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Eco-Clubs in the Foothill of the Forest

Number 21 - December 2000
Alex Alexander

During 1996-97, Eco-clubs were created in 20 schools in three districts (Karur, Trichy and Dindugal) of Tamil Nadu in India. The official launch of the Clubs began with a Green Peace Walk: a 9km walk with 1000 children from 20 schools in collaboration with the Environmental Directorate, Forest Department and a local college to create awareness against forest clearing and biodiversity conservation.

The Eco-clubs were started by an NGO, which manages the Inba Seva Sangam’s Annai Genetic Garden in Sevapur. The garden is situated in the Kadavur basin adjacent to the foothills of the Toppaisami Reserve Forest, 95 km away from Trichirapalli. The role of the Annai Genetic Garden is to use the 5-acre conservation plot to conserve threatened flora. The idea behind the establishment of Eco-Clubs is to involve school children in the long-term conservation of forest resources and to create green consciousness. The schools selected to take part in the programme are situated near the foothills of the forest where staff from the Annai Genetic Garden are busy with floristic work.

The Eco-Clubs include 25-30 students ranging in age from 10-14 years, as well as interested teachers who enrol as Eco-Club coordinators. Teachers are responsible for the Eco-Clubs in their respective schools and run activities such as: making organic compost; propagating seedlings in a nursery, planting trees within school grounds, environmental quizzes, identification of medicinal plants and the promotion of herbal gardens in the school grounds. Motivation and awareness generation is imparted through various programmes such as science exhibitions focusing on biodiversity conservation, and an essay competition on threatened flora of their village. Prize winners attend a special three-day environmental education programme at the Angalde Institute for Natural History (AINH) in Kodaikanal.

Nature camp workshops are run for the Eco-Club coordinators and school teachers, and quarterly meetings are conducted to enable them to get acquainted with their work and share the difficulties during the implementation of activities in their respective schools. Each week one school visits the Annai Genetic Garden. The programme emphasises basic environmental concepts, includes a garden visit, demonstration of medicinal plants and their uses, waste recycling (vermiculture and bio-dynamic compost preparation), nursery raising, theory on threatened flora and fauna of the region, video and slide shows and nature games.

During the holidays, a three day Nature Camp is organised for active students focusing on forest ecosystems, forest walks, hill trekking, garden work, bird watching and night walks. Recently an environmental newsletter has been developed for the students; 75% of the articles were contributed by the village school children, the rest from schoolteachers and NGO staff. For further information contact: Alex Alexander, Genetic Garden Manager and Honorary Wildlife Warden Karur Dt, Inba Seva Sangam, Sevapur – PO, Tharagampatti (via) Karur D.T. Tamil Nadu, India email: inba_alex@hotmail.com