C.K. ‘Bablu’ Ganguly - The Timbaktu Collective

Context: Bablu Ganguly, along with his wife Mary Vattamattam, set up the Timbaktu Collective in the Ananthapur district in Andhra Pradesh, the second most drought afflicted area in India. With the aim to stop degradation of land in Ananthapur, Bablu and Mary promote environment sustainability, child rights and education, women rights and empowerment, rights of people with disabilities, livelihood generation activities and organic farming, thus working towards holistic improvement of the community.

Critical Insights:
  • Ananthapur receives an average of only 540 mm of rainfall per year. In addition to drought, widespread deforestation and uncontrolled use of land for grazing and firewood, poor quality of soil widespread erosion are major concerns. Even those farmers who focus on cultivation of cash crops like groundnut are unable to fend for themselves.
  • The government’s efforts towards reforestation are mainly towards fulfilling demand for wood and pulp for industries. Failure of farming has lead to many farmers migrating and seeking employment elsewhere. There is consequently the lack of food or economic security.
  • The soil is nutritionally depleted; consequently, the animals and the food are also nutritionally depleted.
Strategy: Permaculture, Eco-restoration, community participation, promoting culture and a holistic way of living.
Timbaktu aggressively targets the problems of agriculture, using a “permaculture” model which borrows from concepts like organic farming, agro-farming and sustainable living. The Collective works hand in hand with the community. It has established seed collection centres to provide seeds to farmers during the rains; restored traditional water harvesting structures; built firelines to protect forests; supervised tank desiltation; and done intensive research into composting methods and different cropping patterns. The focus has been on joint community ownership of forest and forest produce.
In addition, Timbaktu has also set up thrift co-operatives which provide loans to the women in the community and thus empower them to take decisions and enjoy better health through access and availability of food grains. Children are provided nutritious meals at the various “Badis” (learning centres) and special emphasis is placed on consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Impact: What initially started with 32 acres of barren land has now spread to over 2800 hectares (covering seven villages) of wasteland which has been regenerated into a forest. About 250 water bodies and streams have regained life. Due to efforts of the Collective, currently around 1190 families grow organic food on 3570 acres of land. The Timbaktu Collective is currently participating in research by the Fair Climate Network which aims to study how organic farming can contribute to reducing carbon footprint.

To learn more about The Timbaktu Collective, please click here.