Devaki Amma: The Inspiring Story Behind This 'Woman-Made' Forest

  • 11 Jun 2019

Forests are disappearing every day, on a massive scale. From 1990 to 2016, an area of forest larger than South Africa have vanished. How? Mostly due to deforestation, the cutting down of trees, that results in the disruption of various species of wildlife, complex ecosystems, weather patterns and eventually the climate.

Realising the perilous effects of deforestation from her husband Gopalakrishna Pillai, an 85-year-old woman has taken matters on her own and created a 5-acre forest in her own land. While cutting down or burning a forest takes little time, growing them is a lifetime commitment. 

Kollakkayil Devaki Amma has been planting and nurturing trees at Muthukulam in the Karthikapally Taluk of Alappuzha District, Kerala for over 4 decades. A teacher by profession, Gopalakrishna taught the importance of forests and brought different seeds from his travels for his wife Devaki Amma to plant.

Even after the demise of her husband, Devaki Amma continued her little project with the help of her family and friends. Today, her 40 years of dedication have paid off. The deep, lush green forest is said to have at least 200 species of trees and numerous unknown shrubs. It is frequented by nature enthusiasts and botanists who are fascinated by the richness of this 'woman-made' forest. 

Taking care of a 5-acre forest is no joke. Unable to sustain the forest on her own because of her age, Devaki Amma has resorted to hiring people. She lives in a spacious house surrounded by private ponds, a wetland, and farm animals like cows, buffalos, and oxen. 

Devaki Amma has thought through how her actions might affect nature and has opted out to use mostly environment-friendly options. She uses only organic manure to grow some of the trees and as a result of her proper care, at least 1000 plants are now supplying fruits, flowers, and vegetables.

More interestingly, she has prepared nests and water available for exotic and migratory birds to make the forest their new home. Where does she get the water from? Rain Water Conservation, of course! 

In order to connect with her trees, Devaki Amma walks at least 10 minutes every day and talk to the plants some times.  

Devaki Amma's love and enthusiasm for protecting the environment by creating this forest have been passed down her generation. Her grandchildren and their children would often come by to check on the older trees and plant new ones.

Talking to The Better India, her daughter Prof D Thankamani said: “Four generations have contributed to my mother’s journey of planting trees. During school vacations, Amma’s grandchildren and their children visit the house to see the status of old plants and to plant new ones. The enthusiasm and fervor around planting trees are almost like a festival.”

She is the Head of Environment Department at Thiruvananthapuram Engineering College. It sure does run in the genes!

Devaki Amma is not an environmental scientist, nor is she an activist. She was just an ordinary human being with an extraordinary dream to protect the planet by doing her part.

In 2002, she was first recognised for her efforts by the Ministry of Environment and Forest with the Indira Gandhi Vrikshamithra award. Most recently, she received the Nari Shakti Puruskar from India's president Ram Nath Kovind.

Source: The Better India, Kerala Tourism & National Geographic 
Photo Credit: The Better India, The Hindu & Film Free Way

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