Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Green Tree Foundation

An article posted earlier this year was posted specifically to assist India's Green Tree Foundation. The following is a profile of this organisation and the great work they are doing.

PLEASE NOTE: Somewhere along the march of time, the images for this story have decided that they have been on display long enough and have left for a well deserved vacation. We apologise for any confusion this creates.

Writing this blog first from Japan then from Canada, it is all too easy to forget that there are regions of the world that are faced with environments that are devastated. One such region is Andra Pradesh, India. Once a lush, sub-tropical environment, it has been reduced to drylands with evapotranspiration (evaporation combined with transpiration of vegetation) exceeding rainfall due to inappropriate land use. These dryland environments are the final act before full desertification takes hold.
Luckily for the people of the Anantpur District of Andhra Pradesh there is the Green Tree Foundation. Their goal is the re-greening of the district to provide more food and fiber for the local residents. Their additional aims are to establish more water harvesting infrastructure in the area and, on a global scale, do their part to combat global warming through carbon sequestration.
The Green Tree Foundation has surveyed the local situation to identify the problems faced by the public and used that knowledge to work out strategic solutions to those problems. The most visible strategy employed is the establishment of vegetation in and around villages.
The simple act of planting trees can increase food supply, provide shade, harvest rainfall, repair soil hydrology, increase soil health, and increase precipitation (both through capture of condensation and through increased transpiration, leading to increased downwind precipitation).
The man who started this effort is Gangi Setty, a local teacher. Growing up in Andhra Pradesh, Gangi Setty is no stranger to hunger and has seen the local environment grown increasingly arid and impoverished over his lifetime. Since the founding in 2004, he has managed to put together a team of two nursery technicians, two program officers, one civil engineer, one computer operator and about 200 volunteers from locals, who help out in the field with the difficult work of land assessing and planting, to people overseas such as myself who provide technical advice and assist in grant requests.
So far the Foundation has been operating on a budget of approximately 120,000 Rupees, which has come entirely from local donation. That such fantastic results can come out of such a small budget is testament to the sensibility of the Foundation’s strategy of partnering with nature to achieve its goals.
What follows are images of the Green Tree Foundations recent tangible achievements:
Young volunteers getting an olive tree into the ground.
Nursery stock of Arjoon sadura (A.K.A. Terminalia glabra, A.K.A. Terminalia arjuna, edible seeds and the bark is mixed with milk to make a beverage), one of the Bauhinia species (depending on the species, the edible parts can include the nectar, leaves shoots flowers and flower buds, seeds and sap), almond and a plant Gangi Setty identifies as tachoma.
A village leader plants bamboo, excellent for providing food and fiber.
Shade and food are provided for this outdoor kitchen thanks to a bean-covered trellis.
The founder, Gangi Setty, and some volunteers find a strategic microclimate for Cassia fistula (edible flowers, leaves and fruit, also a mild laxative). Planting on hillsides such as this helps control erosion, goes a long way towards reestablishing the local water table, provides shelter and food for wildlife, and supplies a commons area with food to help provide for the whole village.
A villager walks away with a free Bauhinia tree.
In a very clever strategy to distribute plants, this taxi driver was given saplings to give to his customers.
The foot of this hill has been planted with of Arjoon sadura (A.K.A. Terminalia glabra, A.K.A. Terminalia arjuna).
Kitchen gardens planted providing food and shade.
A Leucaena species going into a strategic microclimate. (These species have edible seeds, leaves and flowers.)
All people of all religions are welcome. Here Muslims take Bauhinia to plant at a Mosque.
Fruit trees stand on what was once barren earth.
Gangi Setty on a street that he has helped to regreen. Shade, food, erosion control and soil rehabilitation are all in place thanks to the efforts of the Green Tree Foundation’s volunteers.
This pharmacist handed out 100 productive trees to people in one day. Such strategies make the regreening effort much easier and more wide-spread.
As a birthday gift, this boy receives a food and fiber source that, with proper care, will provide for his descendants many generations down the line.
Sesbania (a nitrogen-fixing forage crop that also providing edible flowers, leaves and young fruit, and it makes an anti-tumor, anti-helminthic tea) and papaya growing in this kitchen garden.

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