The project site is set in a rural setting in Pakala Mandal in Chitoor District of Andhra Pradesh about 45kms from temple town of Tirupati. The village of Palaguttapalli is home to about 30-40 families whose predominant profession is agriculture. This area of Andhra Pradesh is rainfed, and has seen drought in the late 90s that has driven many families that were cultivating rice to shift to mango plantations. The water table in the region according to the project coordinator had dropped from about 100ft in early nineties to 400 to 500ft in the late nineties.
The water situation, erosion, grazing and deforestation for wood in the area have also resulted in the loss of forests and its flora and fauna in the last 50-60 years. After a drought, in 2002-2003 the government funded a project (Van Samrakshan Samiti) that would provide 500-1000acres of forest areas to village leaders to revive the forest from its depleted state.
Nagesh Kolagani, Narendranath and Uma Shankari with many other local resources have taken up the task of reviving the forest area near the panchayat of Palaguttapalli village. The goals of their work are:
- Forest & Natural resource protection
500 acre of forest land to be protected from sand smuggling and soil erosion
- Water harvesting
This area was hit with severe drought in 2000. Water table dropped significantly
- Livelihood generation
Employment opportunity for farmers and day laborers
- Awareness on natural resource protection
Forest trips for kids etc
The VSS was funded by the government till 2006 after which the funding was withdrawn. This prompted the villagers to look for funds from outside entities to sustain the forest. AID San Diego supported the project in 2006 for an amount of $4500 and in 2007 for $8000. AID Cincinnati’s support for this project is $6500. The funding from AID San Diego and Cincinnati helped compensate the laborers for watering and maintenance of the plantation area.
A plantation area of 40 acres has been charted out in the middle of the forest to cultivate jamun and amla plants. The produce from this plantation is to generate income to the laborers working in the plantations.
The funding from AID has:
- Helped them raise awareness by allowing them to call meetings where people in the area areeducated on the importance of forests and its resources.
- Helped the villagers raise check walls to protect top soil erosion and water harvesting structures to stop water run off and keep the soil wet for an elongated period of time after the rains. The picture below shows water collected during the rains in October 2007.