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This project is expected to benefit 450-500 adivasi villagers of Chinchwadi, and also several hundred of their cattle, besides benefiting numerous other human and animal visitors to the project region and downstream areas. This entire project will be completed in 2-3 phases over 2-3 years.


The entire work is being done with Shramdaan of the villagers. They lead, they plan and they execute. Our role is limited enabling the process, providing expert guidance and paying to external vendors. The design of the work ensures that we not only regenerate the ecosystem but also help villagers earn livelihoods.

1. Reclamation/ Conservation of topsoil and repair the government dam

We have partly desilted the neighbouring government dam reservoir to enhance its water holding capacity and to increase the recharge of groundwater and of the downstream adivasi gaothan open well. In parallel, we are repairing the dam wall to check/ minimise leakage and increase water retention. We recovered 50 dumper loads of eroded topsoil from the silted reservoir and transported it Chinchwadi adivasi farmlands to enhance their fertility.


In phase 2, we will desilt it further and strengthen the dam wall. Also, to reduce erosion from upstream/ adjoining lands, we plan to do rock bunding & re-vegetation. We will further recover 200 dumper loads of eroded topsoil from the silted reservoir and transport it Chinchwadi adivasi farmlands.

Photo by Dilip Jain

2. Construction of a new open well

We have dug and constructed a new open well that is 25 feet wide and 25 feet deep. Most of the work was done with Shramdaan of the villagers and financial support by us for hiring machines & buying material. The construction of the dam wall is done using stone that was excavated from the site after blasting. We made this well at around 1/3rd cost compared to what it takes otherwise, of course not counting the sweat of the community and the volunteers.

3. Construction of a new lake

Just above the open well in its watershed regions, we have made a lake which is 15 ft deep, 150 ft long and 150 ft wide. It can hold almost 10 million litres of water. In the first year, we have not done the lining of the lake so that water can percolate into the ground and recharge the water table. The pitching of the lake walls is done by Shramdaan of the villagers using the stones that were excavated from the site of the open well.

In phase 2, we will further strengthen the lake, do the lining and enhance the grass/ tree cover in its vicinity.

4. Plantation drive

For a long term & comprehensive water harvesting solution, we planted 500 trees. Like children, plants need a lot of care, watering and protection in the initial years. It is a challenge to keep them all alive, especially in water scarce areas where one bucket of water requires 1-2 kms uphill trek in scorching summer heat.


We have decentralized planting of the trees and have also made it remunerative for the villagers whose livelihoods have been severely impacted due to Covid. Thus, for every 10 trees that a villager plants, we will pay him Rs. 300-500 per month for the next 2 years and nearly 40 households have signed up. This will ensure that almost all trees survive and we get desired recharge of ground water that benefits our new well & lake, villagers get fruits (literally), bio-diversity gets a boost and most importantly the planet gets Oxygen!


We have planted Jamun, Kaju, Sitafal, Aliv, Sivan, Pagar, Palas, Nibu, Umbar, Ramfal, Fanas, Peru, Chinch, Badam, Rain tree, Karanj, Bamboo and many more

nursery plantation.jpg
Photo by Dilip Jain

5. Building check dams

In phase 2, we will build a check dam near our water bodies so that it further enhances the ground water level and benefits all the 4 wells that are in its 100 mtr vicinity, benefitting all the nearby villages. It will also become a playground for children to swim!

Photo by Dilip Jain

6. Marking contour lines

In phase 2, we will mark 50-70 contour lines throughout the watershed area. 

The work of phase 2 will be refined based on the results of phase 1 work which we have completed in June’ 21.

marking contour lines using hand made ja
Photo by Dilip Jain


Women empowerment: Livelihood and Sports - Rann Raani (Forest Queen) program

Sports play an integral role in the overall personality development of an individual. More than physical activity, it's about inculcating the spirit of sportsmanship. A good sports person will respect one’s opponent, learn to accept defeats and reprise from it, would know the importance of diversity in a team, strategizing next moves, leadership, etc. Learning the spirit of the game are just some of the skills that one learns on the sports ground. 


