Guardian Angels Of Sambalpur Forest: Odisha Women Stand Against Timber Mafia, Poachers
The initiative started last year when the Forest department took 15 women of the Gariakhaman village and formed an all-women Vana Sukrakhya Samiti (VSS) under the Ama Jungle Yojana of State government.
A group of women of the Gariakhaman village in Odisha's Sambalpur district has come forward and taken the initiative of protecting the Landakote reserve forest from the timber mafia and poachers.
Due to the initiative, the felling of trees and forest fires have now become a thing of the past, and the forest which was once considered to be degraded has begin to regenerate and regain its greenery.
The entry of an outsider in the forest is banned unless and until they are allowed by the protectors of Landakote, reported The New Indian Express.
The initiative started last year when the Forest department took 15 women of the Gariakhaman village and formed an all-women Vana Sukrakhya Samiti (VSS) under the Ama Jungle Yojana of the state government.
The purpose was to protect the forest and restore an area of about 50 hectares (ha) of the forest land.
The women holding lathis in their hands patrol the forest from 7am to 5pm every day and there has been no break in this tradition of the Thengapalli region.
"Gariakhaman is home to 32 families and men of the village either migrate outside the district to work or are into agriculture. Since the village is located on hilly terrain, patrolling was not regular. These factors made things easier for the poachers and timber mafia. Protecting the forest that provides us minor produce became paramount and it prompted us to come forward to work with the government," said Sarojini Samartha, vice-president of Gariakhaman VSS
The women sometimes join the forest officials in night patrolling as well.
The women also regularly clean dry leaves from the entire forest stretch which prevents forest fire.
Girishchandrapur Range Officer Susanta Bandha said, "Since last year, there has been no fire mishap in the jungle."
The initiative has helped the women to gain financial freedom as the department pays them a wage of around ₹298 per day.
Pradipta Kumar Sahu, Rairakhol DFO said efforts are being made so that more villagers can join which particularly includes women in the forest protection and management and formation of SHGs.