Bio-Diversity for the People!
I first met Balu at the Eco-course in Darewadi, where he became inspired to write a book about his village and to catalogue its natural wonders for the purpose of preserving them. Last week I met him in his village, where he has come home to do field work for these projects.
I saw how serious he was when he came into the front room with a large plastic bag slung over his shoulder, plopped it down and began unpacking it. A few minutes later he was sitting on the floor in front of almost 100 jars of seeds and an array of bird feathers, snake skins, animal droppings, a book of dried plant specimens, and a bird’s nest.
He had collected this natural treasure trove in just two months as part of WOTR’s People’s Biodiversity Register (PBR) program. To him these are more than curiosities – they tell the story of his village’s traditional way of life, a lifestyle that in which people have always lived directly off the bounty of the land.
“Before going to the eco-course I thought PBR only dealt with wild flowers, fruits, and plants, but I learned it’s about more, about lives of people in villages,” Balu said. “I realized that tradition, food, songs, and culture are integral parts of biodiversity, and that I should do PBR for my own village.”
The idea behind the People’s Bio-Diversity Register (PBR) program is that what you don’t know might kill you. As villagers (like urbanites) gradually mold to the contours of globalization, shifting to non-native cash crops, relying on motorized transportation and moving from natural to technological entertainment, they lose touch with the land and its offerings. For example, Balu said, his grandfather once told him that if you eat a jackfruit and then a betel nut leaf you might stop breathing and die. Information like this will be lost to the current and future generations if it’s not deliberately handed down through methods like PBR.
Balu also told me a story about a time he went to the forest to collect seeds. He came across an ivy he had never seen, but which he knew to have pods that irritate the skin. Just as he began to carefully collect some pods, a big gust of wind came and blew them all over his body. “I got a very good lesson from nature,” he said, “though it looks beautiful it has its strengths. I’ll never forget that lesson.”
Balu is his village’s naturalist, the link from their organic past to a future in which they will need to remember where they came from. “This is not about five years or ten years or fifteen years,” Balu says. “It should continue after me.
“Everything I see is unsustainable; we must start preparing for the future right now.”
- Sam Jewler