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Lessons on life in pledge to go organic - NGO teaches children to care for nature and improve their socio-economic status

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SMITA BHATTACHARYYA Published 12.09.12, 12:00 AM

Jorhat, Sept. 11: By day they hold the pen in their young hands and by evening they soil them in muck. Deeply rooted to the earth, which their fathers till for a living, a group of children of Chitralekha Siksha Bikash Mandir are committed to go organic to save the environment.

Working under Parivartan, a programme begun in the school in 2010 by Prakriti — Save Nature, a Jorhat-based NGO, the 150-odd students produce vermicompost at no cost at all and have produced enough to sell them under the brand name Chitralekha Vermicompost.

The director of Prakriti — Save Nature, Samir Ranjan Bordoloi, said he embarked on the venture of enlightening young minds in the district after he came to know about the perilous environment that was being created because of heavy use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides by farmers while working in a company which sold these.

A graduate in agriculture, Bordoloi initially decided to persuade farmers to take to organic fertilisers but the free fertilisers and subsidies provided by the government were too much of a temptation for them to give up easily.

“The farmers living in Saraibahi Bamungaon, where the school is situated, are mostly underprivileged. Inundated by government schemes and subsidies, these farmers indiscriminately use harmful pesticides and fertilisers with no knowledge of their proper use. An environmental catastrophe faces our younger generation,” Bordoloi said.

Planning a course of action, he decided that the best way to get the message across was through young minds, which can be moulded.

To teach students in school the environment-friendly approach to life, he formed Prakriti — Save Nature in 2010. Thus was born the concept of Parivartan, which teaches school students to be “agents of change”.

The scheme was put into place by collecting large thermocol (styrofoam) boxes used to pack fish and found lying unused by the roadsides.

For training, two groups of 25 students from classes VIII and IX were selected.

“We supplied five to six earthworms and asked them to fill the boxes with waste matter — leaves, rotten sacks, hay and other biodegradable matter found in their yards. They started with one but quite a few went on to take up four to five boxes and one even keeps hers in a room in the house. They first gave the organic manure to their fathers to use. Then we decided to market the produce to encourage them,” he said. From one box, 4kg to 5kg of vermicompost can be had in 25 days.

Bordoloi took upon himself to market the produce in collaboration with the school authorities in 1kg small cloth bags with Chitralekha Vermicompost printed on them.

So it was not only a lesson in environment, but in economics as well. The school opened minor accounts in a bank to instil a sense of thrift in the students as well.

“It is not to make businessmen out of them but to better their socio-economic conditions. An additional income of even Rs 200 a month is a huge amount for them,” Bordoloi said.

The NGO has also started a “plant a tree” programme whereby every child is given a sapling, to name and nurture.

The programmes have initiated a kind of revolution as the children take it upon themselves to mobilise other children and elders.

“Parivartan took birth to initiate change within ourselves and to adapt to the changing environment. We have perceived a change in the students who have given up the use of plastic, exhort their parents to give up tobacco use and mobilise others to nurture trees and go organic,” Bordoloi said.

The NGO is now planning to launch Parivartan Janani, a scheme for mothers. A group was formed recently to implement the scheme.

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