Twenty men and sixteen women had been shortlisted from a longlist twice that size to act as watchdogs. The Greens were careful as usual to select people by studying them for months to see if they have the integrity, staying power and commitment required to watch out for the people and the environment. From the 4th – 7th of April, they were provided with a three day immersion training at the Wingate Hotel and environs in Hettipola where there already fair knowledge of people and nature was further expanded with Suranjan, Amila (ex-greener and now the curator of an open zoo) imparting a bulk of the knowledge they were provided with.
Not only where they trained on environment but they were also given training on mindfulness and being constantly aware in all of their work. As with all such work, it is easy to be sensationalist when seeing something that looks wrong on the surface. They were warned not to succumb to such habits and to study a situation carefully before they report upstream. The team was called “The Protestors of Dumbara” or “Dumbara Suraksha”.
Finally, they (and the Cascade Trainers) were all provided with mobile phones to help them in their work. We had thought that they would need about a month to absorb what they knew and to start reporting back on various issues in their terrain but that was not how it happened. Instead of waiting, they went straight into their work, checking on the condition of green cover, plants, seed that has been our inputs to the community while also checking on various other issues that they thought were important for us to know about. That data stream was stupendous and absolutely amazing.
They didn’t stop there. Most of them were from farming families so they also used their mobile phones to check prices in Dambulla and to obtain the best possible prices for their own produce which was an unlooked for but tremendously positive collateral outcome.
What can we say? Well, we now have a “Green Battalion” of 56 highly trained, highly enabled trainers and watchdogs in the Knuckles.