Background behind Inception
The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was held in Stockholm, Sweden in 1972. For the first time, the world became aware of the subject called Environment. As a Minister of State for Planning, Dr. Mohan Dharia was studying about the various issues in India and their probable solutions. Unlimited deforestation, ever increasing –population and pollution had put India in a very bad shape. There was always a drought like situation in Maharashtra. On this background, a thought of igniting people’s Movement for afforestation and Green India germinated in the Dr. Mohan Dharia’s mind and it came to light in the form of VANARAI. VANARAI was established by Dr. Mohan Dharia in the year 1982. He discussed with the agricultural experts during his visits to various Agricultural Universities in Maharashtra. He made village level tours to most of the districts in Maharashtra to know the grass root reality. Considering the need of future and the vast scope of work, it was registered under the Charitable Trust Act in 1986.
Soil – Water – Forest Conservation Program
While programs like tree plantation, prohibition on tree cutting, and awareness about importance of fees were being implemented through VANARAI, but it was observed that unless and until the availability of water and fertile soil is increased there is no use of the any quantity of trees planted as water and soil is a the lifeline. So in the after period, along with tree plantation, water and soil conservation activities were expedited. In this way, through people’s participation, soil – water- forest conservation activities started getting implemented. It was based on the principle of refraining the soil from flowing away with the rain water, infiltrating the water in ground and planting trees.
The Five Pronged Approach: Laying the Foundation of the Village Development
VANARAI started its work from the rural areas as there was dire need of Soil-Water-Forest Conservation in the rural sector as compared to the urban. And it was impossible without active participation of the local peoples. Moreover it was unjust to expect from them as they were struggling to meet the both ends. Taking into consideration all the mentioned challenges, a very well thought rural development plan was prepared by the team at VANARAI considering the five pronged program of Ban on Grazing, ban on tree cutting, ban on liquor, family planning, free labor (Shramdaan). And through people’s participation, various watershed management activities were undertaken on the principle of ‘ridge to valley’. On only this emphasis was also given on micro level water budgeting for the available water and raising the income level of the villagers was also done practice of modern agricultural techniques along with the conventional farming. Along with pasture development, forestry, horticulture, poultry, fishery, animal husbandry, apiculture, sericulture, farmers were also motivated to complement their income with value addition of agricultural products and agro-food processing units. Women self-help groups were created to enhance the socio economic development of the women folk. Timely guidance was provided to the progressive farmers, budding youth, and women folk through agricultural camps, workshops and training programs. Bio gas construction and household toilet construction was done for the villages. Along with hygiene, high quality education, health and basic needs was also given attention.
Moving towards sustainable development
Achieving sustainable development through Shramdaan and active people’s participation also created ownership amongst the beneficiaries and they were in agreement to do the maintenance and keep it up to mark. Special care was taken to preserve and conserve the natural resources for the future generations. Local leadership emerged as a result of the village development. This completely changed the picture of the drought prone villages as well.
Go back to villages!
The people who had migrated to cities in search of the livelihood, started coming back to the villages and started cultivating their land and agricultural allied business. They were now leading a happy and prosperous life. The message of “Go back to villages” given by Mahatma Gandhi was coming to reality in true sense. Out of these villages, Gawadewadi (District: Pune) and Varandh (District: Raigad) were felicitated by the then President. Shrimati Pratibha Tai Patil and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. This was a start of new era.
At present, VANARAI is aiming on cluster development and their watershed management rather on developing a single village. Through water budgeting, modern agriculture techniques and allied business are being focused on. This will lead to self-employment creation at local level. In this way flow of people from villages to cities can be curbed. The projects are getting implemented in Satara, Raigad and Ratnagiri districts. Join us through volunteering, sponsoring CSR projects.