Ujiyaro Bai, a Baiga tribal, who has for years worked for the conservation of forests in MP, has been invited to attend the World Forestry Congress to be held from September 7 to 11 in Durban, South Africa.
The XIV World Forestry Congress, hosted by the Republic of South Africa, will bring together the global forestry community to review and analyse the key issues and to share ways of addressing them.
“I am very happy that I will able to share my fight and views at such an event,” said Ujiyaro Bai.
Bai has been invited by Timberwatch, a South African NGO which is also a member of the Global Forest Coalition.
The five-day programme will have events and activities centred around a variety of themes, including deforestation, fake forests, community rights, land grabbing alternatives and tree plantations, among others.
Bai is credited with being the driving force behind the group of villagers that have helped conserve the forest and natural habitat near Pondi, about 30 km from Dindori district headquarters.
“About seven years ago, most of the trees were logged by some contractors but due to Ujayaro Bai’s initiative, the whole forest was conserved,” said Jhharu Baiga, a resident of Pondi village.
She has fought a long battle for the conservation of the forests around Baiga Chhakka.
“Some contractors had started logging trees...(in) the forest around our village. One day, I went to collect leaves and found some markings on the trees. I waited and saw them logging. I protested and raised an alarm, and called other villagers...Since then I started fighting for our forest,” said Bai.
“All the women of these villages then started a drive to save trees and also started warning others about forest fires,” said Balwant, a social worker working in the region. “When the fires stop, water, vegetation and plants have increased in and around the villages.”
Baiga is primitive tribe of central India and about 65% of its population reside in six districts of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, mostly Dindori and Umaria. Pondi village too falls under the Baiga-Chak Belt (BCB). The Baigas mostly produce millets like kodo and kutki, as well as some other cereals.