Image for A conservation project in South India - Planting 108 trees

A conservation project in South India - Planting 108 trees

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Running along the entire west coast of India, the escarpments and hills of the Western Ghats house about 30% of all the plant and animal species in the country. It’s here, in a tucked away region of the Shimoga district, that Pukka’s partner and herbal pioneer, Mr CMN Shastry, runs a remarkable tree-planting project.

A joyful event for the whole community

The tree-planting project is an annual event and was started by Mr Shastry in 2008 in an effort to protect the 600 acres of forest that overlooks his organic farm, where many of the herbs we use in Pukka blends are grown.

Every year, the forest, along with the once abandoned temple nestling within it, becomes the focus for the local community as villagers turn out, including local school children and eminent spiritual leaders, to help Mr Shastry and his team plant 108 rare and endangered tree saplings.

Many of the tree species planted produce fruits, bark or leaves that are used, not only by the animals in the forest, but in Ayurvedic medicine too to help engage the local community in their traditional medicine. Even the land that leads up to the temple has been planted with amalaki, haritaki, and bibhitaki – three tree species that are used to produce Pukka’s favourite Ayurvedic formula, triphala.

The ‘sacred grove’ of forest and temple

In 2009, the forest was officially declared a ‘sacred grove’ by the Indian government, much to the delight of Mr Shastry and the villagers. This special status is not uncommon in India; in fact, throughout the country you’ll find similar protected regions where forestland is linked to a holy site. But what it meant for the local Shimoga community was that finally, after years of campaigning, they could conserve the forest themselves and restore the ancient temple within its midst.

An important ‘drop’ in the conservation ocean

As you can imagine, every tree-planting ceremony is now a joyous occasion for all involved, yet Mr Shastry never forgets why it’s so important.

The Western Ghats were once covered in dense forest. Today, a large part of it has been lost to agriculture, roads, reservoirs and livestock. When you add to this the loss of half of the world’s tropical rainforests, Mr Shastry’s tree-planting becomes ever more vital.

Yes, it may only be small on a global scale – a drop in the conservation ocean; but as Mother Teresa once said: “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean; but the ocean would be less missing that one drop.”

So here’s to Mr Shastry, and his commitment to making the world a more ‘pukka’ place.

Meet the author

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Ben Heron, Sustainable Herbs Manager

My main responsibility at Pukka is to make sure the herbs we source are Pukka – in other words, that they are grown, collected and processed in ways that meet our sustainability, quality and Fair for Life standards. This means that I spend a lot of time visiting and working with our suppliers, and am often behind the camera taking photos and videos for the website. With a background in plant conservation, I am passionate about driving Pukka’s vision of ‘conservation through commerce’.

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