Gangoli)

Our lonely, living planet harbors in its biosphere, as thin as the dew of a lotus, millions of life forms that have evolved over eons. The soil of the Earth is the mother of all life; desertification, death spiral.

The spread of desertification, induced by man, ushers in an era of great and rapid extinction. Almost 170 countries are affected by desertification. The Earth already has more than 2 billion hectares of degraded land. According to the FAO, at the current rate of land degradation, the world’s topsoil could be completely eroded in 60 years.

And then there are those who are tirelessly fighting against this growing trend and regenerating the degraded lands that surround us. One of these new attempts is Vanvadi, a forest farm just a two hour drive from Mumbai. Over the past two decades, this clear 65-acre lot has been regenerated into a lush forest.

On the 2021 World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought on June 17, which focuses on turning degraded land into healthy land, one of Vanvadi’s owners, Bharat Mansata, explains how the regeneration of soils and forests can support survival and well-being. being of many. He believes that regenerating forests, rejuvenating soils, recharging groundwater and reviving the human spirit, it all goes hand in hand!

Vanvadi’s story

Thinking quietly to himself, Bua suddenly laughed. “Last night 9 of them – sons, daughters-in-law, grandchildren – rushed through the pouring rain. Soaked to the skin, they laughed, sang and danced for a good half hour!

It was the first downpour after a long, dry and scorching summer, with its daily chore to fetch a few pots of water from afar. Last year, the summer ritual started early… in winter! Adivasi village opens well, on the plateau above Vanvadi, usually dries up at the end of March. It was now empty in January.

The Vanvadi open well that we built has not dried up for over a decade. This year, with the approaching monsoon, it is still more than half full.

The land beneath the Vanvadi Forest is a dense maze of plant roots, teeming with millions of creatures living in the ground. The pores they create in the ground turn the forest floor into a massive sponge that soaks up the rain. This then seeps to recharge the underground aquifers that humans draw on for much of their needs.

Collection of water from the stream bed and community house in Vanvadi.  The surrounding forest also soaks up rainwater like a sponge to recharge underground aquifers.  (Sanjiv Valson and Rishi Gangoli)

Collection of water from the stream bed and community house in Vanvadi. The surrounding forest also soaks up rainwater like a sponge to recharge underground aquifers.

(Sanjiv Valson and Rishi Gangoli)

Twenty-five monsoons ago, when we first visited the country, most of the trees had been cleared only a year or two ago. More than two dozen of us have pooled our contributions to collectively purchase approximately 65 acres, with the primary goal of ecological conservation and regeneration.

In 1994, the hand pumps in the village of Vare, below us, dried up in the height of summer. But barely 10 years after the protection and regeneration of the Vanvadi forest, the downstream pumps began to operate year round. Chinchwadi, the adivasi village above us, did not have this advantage, as the water flows and seeps by gravity.

The rain that falls on the woodlands is buffered by multiple canopies of trees, vines, shrubs, understory vegetation and dry leaf litter on the ground. The pullout force of monsoon rains is greatly reduced by the time they reach the ground, which is also bound by the densely growing roots of various forest plants. Most of the runoff from these lands flows as clean water.

Calm and clear water in the oldest rain harvesting pond in Vanvadis.  (Sanjiv Valson and Rishi Gangoli)

Calm and clear water in the oldest rain harvesting pond in Vanvadis.

(Sanjiv Valson and Rishi Gangoli)

The stark contrast is the dark red runoff, bleeding the fertility of all the bare, clearcut, JCB-ed land on which the rain falls.

The inexorably rampant desertification and summer droughts are not surprising in areas with very low rainfall; although even here the decline in rainfall has generally followed deforestation. In areas with very heavy rainfall like the Sahyadri foothills of the Western Ghats of Konkan, where Vanvadi is located, the water scarcity is sheer madness, self-created by the “ecological sins” of modern man, ravaging nature. .

Deprived of vegetation and soil life, precipitation on sloping land not only trickles down, but also tears up massive amounts of topsoil. Eroded fertile soil drains away to settle in stream beds and water bodies, reducing the space available to hold water, which then drains further onto silted riverbeds in the salty sea.

The earth is thus facing a double whammy of loss of soil and water, draining the “ecological capital” on which the survival of humanity depends. Water scarcity currently afflicts nearly half of India; and according to FAO, the world’s topsoil could be completely eroded over the next 60 years if current rates of land degradation continue.

The

The “ecological capital”, the silt from the erosion of the topsoil upstream is removed from the river beds and spreads in the agricultural area of ​​Vanvadi.

(Sanjiv Valson and Rishi Gangoli)

Regenerating forests, rejuvenating soils and recharging water tables go hand in hand! Massive amounts of carbon released into the air by modern industrial man can be recovered and sequestered to mitigate / counter global warming and climate change, while efficiently harvesting and storing solar energy. Forests also bring rain, replenish and clean our rivers and bodies of water, protect against flooding, and provide habitats for rich biodiversity. They also provide a wide variety of useful products – free gifts from Mother Nature, which we are now torturing!

Vanvadi Forest is home to a botanical wealth of more than 120 traditionally useful species, including more than 50 edible plants, more than thirty medicinal species, more than 20 species of wood. And then there are plants which produce oils (edible and fuel), gums, resins, natural dyes, botanical functions of “pest control”, fodder for cattle, firewood, fibers. , crafting materials and a precious gene pool of seeds to spawn more forests!

The Western Ghats are recognized as a world heritage of vital ecological importance, with a highly evolved biodiversity of flora and fauna. The traditionally prosperous and happy indigenous communities of the region have an equally rich bio-culture with knowledge of several thousand traditionally useful species, including several hundred wild / forest foods.

A voluminous volume, “Useful Plants of India” (Publications and Information Branch) provides summary information on 5,000 traditionally useful plant species, distilled from the older and much older 12-volume Encyclopedic Compilation. more detailed, “The Wealth of India”. But tragically, this true wealth, contained in our fabulously rich biodiversity that has evolved over millions of years, is now cruelly neglected and even destroyed. The Western Ghats and the adjacent coastal region are in a steroid race to chase cancerous economic / monetized growth disguised as “development”. Heaven is under intensive assault!

Mahadu Bua holding an edible forest plant of 'lot', a wild yam, which is found in abundance in Vanvadi.  (Sanjiv Valson and Rishi Gangoli)

Mahadu Bua holding an edible forest plant of ‘lot’, a wild yam, which is found in abundance in Vanvadi.

(Sanjiv Valson and Rishi Gangoli)

While the wilderness of the forest covers 90% of its area, Vanvadi also has a quarter of an acre of irrigated farmland for crops like fruits and vegetables; and about an acre of rainfed (non-irrigated) area for growing field crops like rice and various millets: nacchni / ragi (red millet), variegated (common millet) and kangu (millet)

Vanvadi has been organizing, especially since 2016, a number of workshops and activities that serve as gatherings for nature awareness and ecological awareness and understanding, especially among young people.

For 15 years, Vanvadi has also organized a Vanutsav (forest festival) every year in October, “to celebrate nature and community, and to share creativity”. This is an ‘open agenda’, a multigenerational gathering, where participants themselves volunteer to lead workshops or activities that they enjoy, that others may choose to attend or ignore. , according to their interest.

“Why every year? Why not every month? little Zui said during our very first Vanutsav, when told we would have him every October.

Bharat Mansata is an environmental activist involved in ecological regeneration and author of several books, including “The Vision of Natural Farming” and “Organic Revolution”. He can be contacted at [email protected]

This article is a guest column reflecting the views of the author and does not necessarily represent the official views of The Weather Channel.


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