Chilkapalli Anasuyamma, a resident of Pastapur village in Telangana’s Sangareddy district in western India, has dedicated the last 25 years of her life to planting more than 2 million trees and plants in 22 villages. She was recently recognized for her amazing selfless actions by receiving a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in New York City.
Anasuyamma spoke of the award in a phone interview with The Better India:
It was a surreal experience for me. I did not, in my wildest dreams, imagine that a girl like me would receive such a prestigious award. Being appreciated and encouraged for a noble effort restored my faith in society. Congratulatory messages are still pouring in and now, more people are interested in knowing about my work.
Her work began due to the unfortunate event of her husband leaving her when she was only 25 years old. Not having any proper schooling, finding a well-paid job is not an option, so she worked many odd jobs trying to make money any way she could.
“I was in my mid-20s when my husband left me. My parents thought my life is over. Relatives and neighbors cursed me for what had happened. I was devastated but I knew it was not the end of the world,” she explains.
This is when she learned about the Deccan Development Society (DDS). DDS is an agriculture-based non-governmental organization (NGO) in the Medak district, in the state of Telangana, which works together with local farmers. Anasuyamma decided to go to a meeting to learn more about the program.
Here she speaks about her first impression:
Everyone in our village would walk miles to fetch water due to the absence of water reserves. The problem could be solved by utilizing the empty lands in the village to plant trees. DDS suggested that the trees would help retain the rainwater and recharge groundwater tables. I was moved by the speech and decided to help them improve Mother Earth’s condition.
She still needed to earn money, so for a few months, Anasuyamma would work during the day and then go to DDS-conducted informal training about planting trees during the evenings. Gradually, her passion started to grow and she decided to make afforestation her life’s mission.
Founder of DDS, Satheesh Periyapatna, said about the program:
Through DDS we try to solve environmental issues by mobilizing the locals who work with us. We have engaged several women and one of them is Anasuyamma. She has been a tremendous force in executing the plantation activities across villages.
In India, planting trees and working the land is work normally done by men, not women. A woman approaching village heads to spread awareness did not go down well with people,” recalls Anasuyamma. She faced many other issues as well, “Most of the land back then had no owners. They were considered to be the village property. Convincing the villagers that we were not there to encroach land was very time-consuming,” she explains.
As time went on and she successfully planted 32 varieties of plants in Pasatapur and other nearby villages, DDS allowed her to start training the locals to form her team.
DDS funds the program by providing seeds and equipment needed for planting. DDS also pays the locals between Rs 5 to 15 per day, depending on how many they plant, up to 50 plants per day. Aside from the financial benefits, the workers are free to take produce home to their families. “Community ownership not only gives them the produce for free but also ensures that the tree is well maintained.”
To date, this amazing woman has a success rate of 80% for the survival of planted trees and other plant species on 1200 acres of land that she and her team have covered. This has also affected birds, and other wildlife throughout the region. Since the beginning, 32 varieties of fruits and vegetables have increased to 92. Birds drop the seeds and nature takes care of the rest.
Anasuyamma plans on continuing to live her mission to give back to Mother Earth as the earth gives to us. Please share her story as it may inspire others to do something amazing as well.