Shillong: SOS Children’s Villages of India (SOSCVI), recently organised a tree plantation drive at Mawbsein, a village located in Ribhoi District of Meghalaya to help farmers and the local population mitigate climate risks and protect their livelihoods. The village has a population of about 2000 and the main occupation of the villagers is agriculture.
Participated by about 56 (along with village Headman (Sarpanch), Anganwadi worker) villagers, and dozens of officials and volunteers of SOSCVI, the drive witnessed planting of 650 saplings of trees – good for soil health, and protection of natural catchments.
The drive was organized as part of Family Strengthening, an outreach program of SOS Children’s Village Shilong. The objective of the program is to ensure sustainable livelihood of families and thus, continual parental care of children in the families.
SOSCVI has also organised a Capacity Building Programme on Environmental Sustainability for the villagers with the support of Botanical Survey of India (BSI), a Central government agency engaged in the survey, research and conservation of plant resources, and flora. The program, attended by village head, and members of Self-Help Groups (SHG), facilitated interactive sessions between scientists from BSI and the local population on the importance of trees in protecting catchment areas in hilly regions, and thus increasing the water table.
Sumanta Kar, Senior Deputy National Director, SOSCVI, said, “Though more than two third of Meghalaya’s land area is still forested, the State needs development of tree and forest cover like any other part of the country – if not more, in order to conserve its rich biodiversity, and protect its fragile geo-environmental setting. In the background of Climate Change, there is a real threat of increasing mean annual temperature, variability of rainfall pattern and seasonal shift in weather pattern – all can have a destructive effect on agriculture, the mainstay vocation of Meghalaya.”
He said, “When the livelihoods of families are affected, it can play havoc in the lives of children, affecting their standard of living and the quality of the parental care they receive. It is in this context, SOS Children’s Villages of India works with rural communities and villages in Meghalaya to create awareness that forest cover is important to insulate their lives and livelihood from the adverse effects of environmental degradation.”
Sumanta Kar further said, “The tree plantation drive assumes significance also from the context of alarming groundwater depletion in many villages of the State. The average annual rainfall in Meghalaya is as high as 12,000 millimeters (against the national average of 300-650 mm), and the State is known as the wettest place on earth, however, the groundwater levels are fast being depleted. Hence increasing tree and forest coverage is important for protecting catchment areas.”
The plantation drive and environmental sustainability meet led to heightened awareness among people about the importance of trees for their livelihood, and environmental sustainability. SOSCVI intends to take the tree plantation drive to other parts, especially rural areas, of the State in the future.