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Family Trees - Literally Speaking!

Imagine you meet someone new and they ask you about your family. You tell them about your parents, spouse, siblings, children, pets ---- and trees! Yes, trees! The one in your backyard, in front of your building or a neighborhood park. And why stop at one, you can have a whole bunch of them. You plant them, water them, see them grow just like your children. Trees that are family. Familial Forestry.

This unique concept was ideated and developed by Shyam Sunder Jyani, Associate Professor of Sociology, based in Rajasthan, India. The official website, explains how the “bottom-up” approach directly involves the community, especially children, and it is their active participation in climate action that has ensured its spread over one million families of desert-prone north-west Rajasthan since 2006. Over 2.5 million saplings have been planted by the active participation of students and desert dwellers.

Familial Forestry creates an emotional bond with nature that begins with the domestication of trees and goes way beyond. It directly involves the family in the plantation and its care. When a household grows and nurtures its own forest in and around the house; the children of that house get sensitized about their immediate environment during their primary stage of socialization.

Jyani was chosen by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) for the Land For Life Award 2021 among 12 shortlisted candidates across the globe. (The UNCCD was established in 1994. It is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management under the UN.)

It must be noted that 65% of Indians never heard about climate change as compared to 10% of Japanese and 40% of the global average. As a sociologist, Jyani stresses education and civic engagement as the strongest predictors of public awareness of climate change. The family as an institution is the key to welcoming any social change. And with climate risk looming above our heads, merging the social and the environmental, most definitely, is the need of the hour.

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