Under our Sports for Development program, we focus on girls between the ages of 14 to 18. We encourage them to come and play sports and leverage this chance to also engage them in activities of societal importance which would give them recognition and provide emotional stimuli thus resulting in their overall development. The children of this village are super active (more so girls because they have been fetching water for 2-3 hours a day since ages) and little channelizing of energy and coaching has potential to give birth to stars. We intend to use sports as a catalyst in fuelling the overall development of these girls and prepare them for larger roles in life. Under this programme, we will provide:

  • Nutrition and basic infrastructure to play

  • Physical development and coaching for specialized sports

  • Encouragement to take up micro-projects in society and become change leaders 


Because we believe that sports is one of the best ways to learn life skills, it also helps one to recharge and forge strong bonds with others! 

Our first batch of this programme is the group of girls from Chinchwadi village near Neral, Maharashtra. We proudly call them "Ran Rani" meaning "Forest Queen" and they are indeed one because their life revolves around the forest in which they live and we also end our sessions with a walk in the forest.


Natural farming, Eco-construction, Eco-edutourism, Biodiversity conservation and documentation

We started work on many of these areas during our 1st Learning by Doing Program and will further develop the same.

Objectives of the project

  • Create a collaborative and experiential learning center for urban and tribal people 

  • Collaborate with locals to help them become self sustainable with the use of abundant natural resources available to them

  • Conduct workshops related to eco-construction, natural farming, water harvesting

  • Biodiversity conservation and documentation of the local flora and fauna, tribal lifestyle and forest foods


Some of the experts who conducted workshops for our participants in the past include Abhijay Save, Avinash Kubal, Mona Patrao, Rajendra Bhat, Bharat Mansata, Sanjay Patil, Anand Pendharkar, Dhiren Soneji, Dilip Jain, Sonam Wangchuk, Sarita & Ganesh, Sandeep Jadav, village elders like Mahadu Bua, Ambibai, Dashrath Kaka & many more


Learning by doing - Long duration residential program

On Jan 2, 2021, we inaugurated the first batch of  VanFEVA’s learning-by-doing programme. The participants stayed together at Vanvadi Forest near Neral for 3 months with an aim to learn/ do work on some of the biggest global challenges at local level. The programme focused on conservation and regeneration of forest, biodiversity, soil; and watershed management; becoming self-reliant for basic needs through natural farming & construction; developing sustainable livelihoods and preservation of rich cultural heritage. The youths worked on live projects along with tribal communities of the region.


We had 13 tribal participants, 10 urban participants & volunteers, 5 VanFEVA members and 5 staff from local villages. It has been a wonderful journey with lots of learning by doing… literally!

On the Education front, we conducted a few long weekend workshops hosted by external experts and many regular sessions were conducted by the participants.  

On Environment, we started work on de-silting government check dam and the repair work is planned for May ’21. We also took on additional projects of doing comprehensive water harvesting in Chinchwadi village and it is going on in full swing currently.

On Entrepreneurship, we could not do much except exposure to opportunities, as the youth are not geared up for it yet. However, we managed to create very good bonding with them by engaging in various sports as part of the closing event. This will go a long way in our mission with high engagement of the entire community.


Experiential learning and practical application, supplemented with theoretical discussion, facilitated by VanFEVA members and visiting resource persons, assisted by volunteers. We engaged village youth and urban participants in understanding and responding to the issues and challenges faced by adivasi/ rural people living in Sahyadri foothills of the Western Ghats, especially in the domains of ecologically sustainable livelihoods, education and culture. We also had music, arts, crafts, natural healing, silent meditation, etc. The ‘hands on’ work included forest and watershed regeneration, natural/organic farming, and various projects for rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge, reclamation of eroded topsoil from silted water bodies. It also included workshops on a variety of ecologically sustainable livelihoods, including forest foods, natural processing for preservation, sustainable habitat construction, enhancing and documenting the biodiversity of flora and fauna, woodwork, palash leaf-plate making, etc. 


Some of the experts who conducted the workshops include Abhijay Save, Avinash Kubal, Mona Patrao, Rajendra Bhat, Bharat Mansata, Sanjay Patil, Anand Pendharkar, Dhiren Soneji, Dilip Jain, Sonam Wangchuk, Sarita & Ganesh, Sandeep Jadav, village elders like Mahadu Bua, Ambibai, Dashrath Kaka & many more.

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