The Idea

World’s first environment-based conference was organized by the United Nations on ‘The Human Environment’ in Stockholm, Sweden in 1972. This conference gained attention for the environment from around the world. During this time, Dr. Mohan Dharia was studying about the various issues and probable solutions for them as a Central Planning Minister. Due to unlimited deforestation, increasing population and pollution, India was facing hardships. Maharashtra was fighting droughts. Bearing this in mind, Dr. Mohan Dharia sowed the seed of creating a people’s movement for green India. This seed was germinated as ‘VANARAI’.

Our work started in 1982. Dr. Mohan Dharia discussed with numerous agricultural experts during his visits to Agriculture Universities in Maharashtra. To closely understand the issues and problems faced by the rural citizens, he visited many villages in different districts of Maharashtra. 

Understanding the vast scope of work and the need of the future, VANARAI was registered as Trust on 10th July 1986 under Maharashtra Public Trust Act, 1950

Soil – Water – Forest Conservation Program – Natural Resource Management

During the initial years, we implemented programs such as promoting plantation, prohibiting the cutting of trees and awareness of forest conservation. It was observed that in some areas soil depth was low, degraded soil texture and nutrient degradation also particularly where rainfall is less, it was difficult to increase the area under green cover unless the water is made available. Hence, soil and water conservation activities were undertaken along with the plantation. We started undertaking soil conservation, water percolation and plantation activities with people’s participation.

Participatory Approach Program: Laying the Foundation for Village Development

There is a dire need of soil-water and forest conservation in the rural areas and so this became the focus of our work. This task is impossible without the active participation of locals. However, it is unjust to expect from the farmers working selflessly and devoting energy and time into their hard work to meet the ends. This program focused on implementing watershed management programs and environment protection activities with the active participation of locals at the village level. Creating alternate livelihood options for locals in the village, allied business opportunities from management of natural resources and making available the basic facilities to villagers were thought into, which led to the program for holistic development of the village.

We formed village development committees at each village to ensure maximum participation for developmental works.

Beginning with a Holistic Approach for Village Development

We started effectively implementing ‘Ridge to Valley’ watershed treatments at the village along with people’s participation. Water availability at various places had improved. The groundwater was also increasing. We emphasized on proper management of the water to increase their income and improve the standard of living. We focused on connecting the traditional knowledge of farmers with modern technology to increase and improve the yield. We motivated, trained and supported farmers to undertake alternate income-generating options like fodder cultivation, agroforestry, bund farming, pisciculture, livestock development, apiculture, sericulture along with the processing of farm produce.

Self Help Groups (SHG) were created to enhance the socio-economic conditions of women in rural areas. Farmers meet, camps and training were organized to guide the progressive farmers, motivated youths and women.

Apart from these, a toilet for every household and biogas at apt places activities were also undertaken. We worked to improve the sanitation conditions of the village along with the quality of education, health facilities and other basic facilities. 

Marching towards Sustainable Development

Our work has led development of a sense of community ownership and responsibility of the villagers towards the resources created through shramadaan and people’s participation. These resources were effectively used and villagers were taking care of the maintenance and sustainability. 

People started preserving and conserving the local natural resources for the future generation. Community leadership emerged for this sustainable development. Picture of drought-prone villages was also completely transformed and many villages were thriving towards sustainable development.

Reverse migration from cities to villages

The villagers who had to migrate to cities in search of work were migrating back to their villages and started cultivating their land along with allied businesses to live a happy and prosperous life.

Gandhiji’s thought ‘Go Back to Villages’ was experienced in reality. Villages like Gawadewadi (Dist. Pune) and Warandh (Dist. Raigad) were acknowledged and facilitated by India’s then-President Smt. Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. This glorious success showed a new direction to our country’s development policy.

Integrated Cluster Development

VANARAI is now concentrating on the development of the cluster of villages and to develop the watershed area for integrated and sustainable development. We will able to conserve and manage the rainwater, improve the agricultural yield to facilitate setting up processing units and promote alternate businesses. This will facilitate into setting up ‘Rural Economic Zones’ (REZ).

We will be able to achieve self-employment and generate employment options at the local level. This will facilitate in obstructing the migration to cities.