Balu’s Biodiversity Register
Balu Bhangre of Khadki Budruk has a treasure! But unlike most treasures, it is not a secret one. He wants to show and share it with everyone. In fact, he is even exhibiting it to the public in Shiswad’s Festival. This is Balu’s wonderful, assorted Biodiversity Sample Collection and Register.
Balu Bhangre is a young man, who got introduced to WOTR and its ECO course for the village youth sometime back. There he gained exposure to issues of Biodiversity Conservation and Climate Change and soon got more and more involved in working for his village.
Most young people his age are now totally disconnected with traditional knowledge sources of the village- like knowledge of traditional agriculture, the jungle and traditional arts and crafts. But Balu has actually gone the extra mile and collected traditional seeds of foodgrains and other crops, wild vegetables and fruits and medicinal plants; many extra miles, in fact. Due of deforestation and most people turning to hybrid seeds and cash crops these plants have become very rare. At times he had to travel 40 km from the village and convince people from some really remote hamlets, who still practiced traditional agricultural practices, to give him a sample of their seeds!
As Balu says, “People thought we were quite mad, at our age, to be collecting seeds like little children.
Balu is a meticulous collector and record keeper. He has a neat, detailed register with records of 300-350 different flora- fauna and also of the community’s customs and way of life. There is also a herbarium of about 30 medicinal herbs- leaves pressed into a book, with the local names and uses of the plant. Also they have craftwork done by local artisans, snake skins and local fish breeds. “We realised right at the beginning that there is no point only collecting samples. Social Awareness needs to be created and the Shiswad Festival is a great start. People in cities are so disconnected from the rural way of life and even our local youth are often clueless. This is our attempt to reconnect with our roots. Climate Change is a reality and in order to cope with that, we need to preserve traditional knowledge. Many of these plants also have great economic value today with pharmaceutical and other companies. We want our people to be informed and conscious in all ways about their natural heritage and its conservation,” he says wisely.They also were very uncooperative in digging into their memories and giving us information about our own traditions. But now they have seen that we are serious and also have started realising the importance of what we are doing. Slowly their attitude is changing. Children especially tag along with us all the time. That is great, because we are doing all this work so that this knowledge is preserved for future generations.”