The residents of the Karech village in the Indian state of Rajasthan together with the Foundation of Ecological Security have restored vast stretches of wasteland. The Rajasthan reforestation drive at the initiative of the villagers has saved their land from the clutches of desertification that threatened their livelihood.
Located 75 kilometers from the city of Udaipur, the village is on the very edge of western Rajasthan. It is a tribal community that depends on the forest for its sustenance consisting of livestock rearing, agriculture, and collecting firewood for sale.
Way back in 2000 the residents, including Hansa Ram, the former village head, were faced with rapid degradation of their common forest land. They realized that the village was being changed by the rapid desertification. Soil erosion, the damage to vegetation, and the decline in surface water levels were compounded by deforestation. The village faced mass migration.
Data published by The Energy and Resources Institute reveals that 30% of India’s land has been lost through desertification. 6 states, including Rajasthan, were the worst hit.
But the Rajasthan reforestation drive has transformed the landscape of the once arid village. The Karech villagers no longer consider migrating. They have succeeded in reclaiming over 339 hectares from desertification.
The village is nestled in the Aravalli range foothills. The range prevents the desert from expanding into the eastern part of Rajasthan including the Mewar region. But the western part of Rajasthan, including Karech, is directly exposed to the harsh desert.
Human intervention has also contributed to the decline in green cover. Overgrazing and the uncontrolled use of resources led to rapid deforestation. Getting a whole village together was a problem because of the social divisions prevalent in India, says Ram.
Two Decades Of Rajasthan Reforestation Yields Rich Dividends
The villagers were finally brought under a banner and with support from the FES, the villagers joined the Rajasthan reforestation drive. They worked tirelessly in the restoration of the forests, the water resources, and the pastures in their area.
Local heads of nearby villages joined in the FES initiative and formed a committee for the rejuvenation, safety, and management of forest land. They planted trees and grass seedlings and relied on natural processes of regeneration of their land.
Areas have been demarcated for grazing and only a single member of a family is permitted to collect forest resources. The rest of the area is protected for regeneration.
The villagers worked on 50 hectares, to begin with. Over time, the Rajasthan reforestation drive had yielded a green cover of 300 hectares, which both protected their agricultural land from the desert and also served as a basis for their livelihood. From a single harvest a year, they now can manage 2 to 3 harvests every year.
The success of the Rajasthan reforestation drive has demonstrated how the local initiative, driven a little guidance in protecting the livelihood of villagers and also prevented desertification.
All image credits: The Better India