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environment sustainability

Student Mini Grants for Rural Development: Youth making it count

With the coming of rapid urbanization, most native practices that can keep the villages healthy and running are lost to time. Moreover, rural areas often are not given enough attention with regard to basic amenities and infrastructure. The new age technology and infrastructure are not low-cost and therefore the rural areas are subjected to sloppily-created amenities or none at all.

What does this tell us?

It is time that we went back to our indigenous ways of conserving natural resources and group the villagers themselves into a force that can help themselves and stand on their own feet.

United Way Bengaluru’s student mini grants helps people do exactly that. These UWBe funded project grants are student-driven in nature where a student leads a group that also consists of the panchayat development officer, a representative from the gram panchayat members (president/ vice-president/ members), a school teacher, elders, youth, women.

These mini-grant projects will focus on areas such as restoration of mini-water bodies such as Kalyani, open well or smaller lakes, revival of a mini-forest areas such as Gundu Topu with plantations, protection of heritage trees or already established commons such as Gomala (social forests). They can set up common nutrition garden that benefits the community or work towards conserving any endangered species of plants or crop species. They can also focus on repairing of the basic infrastructure that benefits the larger community like a community hall or just about any other innovative ideas that can help solve the day-to-day problems of the rural population.

Wells to be recharged

A Kalyani being restored

Bamboo and Jackfruit plantation taking place

Recently, one such student mini grant was used to restore native water conservation systems like a mini Kalyani and three open wells. It was also used to desilt an inlet drainage to improve inflow of water to the local lake and finally the plantation of Bamboo and Jackfruit saplings for elephants which is still in progress.



Seedballing Greener Futures at Kudlu Dodda Lake

The sun was burning hot in the middle of the afternoon around 1:30 pm and the Kudlu Dodda Lake, where the seedballing activity was going to take place, was clear and still. Throughout the path lining the lakeside, we find concrete seating arrangements set up by the Wells Fargo company.

The raw ingredients for the corporate volunteering activity of seedballing – fresh mud pressed into balls, water cans and the seeds – was prepared much before the slated time of the event, 2 pm. The seeds chosen for the seedballing are native to the Karnataka state such as Ala, Arali, Gliciridia, Burega and Hunase. Twenty seven corporate volunteers from Wells Fargo and three school-going student interns joined us soon for the activity. There were some local community helpers also to aid the event in checking the quality of the finished seed balls.

Native seeds

All of them were asked to gather in a shaded space and they were prepped with the details of the composition of the seed balls, how to make them and where the finished seed balls will be dispersed.  The goal for the event was to make 3,000 seed balls in roughly 1.5 hours.

How were the seed balls made?

The mud balls prepared beforehand was a mixture of fresh mud and organic manure (cow dung and bird poop). They are meant to be organically rich in composition so that it aids in critical seed growth when they are finally dispersed into the forests near the foothills of Nandi hills and nearby areas during the monsoon season.

The Wells Fargo volunteers divided themselves into groups containing 3 to 6 members and they enthusiastically got to work. There was a lot of laughter and chatter in the air while they made the seed balls in joint and cheerful effort.

Getting dirty for better future

Every group was provided with one big organic mud ball. Each individual volunteer picked small amounts of mud and placed the native seeds inside it and then rolled it into small round balls. These were placed onto biodegradable plates and they were moved by the school student volunteers to an area under the sun for drying. The shaded space where the seedballing activity was being carried out, overlooked the lake with various birds perched on the tree located in the middle of the lake. Some of the birds one could spot in the lake premise are ducks, herons and migratory birds.

The last lap

The seedballing activity picked up speed towards the end with no sign of exhaustion from the volunteers’ side.

By 3:40 pm, we had prepared around 3,130 seed balls, surpassing the set goal! Thrilled with the results, we decided to wrap it up for the day. The seed balls were then stored in the shaded space safely for dispersal in the coming months.

Before setting out, we asked few of the volunteers to express their thoughts on today’s activity. From their positive feedback and the huge number of seed balls that we managed to produce, the whole event spelled success.

