Bangalore, July 2007
Praveen : the Karnataka State co-coordinator for Right to Food Campaign
Despite parental discouragement, Praveen’s motto seems to have been service to community before self and pelf. In his early thirties, he has a model in Shivaji from his neighbouring taluk. Apart from the family displeasure, he also had to face the wrath of the village chiefs who looked suspiciously at any one entering the socio-political domain as a threat to their hegemony.
Praveen is the Karnataka State co-coordinator for Right to Food Campaign. Naturally, his interest lies in making the soil cultivable. His village, Bumbergaum, like its neighbour Kattambhavi, has undergone changes. Being mainly sloping land, water erosion was at its worst here with rain water flowing down to rivers and rivulets far off. He and his friends found that contour trenching was the only solution. Highlighting the initial resistance of some people to planting trees as part of contour trenching is this actual incident that shows the gradual change in the mind-set of the people. “We went to a person whose son was for planting trees in their land. The father was dead against it. He didn’t want his land full of trees without much area for cultivation. Finally all of us together managed to wear down his resistance. Today, he is the one who has become an ardent advocate of our method.”
He dispelled a common misconception about aforestation. “We find that people generally think that trees mean excess use of water. From our experience we find that if we adopt mulching during the rainy season trees can be planted and nurtured without much wastage of water.”
He shared his experience with the joint forest management team with which the Forest Department associated. Initially, the Forest Department was hesitant to part with the seed money of Rs 5,000/- earmarked for reforestation. A large-hearted gesture of a Japanese lady shamed the department into sanctioning the amount.
Twenty house-holds participated in planting trees. Today the area has more than 10,000 cashew plants, a few hundreds of mango trees. Groundnut cultivation that was a futile effort owing to lack of yield is once again given a new life. Tree planting continues to be a vigorous activity. A salutary aspect of every thing done here is that it is by consensus of the people and their wholesome cooperation; Decisions were not just left to some village elders and the rich and powerful. For example, in the selection of a common place for planting trees and pasture land. Each house-hold pays a fee of Rs 100/- a month for cattle grazing. With such actions, the village has been able to generate a corpus fund of Rs. 50,000/-. In spite of the vigilance of the Joint Forest Committee, it has not been possible to completely stop illegal felling of trees.