This Indian Foundation Is Protecting Wilderness and Helping Farmers — And That’s Just the Beginning

MUMBAI — Almost 70 years after India’s independence, over 100 million acres of land falls under the definition of “common lands”: territory occupied jointly by rural communities in the hinterland. But deforestation, waste of natural resources and over-irrigation risks turning it all into wasteland.

Jagdeesh Rao Puppala, who started the Foundation for Ecological Security almost 15 years ago, is trying to prevent that. Puppala and his team work with almost 9,000 village institutions across eight Indian states, protecting nearly 3 million acres of common lands.

Puppala and his team also created maps, registers and documents and set up an all-India database for information on rivers, soil, geology, land use and vegetation right down to the village level. The work is being done alongside locals and is funded by grants from dozens of institutions including the Omidyar Network, the Tata Trusts, the Ford Foundation and the Hilton Foundation.

It all started back in the 1980s when Puppala spent six months in a village near Mahabubnagar district in what was then Andhra Pradesh during a course on agricultural sciences. He had never experienced rural life and was assigned to “a reasonably well-off farmer,” with a mandate to learn farming as if it were technology transferred from “lab to land.”

Four decades after India’s independence, Puppala was shocked to see stark differences in caste culture where lower rung communities would remove their sandals, hold them in their hands and turn to face the wall when upper caste members crossed their paths.

“Lower rung communities would remove their sandals, hold them in their hands and turn to face the wall when upper caste members crossed their paths.”

“These lower caste villagers had their dwellings segregated as were the utensils that they ate and drank from,” he recalled.

In rural —> Read More

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail