Story behind the "Friends of Rishi Valley" (FORV) Group


My association with the Rishi Valley School, which soon lead to the formation of the "Friends of Rishi Valley Group (FORV)", began quite accidentally in late 2003. More on this a little later, but first a bit about my background.

I'm a native of rural Rayalaseema where I spent my formative years and presently live and work in the US. I never attended the Rishi Valley School although I wish I'd that opportunity; the closest I ever got to Rishi Valley was a half a day long visit made through a high school trip many years ago.

Rayalaseema, once a part of the fabled medieval kingdom of Vijayanagara empire, is a place of extremes and contradictions. The land is blessed with an austere beauty and very talented people. Yet as a result of succession of droughts, and some times from self inflicted tragedies, both the land and its inhabitants have fallen on hard times for some decades now. Foremost among those tragedies is the degradation of environment.

Even to this day, the local folklore fondly recalls of yesteryears during when the rolling hills of Rayalaseema were full of verdant forests teeming with wildlife. With the advent of the railways, the forests were felled to fuel the resulting construction. As the forests rapidly dwindled, the perennial streams and the sustenance which people long derived from the same too dried up. As the ecological health deteriorated, so did the livelihoods. Growing up in rural Rayalaseema, I was a mute witness to this spiraling tragedy.

In late 2003, while trekking with friends in the BRT Hills sanctuary, located in the Western Ghats region in Karnataka, I had a chance meeting with Dr. Santharam of Rishi Valley School. In the brief conversation that ensued, I became aware of the environmental regeneration experiment being carried out by the Rishi Valley School. Further reading and correspondence with both Dr. Santharam and Sri Rangaswami convinced me about the relevance of the Rishi Valley model.

In late 2004 I made a short visit to the Rishi Valley School when I got a chance to walk through the regenerated forest and quickly became impressed with the results; seeing was indeed believing. Following the visit, I proposed the idea to form a volunteer group by name the "Friends of Rishi Valley", to help increase awareness about the Rishi Valley School's conservation efforts. A short while later, the aforesaid volunteer group came into existence and I became formally associated with the school (Visitor, Institute of Bird Studies).

In Rishi Valley's successful regeneration experiment, one can clearly see a proven and successful grassroots model to nurse back the barren waste lands of Rayalaseema. I also believe Rayalaseema's, and similar ecologically degraded regions' elsewhere, cultural and economic revival must follow an ecological revival.

Please join me in supporting the Rishi Valley School's conservation efforts.

Murali Reddy