Corporate Volunteering is a force to reckon with. Each of the volunteer is an educated, contributing member of the society and we you put together multiple hands, they collectively become massive change makers. With more similar initiatives, we can pave way for greener futures and ensure a more sustainable existence.

“Plastic free Sompura” campaign by LM Volunteers picking up speed

Facilitated by UWBe, LM volunteers have tried to create awareness at the weekly market at Sompura about the environmental and health hazards of using plastic, especially single use plastic.

Their aim was to motivate the public for positive behavior change through selected activities carried for an extended period of time. The first week focused was on spreading awareness using the public announcement system which was continued for the next four weeks and so on. However, the first week also consisted of planting tree species in the market area and lake bund by market vendors and LM volunteers. The vendors were also asked to take responsibility of taking care of the plants planted by them. The third activity was the distribution of paper bags to customers to reduce the usage of plastic bags.

Paper-cut’ing the plastic thumb of environmental pollution

LM Windpower corporate volunteers handing out newspaper bags

The next weeks were slated to have similar awareness sessions. However, instead of cloth bags, paper bags were distributed in all the other weeks. Both these are ongoing activities. Positive results were observed such as vendors using the paper bags for packing the vegetables and grocery, the happy disposition of the vendors as they happily greeted the LM volunteers and most importantly, the public showing interest to shift from plastic to alternate.

The most unique point of this story was that this event had inspired an old villager to take up this cause and fight for a plastic-free Sompura. He had patiently kept watch for few days to catch the ones who brought the plastic into the village red-handed. He also volunteered to make paper bags for free for the well-being of his village. This shows the importance of setting an example for the people to follow. Once we set the action in motion, there will be people to take it up and continue the domino effect.

More power to corporate volunteering!






360 Degree Intervention at Nandi Grama

Why Nandi?

One of the last vestiges of our precious Heritage, Nandi boasts of a rich History, ecology, bio-diversity and water bodies, which is currently fast disappearing.  If we wish to save this legacy of Bengaluru, the time to intervene is now.

In such a situation, we need a 360-degree intervention into the village development. United Way of Bengaluru is facilitating this very same process in terms of its own three main projects – Wake the Lake, Integrated Rural Development and Born Learning.

Currently, we have carried out lake rejuvenation, Kalyani restoration, Gunduthopu, roof top rainwater harvesting units, government school refurbishment, organic farming (farm pond), Gokatte creation, plantation, solid waste management and dustbins.

Revived Nandi lake

Some of these are native concepts. Kalyani is a traditional rainwater harvesting structure. Gunduthopus are woodlots that nothing but green spaces capable of small-scale production of forest products including wood fuel and serve as points for bird watching. These used to be integral to rural landscapes in the past and nowadays are found less in numbers.

Kalyani Revival at Nandi Grama

Gundu Thoppu

Meanwhile, the new set of interventions are additional to the earlier list which include pottery house refurbishment, student scholarships for the kids of the village, women livelihood support, sanitation, Anganwadi refurbishment and open well rejuvenation.

Apart from the Nandi village, we had covered one more region from the Chikkaballapur district – Sulthanpet. At the Sulthanpet tank, we carried out levelling of the lake bed, cleaning of the feeder canals, building of the lake bund embankment, plantation of saplings across the lake premise etc.

The lake clean up included freeing the lake from toxic non bio-degradable dump, providing the required civil amenities along with continuous maintenance, building of children’s play area, gazebo, toilets, STP and a walk path creation around the lake. The plantation near the lake was also to increase the bio diversity and making of thematic Gardens, butterfly gardens and moolikavana (planting in the shape of human bodies), etc.

We also took part in forming and strengthening the lake welfare associations. Awareness was given to the villagers on lake conservation & water literacy. We had also conducted certain community festivals related to the natural water bodies in the villages such as Kere Deepotsava, Kere Habba and Kere Sankranti. These were done so that the villagers can be intertwined with the welfare of Nature through celebration and happiness.

All these activities were carried out by corporate volunteers from Wells Fargo, UBL, community members who were facilitated by United Way of Bengaluru.