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Water, plants help villages prosper

- Biodiversity project pays back in Khunti

Sunita Mundu (22) of Jiwri, a village located about 15km from Khunti district headquarter in Murhu block, was so poor that she had to come to Ranchi to earn a living after passing her Class XII boards. But things are different now. Sunita earns more than Rs 1.5 lakh to 2 lakh per year, has a sewing machine and motorbike, and looks after her family of six

35-year-old Soto Manki, also from Jiwri, wanted to tread the same path. Good, he didn’t. For, he can hope to earn nothing less than Rs 5 lakh once he is able to extract the lac he had grown on 8,000 trees

The fates of Sunita and Soto changed ever since a biodiversity conservation project made debut in their village. Called Biodiversity Conservation through Community Based Natural Resource Management, the project was implemented by Institute of Forest Productivity (IFP) — a scientific research institute of the state government — and Society For Participatory Action and Reflection (SPAR) in 10 villages of Murhu block in 2008. The idea was to conserve bio-diversity of the area by involving local people and their indigenous livelihood.

Five years later, the 8,000-odd tribal families have come a long way from grappling with poverty to earning at least Rs 2,000 to Rs 7,000 per month. The programme, which got financial support under United Nations Development Programme, ended in December, last year.

“With the implementation of the project, the villages became a completely different place as they got several sources of water. Varieties of trees were planted and various activities undertaken,” said project in-charge Binod Kumar Horo at a news conference at Social Development Centre in Ranchi on Tuesday.

He added that local village communities were provided “seed money” to start income-generation activities like vegetable cultivation, piggery, grocery and lac cultivation and around 225 families benefited.

“A person, who had no source of income, is earning Rs 2,000 to 7,000 every month. Migration has stopped,” said IFP director Rameshwar Das, supporting Horo.

Das further informed that for the first time, one of the indigenous lac host plants, namely Flemingia Semialata, was planted in the area that benefited 35 families. Horticulture and sericulture activities were also undertaken.

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