Despite a debilitating impairment to his hip that has aged him beyond his years, Malara has kept his passion alive and grows fodder leaves, fruit plants and multi-use medicinal plants in his nursery in Mandelsera village. He provides these plants for free to promote green cover.
By Nitin Jugran Bahuguna
A four-year-old village boy was accompanying his mother to the temple. On the way, they crossed a dense forest with tall trees where he heard birds chirping. The melodious sound stopped the child in his tracks and he begged his mother to catch the birds to take them home. His mother explained to him that the birds lived in the trees and would not be able to survive at home as their village did not have a dense forest.
Upon returning home, the boy planted bhima (Grewia Optiva) and timul (Ficus Auriculata Lour) plants in the field near their house hoping that it would attract the birds and he could hear their song again.
This was the start of a deep love for the environment for 54-years old Kishen Singh Malara that would lead to the creation of ten shanti vans (peace forests) in the land of all Panchayats of Bageshwar district and parks in schools, colleges and temples across many states of India and abroad and his own nursery on his ancestral property where he is growing a diverse variety of plants.
“So far, I have planted 800,000 saplings and my goal is to plant one crore useful multi-purpose saplings,” says the frail-looking trooper who has changed the green face of Kumaon in the hill state of Uttarakhand.
Despite a debilitating impairment to his hip (ostrolysis) that has aged him beyond his years, Malara has kept his passion alive and grows fodder leaves, fruit plants and multi-use medicinal plants in his nursery in Mandelsera village. He provides these plants for free to promote green cover.
He started producing traditional seeds from the age of 18 and due to his persistent efforts more than 3.25 lakh saplings have been distributed free of cost and planted till date.
“In 1990, I established Devki Laghu Vatika on two bighas of land in the memory of my mother. For twelve years I grew different plants for medicinal purposes and fruit trees in three nurseries on my land,” he says. That was the beginning of an afforestation drive in the hills of Uttarakhand.
Today, his nursery has a diverse range of plants he has cultivated. Committed to the conservation of endangered tree species, he has planted saplings of 160 endangered species which are flourishing on his land. “I have 200 species in my garden, most of which are medicinal. Along with local herbs, I am also growing plants from other states such as Chandan (sandalwood), Ajneer and Rudraksh,” he reveals.
The states which have invited him to create forests include
States like Haryana, Delhi, Jharkhand, Assam and Maharashtra and the administration of Chandigarh have invited him to create forests. Visiting teams from universities in Japan, Lithuania and Russia have taken tulsi and Rudraskh plants from his nursery. “I also presented tulsi plants to researchers from Yale University,” he adds.
By planting trees, he rejuvenated two parched water sources in his village. In 2015, Malara received a grant of Rs five Lakh from the state Forest Corporation to develop the Vatika due to which two peace forests were created.
In 2011-12, the Vatika was selected for a unique project – creation of a coral silk garden. “Hundreds of families were presented with coral silk saplings for planting and 175 farmers from Uttarakhand were trained in the Vatika by the Coral Silk Board between 2012 and 2015,” Malara informs. “In May this year, Coral Burmese was brought from Assam to be added to our coral resham garden. Those who got the crop prepared 10,000 cocoons and after 15 days the butterfly was ready.”
Explaining what coral silk is, he says all types of silk are of white colour except for coral silk which is golden-coloured. Four to five crops are obtained from this plant within 40-50 days and there is low risk of infection. “There is high demand for this silk in foreign countries and after Assam, our vatika is the second place in the country that is successfully cultivating coral silk,” he claims.
According to Malara, coral silk production is environmentally the best form of sericulture as it can be produced on the tree itself. In traditional silk production, twigs have to be cut from other trees and this can cause infection to the plant. “If even 25 per cent of farmers take up coral silk production, it is possible to solve the problems of employment migration and environmental degradation in our state,” he avers. “But for this, we will need government cooperation.”
Malara’s vision for a permanent solution to the issues of migration and employment is to produce and preserve more local fruit, fodder leaves and multi-purpose plants. Plantation of fruit and medicinal plants along with availability of fodder leaves around each village will provide ease of work and employment at the local level for the new generation as farming and animal husbandry are the two main sources of employment in the hill areas, he stresses.
Nitin Jugran Bahuguna is a freelance journalist and author with over 35 years’ work experience in human development issues