Once upon a time, Jayasree was sad. She lost her husband, and she was heartbroken at her son’s medical condition.
Then, she created a forest, a forest that grew out of Jayasree’s sadness. The more she planted, the more comfort she gleaned from her green ‘friends’. She gained immense happiness, strength, and resilience from planting Mahogonies and sturdy Teaks. She called this ‘little home’, which she made over 28 years in 56 cents of land, as ‘Project Happiness.’
Jayasree’s ‘happiness project’ is now home to tall trees such as teak, mahogany, mango, banyans, and wild jackfruit, among others. Besides trees, she also took the time to plant medicinal plants in her plot. This forest has helped curb the water scarcity issue in her hometown, Mavelikkara, Kerala!
Jayasree M B, 54, was just 18 years old when she got married and moved to Qatar with her husband Vishwambaran. He got a job at the international airport as an airline mechanic and they returned eight years later back to Kerala.
After her life in Qatar, she was glad to come back to Kerala and its greenery. However, she began noticing that the land surrounding their home in Mavelikkara was barren.
That is when she got a teak sapling from a nearby nursery and planted it. But she did not expect a protest for her choice of plants.
Many of Jayasree’s relatives asked her to plant crops like tapioca to help bring in an income. But Jayasree did not budge and went on to create a forest by adding more saplings to the 56 cent plot.
“My elder son Vishnu was diagnosed with autism at a very young age, and he had difficulty with speech and communication. At this point, I had lost hope, but the forest became my happiness project during those stressful times,” she shares.
Sadly in 2008, Jayasree’s husband passed away at the age of 55 as a result of his long time liver disease. This left Jayasree heartbroken and immersed herself completely in the forest, which was the source of happiness for her.
The protesting friends and neighbors are all praise now.
“Although many of the villagers and relatives weren’t fond of the idea of my forest, it has now benefitted the neighborhood to a great extent,” she explains. Jayasree’s village Kunnam which had faced water scarcity about 20 years back, has no water shortage today, all thanks to her forest.
“I still remember back in 2000 when we had to dig a well 16 rings deep to source water. At one point in time, when the scarcity became severe, we had to add more rings to the well. But today, even during the summers, we don’t have to worry about water at all. The neighbors are also receiving enough water because of the water retention capacity of the forest,” she explains. The trees have helped recharge the groundwater levels in the village.
When asked about the effort that goes into the maintenance of the forest, Jayasree explains, “I ask my neighbors who have cows for dung to create manure for the trees. I add the fallen dry leaves to this manure. Besides, I don’t have to put in much effort in the forest because all the trees are fully grown.”
“I found solace in the forest for 28 years, and even today, when people ask me how I managed to do it, I simply tell them that it was purely out happiness,” she concludes.