The culture of planting trees with community participation is blended into the rural life styles through organizing planting festivals like Hasiruhabba.
Among 123 special days that are celebrated across the world for various issues every year, three days are reserved for the soil and plant life on the earth, namely, World Forestry Day (March-21), World Earth Day (April-22) and World Environment Day (June-05). Besides celebrating these occasions, there isnt much discussion among the general public on plants and their benefits for human beings.
Planting trees is the duty of all citizens, as all need clean air and environment to be healthy. However, planting is done as a token, to mark occasions like World Environment Day. It is the plants that provide food to the entire living beings on the earth, it is plants that absorb harmful gases and makes the air clean. A country needs to have at least 33% land under forest cover. But as per the latest estimates, forest cover in India is below 20%. Hence, planting and protecting the trees gains great significance.
Hasiru Habba, the green festival
BAIF, after putting in three decades in the extension and implementation of tree based development programmes such as watershed development, agro forestry, agri-horti-forestry etc., has reached to a conclusion that planting of trees has to be made part and parcel of the farming communities and general public. The culture of planting trees with community participation is to be blended into their life styles in such a way that, it should become a festival like other festivals in the villages and towns.
In order to popularize tree plantation on a large scale involving rural communities, BAIF Institute for Sustainable Livelihoods and Development- Karnataka, has been popularizing Hasiru Habba– Green festival, since 2001, in all its project locations. It is an effort to give religious touch and recognition to the planting of trees by involving people of all sections in the village – religious heads, politicians, social workers, government departments etc. Late Sri Sri Balagangadharanath Swamiji of Adichunchanagiri math, late Sri. Sri. Siddalingeshwar Swamiji of Tontadarya math, Dambal, local MLAs, environmentalists and political leaders have participated in the events organized and motivated the community on the importance of planting and protection of trees. Other NGOs, farmer organizations, self help groups and village level organizations have replicated the concept.
Usually during June-July months, a date for hasiruhabba is fixed in consultation with the community. Project participants from nearby villages, school children, people’s representatives and religious heads are invited to participate in the event. Transport of seedlings, seeds of fast growing plants, pit excavation in the selected land and other arrangements will be ensured on the previous day. The community gathers in the morning, goes to the plantation area in a procession, performs pooja to the seedlings and takes the Hasiruhabba oath (see box 1), before planting the seedlings.
Diverse species and their impact
Planting neem trees around the school premises and educational institutions will help in prevention of diseases. Planting of Anthocephalus sps (Kadamba), Bilwara and Albezia lebbek in towns and cities will help in controlling air pollution. Planting of Michelia, Millingtoria sps (Akash mallige) and Nyctyanthse sps (Parijatha) plants around the garbage heaps and drainage lines have the capacity to mask the bad odour coming out in such places. The species such as Ficus religiosa, Ficus glomerata, Ficus bengalensis etc., can be planted in parks and temple premises as these plants have the capacity to clean the air. A study conducted by the Banaras Hindu University suggests to go for planting of species like Caesalpinia sappan, Dalbergia sissu, Psidium guava and Albazia lebbek in towns and cities as these are air pollution tolerant species.
Live hedge fences help in carbon sequestration and thus act as mitigation against climate change. Live hedge fence around the orchards and field boundaries can be established by planting cuttings of Glyricidia, Erythrina, Lantana etc., in rainy season. Also seeds of fast growing species like Sesbania, Subabul and Glyricidia can be drilled along the boundary. These will get established soon. From the second year onwards, fence starts providing large quantity of biomass which can be used for making compost. Over a period of time, native species start growing all along the fence.
The plants like Glyricidia, Subabul, Erythrina and Sesbania grandiflora are fast growing species and can be established through direct seed dibbling during rainy season. These will cater to the fodder needs as well as biomass that can be incorporated into the soil. Farmers need seeds and motivation to adopt this low cost practice.
The Government of Karnataka is also promoting biofuel species in private lands and government lands through Karnataka State Biofuel Development Board. The species such as Pongamia, Simaruba, Jatropha, Madhuca etc., have been provided to the farmers through Hasiru Honnu and Baradu bangara project. Farmers can be motivated to plant these species all along the field bunds and in the uncultivable lands. Apart from seed production, there will be lot of biomass and leaf litter. This can be converted into compost and applied to the field so as to reduce application of chemicals and fertilisers in the climate change context.
Tree plantation need to be promoted in common lands, school premises, temple premises, fallow lands, roadside plantations, etc. Planting trees needs to be imbibed as a culture and not be enforced. This requires strong community mobilization. In villages, involving self help groups, youth clubs, school children will go a long way in sustaining plantation activities. Farmers in dry lands need to be supported to take up agro forestry and tree based farming systems. Depending on the availability of space, at least one or two plants can be planted in the backyards. Planting at least 200 to 300 trees per acre should be made mandatory for availing benefits of any government schemes. Ultimately, it is the trees that are going to sequester carbon from the atmosphere and help in mitigating climate change effects.
Addl Chief Programme Executive
Koneru Lakshmaiah Street