As Punjab struggles to extend its forest cover from 6.86 per cent of its total geographical area to 20 per cent despite launching several plantation drives, a village in the remote Talwara block of Hoshiarpur district has been showing a highly cost-effective and time-saving way to enhance ‘green cover’.
The village uses women with a small self help group (SHG) to make ‘seed balls’ (SBs) to be sprayed in the jungles, open spaces in schools, colleges, government properties. The programme is being mentored by a Talwara-based cooperative society, ‘Unati’ and is supported by the Punjab Forest Department.
This technique does not need a pit to be dug. It just needs spraying seed balls in the open spaces. Also it is helpful when one cannot enter certain areas due to topographical hindrances.
‘Seed Balls’ (SBs) of local trees, herbs and shrubs like neem, amla, mango, harad, behra, jamun and several others are being prepared in this village.
“Seed Balls Mission aims to overcome the shortage of green cover in Punjab and to provide green environment. As this is our first year, we could get around three lakh seed balls made till date which are being sprayed in the forest areas of Hoshiarpur, close to the canals, and open spaces. Apart from several schools are taking these from us to spray in their open spaces,” said Jyoti Saroop, MSc Biotechnology, head of the Unati society. She adds that next year they have a target of producing double the number os Seed Balls.
According to Saroop, spraying SBs is a Japanese technique and the Punjab Forest Department is imparting training in preserving the seeds and making ‘Seed Balls’.
He said that making and Spraying SBs is Japanese technique.
Chaman Lal, field manager with Unati, said: “Around eight women of Naurangpur village under Unati are making these SBs under the supervision of Ranjit Singh, a former Sarpanch of the village. We procured seeds locally and from Forest Research Institute (FRI) Dehradun.”
“Also a local Seed Ball banks is being created by Unati from where people of any part of the state can procure these to spray,” added Chaman Lal.
Shashi Kanta, a SHG member, said that after getting seeds from Unati, they are mixed with soil and cow dung manure. After kneading the mixture like a dough, small balls of this mixture are made, dried and they sprayed in open spaces.
“We are being paid by Unati for making these balls,” she said.
“We have already spread the messages in villages schools through Joint forest management committees in the villages Sona’s to adopt this in a big way,” said Conservator Forest Officer, Hoshiarpur (North Circle), Mahavir Singh, adding that survival rate of these Seed Balls was around 20 to 25 per cent.
Earlier, Unati had launched a campaign with Forest Department to plant at least 10 trees of ‘Moringa’ (Drumstick), at every government school of Talwara. Moringa leaves are consumed to fight malnutrition among the under nourished people specially in children.