Humans and nature are very closely connected. The human species is itself part of nature. In countless ways, however, our journey of discovery and inventions has taken us away from nature. We have used the natural resources so recklessly that we are increasingly unable to enjoy the fruits of those discoveries and inventions. Natural calamities – droughts, floods, rising temperatures and shrinking water sources due to global warming – are all the result of this recklessness.
Clearly, we have no one else to blame but ourselves, and we seem to be gradually realising this. As a teacher, I feel that not only should I contribute to preserving nature in any small way that I can, but I must also teach my students to do so. Working in the ZP school of Varavade, in Kankavali tehsil of Sindhudurg district, I try my best to teach my students about the importance of protecting and conserving nature.
The Konkan region to which I belong is rich in natural beauty and resources. Mango, cashew, jackfruit and coconut trees grow in abundance here. The region has several small rivers, receives plenty of rainfall, and has a long and unspoiled sea shore. But since the last few years this beautiful region, too, is being stripped of its green cover by rampant “modernisation”. If this continues, the lush green Konkan belt will soon turn into an arid desert. As a teacher, I emphasise the importance of afforestation and environmental balance. I tell my students how these trees generously give us oxygen, help to bring us rain, provide us with cool shade, besides gifting us beautiful flowers and delicious fruit. We must strongly resist anyone who tries to fell them.
I tell my students that even if is beyond their control to stop others from cutting down trees, they should plant at least two trees in their own yards. They have planted trees like coconut, mango, jackfruit, cashew and others, around their homes. We also have a seed bank project, in which students collect and distribute seeds of mango, jackfruit, lemons and other berries among themselves. During the holidays, when they go on trips, they also scatter these seeds along the roadside. Even if five or ten percent of these seeds grow into trees, we would have contributed to maintaining the environmental balance.
It is a rare person who does not enjoy being close to nature. Just being by a running stream, or in the midst of greenery, listening to the sounds of birds, rejuvenates the spirit. Fortunately, the Konkan has not yet turned barren. And so, to encourage school children to enjoy the wonders of nature, we organise a picnic in the monsoons each year. Some two or three kilometers from our village, Varavade, is the confluence of the rivers Janavali and Gad. A tar road leads to the spot, but we usually follow the trail that runs through the forest-like foliage along the same route. It has huge trees of teak, mahua, hirda and beheda, and is populated with birds – crows, pheasants, green bee-eaters, drongos, hornbills. We point out and identify these trees and birds as we walk along the path.
We ensure that a few older residents of the village accompany us on the trail, to share their knowledge of local folklore. Once we arrive at the confluence, the children play in the water and eat the food they have carried with them, before returning home.
Another initiative we have undertaken in our school is to introduce vegetables that are seasonal and grow in the wild. Several such vegetables may be found in the Konkan region. many of these are known to have medicinal value, and traditional wisdom advises that they be consumed in season. But nowadays we cannot even identify them, let alone appreciate their benefits.
One day I invited the old woman called Ghadi-ajji (Grandma Ghadi) by everyone, who sold these vegetables by the roadside, to talk to the students about these vegetables and their uses. She showed them the various vegetables she had with her, and explained their medicinal benefits. Her own age and fitness were proof that the secret of good health lay in eating locally grown seasonal food, and leading an active life.
Besides these such initiatives at school, many of our students have begun vermiculture projects in their homes. Some have even started growing vegetables organically. Now their guardians also respond positively to our street plays and songs on environment protection and afforestation.
Blog & photos: Rujuta Chavan
Assistant teacher, ZP School Varavade no 1, Tehsil Kankavli, District Sindhudurg
(with the help of Vaishali Kadam, Teacher, ZP School Lanja no 5, District Ratnagiri)
Translation & editing: samata.shiksha team for Comet Media Foundation