The conservation work of Rishi Valley Education Centre concentrates on the following areas:
- Water Conservation
- Reforesting barren hill slopes
- Soil and moisture conservation and wasteland development
- Use of alternative energy
More than twenty years of water harvesting from the seventies to the nineties saw the Centre donate land for the construction of seven percolation tanks at the edge of the campus and on hillsides. Two tanks were initially dug: the first called ' Lost Lake' is situated midway up the hills to the south of the campus; it helped regenerate 150 acres of a once barren hillside. The other, situated in the valley, services wells 3 miles downstream and has resulted in a much more prosperous farming community. Five more tanks were built more recently in the valley. There are several smaller tanks to recharge wells on campus.
A once barren hillside adjacent to the school is now part scrubland and part forest. For the local village community the regenerated hillside means fodder for its animal population and fuel wood; the space is a kind of insurance against long periods of drought.
The campus that once consisted of drylands and scrublands now boasts woodlands and several wetlands.
Beginning in 1988, under a grant from the Wasteland Development Board, the Centre built small check dams and bunds along the contours of 800-hectares of hillside, surrounding the campus. This meant persuading villagers to donate labour and allow construction of bunds across their small holdings. Custard Apples, which goats avoid, were planted along the bunds to hold in soil.
The Rishi Valley Dairy is engaged in the task of breeding Ongole cattle, a domesticated breed famous for the load carrying capacity of the male. In the current economic climate in which cows are cross bred for increased milk yields, one of the strongest draft animal species in the region faces extinction. We are concerned about the long term implications of this practice for marginal agriculture, whose mainstay is the bull-driven plough.
Mindful of the limited energy resources in the country and taking advantage of various subsidies from the Government of India, we built a large bio- gas plant in the dairy. The methane produced in the plant serves around 25% of the school's cooking needs. Large solar driven installations provide steam for most of the cooking in the school kitchen and solar water heaters serve several dormitories.
In 1997 we set up an Institute for Bird Studies and Natural History, which monitors bird populations in the vicinity and runs a Home Studies Course in Ornithology.
Because of a significant reduction in the average rainfall during the past ten years, RVEC is now studying the feasibility of working towards an integrated water conservation plan for the entire valley, an area covering 21 hamlets and villages spread over 16 square kilometers.
ALL THESE EFFORTS won Rishi Valley a national award- the Indira Priyadanshini Vrikshamitra Award for 1995.