David Cranwell was told before a visit to India with the World Bank to be careful – India would pull him in and he would never let go. That is exactly what happened.
David’s interest in horticulture stemmed from his childhood growing up on an orchard in West Auckland. He went on to study horticulture following a career path from the Apple and Pear Marketing Board, being a product development manager for ENZA to working as a horticultural consultant for the World Bank.
After a visit to the Eastwood Hills arboretum south of Gisborne, he decided if he could have one tree out of the hundreds of specimens on display, it was the Himalayan Oak that captured his attention. Three years later, he had still not managed to find another Himlayan Oak specimen so that he could grow the oaks himself.
It was during a feasibility study to India he was re-introduced to Himalayan Oak in the foothills of Ranichauri in North West India. Sadly, due to the oaks being used for cattle fodder and building materials over many generations, the trees had been seriously depleted. The Oaks had once covered thousand of hectares creating a magnificent forest and a unique, pristine environment. Barren hillsides, land erosion and drought had decimated these magnificent forests.
David’s immediate thought was to help the villagers re-plant the oak forests. However, reforestation is extremely difficult because of the swelling population needing the land for grazing. Most families on average have 7 children to feed and the woman use foliage from the oaks to feed the cattle.
David was advised that education would be a valuable way to teach the younger generation about the importance of the trees and conservation. This resulted in the Trust adopting a school in Ranichauri. As education is so valued by parents, adopted a school created immediate respect for the Trust and its cause. It has been shown that as the literacy rate of women rises, the birthrate drops. David believes that India’s salvation resides with it’s woman.
Financial support for the upgrade and maintenance for the school was provided on the understanding that the school would introduce a propagation and planting program for the children to participate in. The more trees they plant, the more money they receive from the Trust.
David started importing acorns into New Zealand to propagate, selling the seedlings and raising money for the trust to fund education and conservation projects in Ranichauri. The trees are sold around New Zealand and have proven to be invaluable for land stabilisation, water production and carbon retention.
He has enlisted the help of ENZA, the New Zealand High Commission in Delhi, Sir Edmund Hillary and anyone who will support the cause.
“Land degradation has become critical. If protecting the environment does not become a key focus, the continuing impact of over-population, drought and farming will seriously effect food production and living conditions for millions of villagers.”
Hear the story
Listen to an audio file of John Campbell talking to David Cranwell on National Radio. This fascinating story of how one New Zealander’s plight to save the Himalayan Oak forests began.