A miniature Eden flourishes in the russet earth of Birbhum.
Why such a name?
‘Babli’ was the nick-name of an extraordinary individual, whose untimely death in 1989 shattered her family, specially her mother who survived her.
The slightly modified (with digital effects) picture here, to the right, is a photograph from her youth.
To commemorate her life Bikram Sen, who was the first Project Director, conceived project BABLI and her family gave it whole-hearted support.
To define the purpose of the project the alphabets of her name were used to form…
Bureau for Agro – Based / Linked Industries
Today , after years of experimentation since project take-off, if we tried to re-enumerate “BABLI”, it might emerge as…
Belief, transformed to Action, Bolstered by Love & Inspiration
BABLI began as an experiment
Those who initiated BABLI were born to a generation inspired by Rabindranath, Vivekananda and Gandhi. Brought up in the indifference of urban India, they were lucky to have an opportunity to interact with its rural interface. They were deeply aware of the enormous yet severely depleted natural wealth of the countryside, the deprivation of indigenous communities, the apathy or alienation of those who might care and who had the means to offer redress.
Here was an opportunity to put into practice what they had always wanted to do – develop small businesses employing the land-less to develop skills ‘on-the-job’.
12 acres of arid land was acquired in the outskirts of Village Dwaronda in Birbhum, a backward district of West Bengal.
It is located at the edge of what remained of the “Choupahari Jungle”.
Years of indiscriminate tree felling, overgrazing and neglect had left it essentially non-productive, lashed by torrential rains during the monsoons and fast moving towards desertification.
The objective at Babli was to convert this ‘negative’ land into a productive ecosystem and thereby achieve self-sufficiency.
The long-term aim was to help the local land-less farmers to upgrade their skills to gain social and economic self-reliance.
BABLI today is a vibrant entity
The pride of the surrounding villages, BABLI is more verdant than its neighboring forest – a veritable Eden, where lush vegetation of great variety covers it end to end.
Over the years, BABLI has been successful in rejuvenating a part of the grossly depleted fauna of the region – and now we act as a safe-haven for a plethora of birds, as well as a small collection of wild animals.
LOCAL WILDLIFE (click to see photos)
Fruit trees from the colossal Kanthal (Jack fruit) to the tiny Siakool (a wild Jujube), flowering trees ranging from Muchkunda or the noble Siris to the elegant Swarna Champa (Champa), charges the atmosphere with their variegated scents. Wild bees hum among the Mango and Lime blossoms and a myriad collection of birds trill among the trees.
The three ponds, which nurture cultivated fish (mainly carp) and domesticated ducks, are an open invitation to the migratory kind. Herons of all descriptions make a nuisance of themselves but also delight occasionally with a demonstration of their mating overtures.
Fragrant rice, wheat, oil-seed, spices, summer and winter vegetables and several kinds of fruit are grown. Furniture is made using timber grown, and there is no dearth of fuel (tree lopping, bio-gas and solar energy). Extracts of Eucalyptus, Neem and chillies, are used as bio-friendly pest repellents and oil cake as organic manure and animal feed.
Bamboo is another abundant raw-material – for various kinds of implements of daily use, as well as more refined articles that we make ourselves for upholstering the guest-houses. Even a variety of brooms are produced out of natural fibres.
Picturesque animal sheds are low-cost brick structures, which house cows, goats, ducks and chicken. Cows have been gradually bred , which are of a smaller size than the huge crossbreeds, popular among dairy-keepers. They have the hardiness of indigenous breeds and produce adequately, are less disease-prone and are economically viable.
You will see a herd of Black Bengal goats, renowned for their meat and leather, grazing under the trees and the kids which are always numerous, will delight you with their capers. You will also see many coloured ‘desi’ hens rooting around trailed by their fluffy chicks and all of them overseen by a Rhode Island Red cock or two.
Babli to the locals is a potential doorway to sustainable income and a path towards true self-reliance.
BASA – your own country-home
The resident guest-house of the project, ‘B A S A’, or “Babli Shanti Alay”, along with the allied Canteen, will give you a flavour of Birbhum hospitality.
It offers eight Spartan but adequate double-bed Cottages, two suits with twin-rooms (3-bed & 8-bed), and a five-bed Dormitory, which can accommodate 36 people at one time.
Each Cottage is quite independent, consisting of a bedroom, a bath, an anteroom with some of the cottages, and a veranda – these cottages are available on rent.
A few covered spaces are available, adequate for holding small workshops or conferences.
Simple but adequate facilities are offered such as running water, electricity/generator and clean linen.
Food served at Sahadeb’s Canteen is simple Bengali fare, enhanced by fragrant, home-grown rice and Ghee. He can offer special meals on occasion, and some of his recipes are quite sought after.
However, we are not a ‘resort’
BASUDHARA – the ‘doodh-waala’
Many small farmers from surrounding villages bring the milk they produce at home to Babli, which is sent along with milk produced at the farm to over a hundred customers who live in the nearby town of Bolpur or the University town of Shantiniketan. The milk is carried by 7 local youths that there-by earn a commission large enough to sustain themselves and there families.
BANAJ – the ‘green-grocer’
Most of the members of BABLI started out as land-less labourers who had to scratch out a meagre living from agricultural labour, which was available only seasonally.
Today they are busy producing organically grown vegetables, seasonal fruit, country eggs, fresh-water fish, delectable ‘khasi’ meat, and of course milk. Pickles and fruit preserves are are also made from time to time, though on a very small scale. Ground Haldi and Chili and fine rice, mustard and ginjelly oil are also produced periodically.
“Babli Kalyan Tahbil”– micro credit
By motivation, counseling and training, Babli has organized its members to form an informal body to promote savings. A monthly contribution of Rs. 10/-, donations received and interest earned constitute the fund. Each member is entitled to a loan of thrice his own deposit at an interest fixed by the general body. Starting with a small kitty of Rs. 700/- (contributed by seven of its constituent members in 1992), today there is quite a respectable fund of nearly Rs.1 lakh. Not only do the members utilize this fund for their own credit requirements, they sometimes offer the surplus as loans to other poor villagers.
Looking towards the future…
Organically grown natural food colouring agents, herbs that heal and nourish, fibres for sustainable paper and cloth, natural scents and aromas are the areas being explored. A Craft development project is also being conceptualized.
“Babli Palli Sangathan” [BAPAS]
A Registered Trust under the IT Act, that takes care of the welfare aspects of this project (originally with 80-G exemption, but the exemption has been revoked, since we do not have a big enough volume of activity, thanks to the ‘laws of the land’!).
A medical scheme covering the felt-need of the local people and an adult education centre with library facilities for neo-literates had been initiated under the aegis of this trust.
Other welfare activities are taken-up on a need-based cycle.
Babli & you…
If you are someone who loves to lie “under the green-wood tree”,
come and stay with us with your family and friends and maybe you will end up as a member of our ever-expanding family!
If you are looking for a place to have an intimate workshop or conference
with your colleagues – you might try what we have to offer.
Babli has two Loan Schemes – one participatory, which offers free accommodation at BASA and the other offers excellent repayment and interest terms.
BABLI Palli Sangathan needs your support to be able to fulfil its promises. Here is something you can do which will affect the lives of many of our less fortunate brethren in a meaningful and positive way.