He was once interrogated by authorities at the Jaipur railway station on the suspicion of carrying bombs and let off only when they were convinced that the “bombs” in his bag were only meant for revitalizing forests and not for taking lives.
Dwarika Prasad Semwal is a man on a mission. A mission to replenish depleting forests across the country with fruit and vegetable-bearing trees which will provide fodder to herbivores in their natural habitat and stop them from foraying into human habitations in search of food.
Intrusion by wild animals into human habitations in search of food often results in man-animal conflicts and destruction of crops – a major factor behind farming no longer being a viable option for people living in hill villages.
The method adopted by him to achieve it has generated a lot of interest.
A mix of clay, compost, and seeds are made into tennis size balls called “seed bombs” and lobbed into the forests where tended by rain and shine they become fruit and vegetable-bearing saplings.
Women self-help groups, panchayat representatives, and school children are the most enthusiastic foot soldiers of the mission. They can be seen standing in small clusters in Uttarakhand’s hills and hurling seed bombs into the forests.
“The idea behind the mission was to provide fodder to herbivores in their natural habitat. Before I started, I held ‘padyatras’ to different parts of the country and confronted the same problem wherever I went. The problem of monkeys, wild boars and bears destroying crops,” Semwal told PTI.
“That set me thinking if a method could be devised to create fodder for wild animals in the forests and prevent them from getting into adjoining villages in search of food. Expanding the green cover and removing the food chain imbalance in the process were the other objectives,” he said.
The seed bomb idea struck him not only as the most original but also as the easiest and the most cost-effective, said Semwal who embarked on the mission in 2017 and has just finished a week-long campaign “Beej Bum Abhiyan Saptah” kicked off here by Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami on July 9.
The uniqueness of the method and the oddity of its name once landed Semwal in a bit of a spot at the Jaipur railway station where he was interrogated by authorities on the suspicion of carrying bombs.
He was let off only when he convinced them that the bombs he carried in his bag were of a different kind.
Another unique aspect of the campaign is the collection of seeds. “We beg for it from locals,” Semwal said.
The selection of an area for carrying out the campaign is random but the decision as to what seeds are to be stuffed into the clay and compost balls is made carefully in accordance with the climatic conditions of the area chosen, he said.
”We first decide which type of fruits and vegetables can grow in a particular kind of climate and stuff the bombs with the seeds accordingly,” he said.
At the launch of the week-long campaign called ”Beej Bum Saptah”, Dhami said it is a low-cost scientific experiment that can also reduce man-animal conflict by providing fodder to animals in their natural habitat.
“Around 1.5-2 lakh people are associated with the campaign at present and the number is growing. Women self help groups, panchayat representatives, school children, and college students are our most dependable hands,” he said.
”Lobbing the clay balls into the forests gives a special thrill to children who love to do it for fun,” he said.
Apart from the 13 districts of Uttarakhand, the campaign has already reached 18 states in the country including Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Telangana, Haryana, Punjab, Chandigarh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Assam, and Jharkhand.
Semwal is happy to get the state government’s support for his campaign.
“The encouragement given by the chief minister has enthused us no end. With this kind of backing our efforts are going to get momentum and we hope to expand our activities in the rest of the states across the country apart from the 18 where we have reached already,” he said.
By Alok Mishra