1.5 hectares of barren, rocky wasteland in Uttarakhand has been transformed into a lush Agroforest by ex-soldier Jagat Singh Chaudhary with own resources, great creativity and hard work. A woman of his village fell down and died while carrying fodder down a hill in 1973. It moved him so much that he dreamt of regenerating the forests around – to provide food, fodder, and fuel.
Till he retired in 1980, all his vacations were spent in planting and nurturing trees in the straggly, rock-strewn patch of land he inherited, carrying water 3 kms every day. Later he used his pension to grow a variety of trees, plants, climbers, medicinal herbs, and patches of vegetables, tubers, pulses and spices, and honey. People added ‘Jungli’ to his name!
The Agroforest with great biodiversity improved the microclimate, raised the water table of the area, and reduced trekking by women for firewood and fodder. Many villagers followed the example of ‘Jungli’ Chaudhary and increased their income, and restored the ecological balance of the region.
In 1993 Uttarakhand officials woke up to ‘Jungli’s jungle’. Chaudhary began delivering lectures in schools, colleges, etc. He won a number of awards. In 2007, HNB Garhwal University at Srinagar asked him to set up an Agroforest on their campus. He did it in three years. Expanding his work beyond supplying organic seeds and saplings free of cost, he now teaches farmers vermiculture, bee-keeping, bamboo cultivation, rabbit farming, and innovative ways of making manure. 40 years of sustained agriculture by ‘Jungli’ Chaudhary has transformed the region. His son, who has a degree in environmental science, has joined him to continue his vision of a greener future.