The transformation from A Bald Hill Into a Lush Green Forest
“Community are the Best Manager of Forest Resources” once again proved by the Sagarpali VSS. The VSS falls under the administrative jurisdiction of the Ujalpur Forest Range of Sundargarh Forest Division in Odisha State. Sagarpali, which is yet to receive the long-claimed revenue village status turned a bald hill named Karladunguri into a lush green forest within a 25-year of time. The first-ever step towards the conservation of Karladunguri was initiated in the year 1970 which aimed to stop the illicit felling of trees. And this initiative was able to form a Jangal Surakshya Samiti or Forest Protection Committee (FPC) in the village. In 1993-94 Sagarpali Van Surakhya Samiti (VSS) was formed and registered under Sundargarh forest division.
At that time, the Kurla Dungri hill with an area of 121.41 hectares and a length of 8.4 km was a completely bald hill. In the meantime, to give more power to forest protection and management, the Sagarpali VSS prepare, impart and execute numbers of rules and regulations for conservation of forest.The VSS members started a popular trend “Thengapali” -the stick rotation-based forest patrol practices and “Muthidhana”- a handful of paddy towards contribution to the forest protection activities.
By the support of Forest Department and NGO (SEWAK) the VSS members including women created awareness programs in and around the VSS areas related to Forest Fire and Wildlife Conservation. They motivated themselves for “Shramdaan”- The contribution of labor for the development of the forest and plantation. The VSS planted 56 Banyan and 74 Pipal tree by all 130 (House Holds)HHs of Sagarpali VSS near forest area, Palm seedlings around the Kurladungri Forest to create a natural forest boundary.
To avoid open grazing and fire control the VSS dug Cattle Proof Trenches of 4 KMs through SRAMADAN around the Kurladungri Forest. It has drastically controlled the cattle movements inside the forest.
Presently the VSS is implementing the Odisha Forestry Sector Development Project, Phase-II (OFSDP-II) since 1st December 2017, which has drastically reduced the human pressure on forest resources and increased both Farm and Off-farm based sustainable livelihood options as well as strengthened the WSHGs. The VSS successfully implemented the plantation programme in the 52 hectares of open forest land planted 46,070 seedlings under Assisted Natural Regeneration (ANR) and Artificial Regeneration (AR) plantations with 98% survival percentage.
Forest fire always been a troubling issue that havoc the forest and the wild animals. So the VSS has formed a Forest Fire Control Team in the VSS. Though all members are involved, this team is only responsible for control. The twenty-four-hour painstaking watch and ward activities were able to save both the forest and the plantations.
To reduce the pressure on forest resources, the VSS members are now connected and using the LPG cylinders for 95 Households. Women Self Help Groups (WSHG) are involved in alternative livelihood options i.e. dairy farming by 34 HHs, mushroom farming by 10 HHs, vermin compost preparation by 36 HHs, Turmeric cultivation by 58 HHs, Millet farming by 28 HHs and Backyard poultry by 5 Poorest of Poor HHs. This activities not only reduced pressure on forest but also empowered the women of the VSS and strengthened the economic status of all 130 HHs of the village. 66 families are earning lakhs of rupees through this diversified income-based program, while another 64 families are slowly and steadily striving to become “lakhpati” ( HHs income is more than a lakh) .
With pride, the VSS member Debanand Mahaling stated that “we have transformed The Bald Hill Karladunguri into Lush Green Karladunguri” in just 25 years and created a safe home for wild animals. They thankful for the continuous support of forest department officials and regular hand holding and mobilization support by P-NGO “SEWAK”.
Praising wholeheartedly, Pradip Mirase, Divisional Forest Officer, Sundargarh states that the village’s congruity for the protection is congratulatory. Similarly, passionate participation in forest and livelihood development, implementation of Sustainable Forest Management Practices, and be devoted to the Kurladunguri forest have bestowed a different identity to Sagarpali VSS.