Johnson Varghese’s quest for highlighting the totally different makes use of of bamboos and its long-term advantages led him to construct a 17-acre farm in Kerala’s Wayanad district that has been dealing with extreme desertification. He has collected and conserved 142 uncommon species from totally different components of India.
On the finish of an exhausting day, Johnson Varghese shut his pepper store in Pulpally city of Wayanad district. The Kerala resident would then engross himself in unleashing his ideas onto a canvas. Impressed by the forested environment, he would usually paint bamboo on most of his acrylic and oil work.
Learning deeper, he understood how quite a few bamboo tribes differ from one another – whereas some species have giant and straight culms, some are smaller and extra versatile. Some have thick partitions and stiff hair on the nodes, whereas some boast totally different leaf textures that may go unnoticed to the untrained eye.
“Nearly all bamboos have totally different leaves, shoots, and buildings. I used to be so fascinated by them that I made a decision to gather them one after the other,” the 53-year-old tells The Higher India.
Past his work, Johnson travelled far and vast to preserve bamboo varieties. Right this moment, he’s a proud proprietor of the 17-acre plantation that boasts 10,000 vegetation together with a uncommon assortment of 142 species collected from totally different components of the nation.
His collections embrace the commercially used fast-growing Guadua angustifolia selection, Dendrocalamus brandissi which grows greater than two toes in a day; Melocanna baccifera that’s used for making medicinal merchandise; and decorative species just like the Golden Bamboo (Schizostachyum brachycladum), and Buddha Stomach.
In dialog with The Higher India, Johnson speaks about why generations at this time should be as obsessive about bamboo for a sustainable future.
From portray to planting uncommon varieties
In 1992, Johnson graduated from Calicut with a Bachelor’s of Science. He got here again to his hometown to take care of his father who had Parkinson’s illness. Instantly, he needed to take up the accountability of their household’s pepper spice store.
In 2010, he found a newfound ardour for conserving bamboo. Quickly after, he discovered himself traversing by means of bamboo forests within the Northeastern area of the nation. “Northeast has an excellent assortment of bamboo. Right here, you see bamboo all over the place and virtually in each family,” he explains.
Johnson began accumulating bamboo species from throughout the Northeast and different components of the nation together with Nagaland, Manipur, Sikkim, Arunachal, Assam, Tripura, Jharkhand, and Maharashtra.
Taking the small shoots of bamboo, he has arrange his personal dense forest of 10,000 vegetation that embrace uncommon varieties like Bambusa affinis, Bambusa Assamica, Bambusa Vulgaris, Tulda Variegated, and Phyllostachys Bamboosoides.
Due to its beneficial heat and tropical local weather, Johnson was in a position to arrange a big Bambusetum by planting a large species of uncommon bamboo in Pulpally. In the home itself, he has planted 80 odd species in pots.
Conserving probably the most versatile plant
Nonetheless, accumulating bamboo has been greater than a ardour for Johnson.
Over the previous few a long time, the residents alongside the Kerala-Karnataka border of Wayanad district, particularly in villages on the northeastern tip of the Deccan Plateau together with Pulpally, Mullankolly, and Poothadi have been dealing with desertification owing to a pointy decline in rainfall, lack of natural matter in soil, unscientific land use, conversion of wetlands and absence within the cover.
Johnson believes farming with Bamboo may very well be a perfect and efficient methodology for a sustainable mannequin to examine the desertification tendencies of the area.
“Bamboo is among the quickest rising plant species. Additionally it is a low-cost methodology to soak up an enormous quantity of carbon. It produces about 35 % extra oxygen than every other plant creating an oxygen park in nature for future generations. It may well enhance the moisture content material and the natural carbon within the soil,” he mentions.
Aside from its low-cost carbon sequestration property, Johnson says, “Bamboo goes to be the following timber on the earth due to its versatile utilization. It’s primarily utilized in building like flooring and scaffolding, furnishings making, as edible meals, biofuel, materials, material, and paper-making. Additionally it is medicinally helpful, and has spiritual and decorative worth.”
“Regardless of this, not many are enthusiastic about its conservation. Individuals don’t recognise the worth of bamboo. It may be simply replicated throughout geographies. Right this moment, for those who plant one shoot, you’ll have 10 new vegetation a 12 months later. So, bamboo could be simply cultivated,” he provides.
Right this moment, as he traverses by means of the tall dense jungle of bamboo, he displays on a preferred saying, the bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists.
“I’ve spent months within the bamboo forest that I’ve created. I sleep in its shade. At any time when I journey by means of the bamboo vegetation, I really feel the cool breeze on my face even in summer season. I’ve had peaceable nights of sleep in the midst of this forest,” he says.
“However cultivating these bamboos has made me realise that finally, each bamboo bends right down to survive sturdy winds and stays nonetheless and tall. If individuals perceive this and don’t maintain a inflexible character on a regular basis, the world might turn into a greater place to dwell,” he provides.
Edited by Padmashree Pande. All photographs: Jhonson Varghese.