“I failed my Class 10 examination. But the tall trees I have grown give me immense joy, like that of completing a PhD.”
At six every morning, Earanna Kosigi sets out on a bicycle to tend to saplings he has planted across his city and its neighbouring villages. For the next four hours, he waters and nurtures plants along the roads, schools, anganwadi centres, graveyards and other open spaces.
In the past 17 years, he has planted thousands of trees across Raichur district. In the monsoon and winter, Earanna plants nearly 100 saplings every month. About 70% of the plants he nurtures grow into trees.
Kosigi grows around 15 varieties of plants, including neem, banyan and gulmohar. He plants at least three saplings every morning before going to work as a daily wage labourer. Flowering plants like roses and jasmine require more care, so he introduces these saplings in home gardens, educating households on how to nurture them.
The aspiration to grow trees sprouted in his mind after witnessing the scorching heat in Raichur. Recognising climate change, recurring droughts and rising temperatures as an urgent call to protect the environment, Kosigi began planting trees.
“I take students to see the results of his afforestation drive every year,” says Jagriti Deshmane, administrator and researcher at the University of Agricultural Sciences, Raichur. “He is doing a wonderful deed for society,” she adds.
Earanna grew up in a hillock on the outskirts of Raichur, surrounded by greenery. Inspired by those surroundings, he first started by collecting saplings from the forest department and planting them.
Seeking to grow more plants, he set up his own nursery in the narrow lanes beside his house. Soon after, he launched a campaign, through which he visits houses, raises awareness among the residents and plants a sapling with them.
The initiative is funded by his own small savings and his wife’s income, who works as a tailor. The couple work together to support their two children. “He works hard every day, just to take care of the plants. We are proud of his love for nature," his wife Rajeshwari says.
Commending Earanna’s work, retired Assistant Conservator of Forest Mallikarjun Borale says, “Wishing to serve the community, he spends half of his earnings to grow plants and take care of the trees.”
The 47- year-old eco-activist’s eyes fill with tears as he narrates how nearly 10% of the trees he has planted have been lost to road-widening.
“We have issued directions to not harm trees grown by him while undertaking development work,” says Raichur City Municipal Council Commissioner K Gurulingappa.
The obstacles, as well as his struggles with chronic poverty, have not dampened his spirit to create environmental awareness. Earanna approaches owners of newly-built houses and plants saplings in the compound, free of cost. He also builds artificial nests, attaching them to trees to provide food and water for birds in the hot summer.
His simplicity and down-to-earth nature have won the public’s favour, and inspired a team of four volunteers to join him.
“Tall trees grown by Kosigi can be seen in every narrow lane of Raichur. His commitment to conserving nature is exemplary,” says retired military officer Amaresh Nagalapur, who helps the green warrior from time to time.
His daughter Pallavi also follows in his footsteps, conducting free tuitions for children at a community hall.
Reflecting on his journey, he says, “I have acquired knowledge about all types of trees.” The satisfaction he gains from seeing the fruits of his labour - tall trees across Raichur - is invaluable. “I failed my Class 10 examination. But the tall trees I have grown give me immense joy, like that of completing a PhD,” he adds.