Our journey began in 1986 with a bunch of nature lovers working on wildlife and forest conservation to raise environmental awareness in our society. Our aim was to raise an environmentally conscious generation by conducting studies on natural history and bringing environmental education in schools and colleges.
The rise in pesticide use, deforestation, urban wastes and other alarming issues brought many affected communities closer to us. This transformed us from mere nature enthusiast to dedicated environmental activists triggered by their demands to support them on various environmental issues. Once, Smt. Leelakumari Amma approached us to study the impact of endosulfan aerial spraying in Periya, Kasargod district of Kerala. Under the leadership one of our founder Smt. Ushakumari S, Thanal did several studies in Periya and neighboring areas and have concluded that endosulfan causes irreversible impacts on the living environment.
In 2000, we launched a highly vocal public campaign along with the local community which resulted in the State Government imposing a ban on endosulfan use. We actively participated in national debates, surveys, petitions, and advocacy which contributed to the global ban of endosulfan in 2011 during the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants. Later, Hon. Supreme court of India banned the use, production and sale of endosulfan in India in May 2011.
In 2010, Thanal started ‘Promotion of Organic Farming’, a programme to engage farmers in sustainable farming practices and to set up Agroecology center at Panavally (Thirunelly Panchayat, Wayanad). The Agroecology center is the hub of research and training that explores different ways to sustain agriculture and agro biodiversity. Today, we promote organic farming through our independent social enterprise – ‘the Organic Bazaar’, a driving change in farming and consumption. Safe Farms, Safe Food and Safe Home are the goals of the Organic Bazaar, a one stop solution to explore safe and healthy food while enhancing the quality of life of hundreds of farmers. We mobilize farmers as agroecology Producers Company and hope to see this unfold into commercially viable initiative that support farmers and consumers. The farmers are now forming a producer company.
We initiated ‘Save our Rice Campaign’, a national movement to revive the lost glory of our paddy farming. Today, thousands of farmers from seven states of India have adopted ecological farming practices, conservation and cultivation of traditional HYV seed and ensures the supply of organic rice to consumers across these States. Rice diversity block at Agroecology center, Panavally, has one of the Kerala’s largest collections of paddy diversity cultivated yearly and seeds are shared among seed savers network of farmers. The recent floods that occurred in Kerala on August 2018 caused severe damage to them but thanks to our supporters and funders who have helped us restore it to a science based RDB. Now, we work on post disaster recovery of farms and farmers.
Our efforts to stop the hazardous burning of wastes led to the Zero Waste Campaign’ since 2002. We have a Zero waste center at Jawahar Nagar, Thiruvananthapuram which provides training to replace plastics and reinvent jobs to convert discards into useful products. We have set up compost demopark at Thanal Office which is a regional hub for training communities on Zero Waste Management. The movement gained momentum across the country and culminated in the formation of Zero Waste Himalayas which involves two countries (Bhutan, Nepal) and seven Indian states (Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Sikkim, West Bengal). Carbon Neutral Wayanad is a new idea developed by Dr Thomas Isaac and Thanal is knowledge partner and got an opportunity to coordinate with the Panchayats and local communities to estimate emissions and come up with ideas to offset the carbon to zero so the area could be declared as carbon neutral. We are glad that the State Government took up this project s riously and is developing the idea with the help of all stakeholders and present the innovation as a Kerala model of development without burden of carbon.