If you are on a Bekal tour, then Kareem Forest must be among your list of places to visit near Bekal. Tyndis Bekal Tour provides special storytelling experience at Kareem Forest. Read this blog to know more about this manmade forest in Kasaragod.
The story of Kareem Forest comes from the drylands of Kasaragod and will inspire environmentalists and nature lovers all over the world! A story about one man’s vision and perseverance that led to the creation of the only manmade forest in Kerala of its size. We are talking about Mr Abdul Kareem (fondly called as Kareem Ikka) from the Puliyamkulam village near Parappa in Kasaragod who is the man behind Kareem Forest.
Kareem Forest today is one of the top attractions of Kasaragod for eco-friendly tourism. It is one of the best places to visit near Bekal. Tyndis provides Responsible Tourism experiences to Kareem Forest in our Bekal Tour packages. Get in Touch with us for more details.
It was in the late ’70s that Mr Kareem took the decision that became a turning point in his life. Inspired by an impulsive thought, Kareem arranged for some money and purchased five acres of barren and rocky wasteland on a hillside in Puliyamkulam – a village about 19 miles away from Nileshwar.
Initially, his decision to buy the land made him a laughing stock in the region. People thought he had lost his mind and tagged him to be “crazy”! Kareem was unaffected by any such actions and focused on his work. He soon started planting saplings of wild trees in the place. But this task would demand every drop of his sweat as he was dealing with a land filled with laterite stones and barren unnourished soil. But Kareem was determined not to fail and kept his efforts going.
With his unfaltering efforts, Kareem has managed to convert the dry-barren lands into a lush green forest fondly called now as Kareem Forest! Today, he is the creator of the 32-acre forest with a green canopy and abundant species of flora and fauna.
Kareem, like any young Malayali, in the 1970s, had left for the Persian Gulf in search of an opportunity to earn some money and help his family. Kareem in his twenties then was determined to work had to earn a living that could help him lead a stable family life. Like every determined labourer in the gulf, Kareem did every odd job he could and soon made some money for him to survive and live with content.
Though he could make some good fortunes from the gulf, he was never happy with the environment and the climate there. Dubai is the place that inspired the idea towards the creation of a man-made forest in Puliyamkulam. Kareem often says, “The scorching heat could very well melt one’s bone. On many days, I could feel my skin getting burnt. That was my inspiration.”
On a fine, the thought of leaving the scorching heat of the deserts in the middle east and return to his homeland came into Kareem’s mind. With an impulse, he packed for Kasaragod, leaving the good fortunes and flourishing business back in Dubai.
It was then that he bought the 5 acres of barren land at Rs. 3750 from one of his neighbour that would be then turned into Kareem Forest by him. Both purchasing of the barren land and the idea to create a forest in it made Kareem a crazy man in front of his family and the native people.
“The first set of land at Puliyamkulam was brought at a flat price. People thought I was having excess money. They called me eccentric; they laughed at me, but I was determined,” – he recollects.
Kareem wasn’t disheartened by the behaviour of the local people as they were pointing out the geographical conditions of Puliyamkulam – a place extremely difficult for lush green trees to grow and flourish. The place had a terrain so sloppy and made up of rough laterite rocks and barren soil. And it was in this place where Kareem bought acres of land and attempting to create a forest in it! The folks of Puliyamkulam didn’t need much to laugh at him.
“I knew it was a tough call for me. The land I bought was unfit for cultivation of any kind. The plot has no source of irrigation – it had nothing but a dry well. Kareem forest didn’t happen all of a sudden but with decades of hectic human efforts and care”- Kareem says.
Kareem had earned the neglections and teasings from his family and neighbours soon after he began the efforts to create Kareem forest. Though he had the unaltering dream and desire, he could not manage to do fulfil it all by himself.
“It was magical. I used to love spending time in the sacred grove. The deep dark woods and the harmony of life it represented helped me dream. I felt more alive,” – remembers Kareem.
Undeterred, Kareem poked about a hundred cashew, date, and other native seedlings into the spaces between the laterite rocks. The local well was too low to draw water, so he ferried in buckets of water by motorcycle from a mile away.
Kareem’s first challenge was to get the locals to support him for labour requirements. He soon noticed looming unemployment and poverty in the area, and decided to employ locals to plant saplings and till the land. He paid them in cash and this helped them fight poverty.
With such efforts, the villagers started loving Kareem and his dreams. Kareem was pivotal in paving way for local development. He brought electricity and roads to the otherwise backward area. He even persuaded the villagers to send their children to school.
“Education is what shapes the thoughts of a child. I always tried to impart my share of knowledge about the environment in them. I felt the necessity of schooling and urged the villagers to send their kids to school. I constantly felt the need to support both the nature and the human beings of my place. This makes me content and happy in life.” – says Kareem with contentment.
Kareem was now spending all he had earned and saved during his days in Dubai at his place in Puliyamkulam. His wealth was draining fast. He survived with agriculture in times of financial shortages
With the determination of Kareem and his villagers, they put their heart and soul into the barren land – turning it into a place for life. They planted saplings and seedlings of various kinds of forest trees and shrubs. The land was completely dry and the water for irrigating the land was a big question before Kareem! Kareem and his people carried from water from long distances to supply their plants.
“It was a humungous task to nurture and take care of the saplings under such harsh conditions. The task of tilling and planting trees was divided among the male labourers while women walked miles to fetch small barrels of water.”
Tired from the tedious task of bringing water from long distances for irrigation, Kareem took the integral decision of digging a well in the property. Initially, the well remained dry all year. Even in the failure of the efforts, Kareem and his people continued their hard work. They became more aggressive in planting saplings and nurturing them. Water was still fetched from far away places.
Their efforts soon found reward. Kareem and villagers were in tremendous joy when their well started filling with waters from springs that popped out from the laterite rocks of the land. The groundwater was getting recharged with their efforts.
But their happiness was short-lived. About a year later, Kareem’s dream turned into ashes when his forest caught fire. The flames spared almost nothing in their path, leaving the land barren once again.
“It was devastating to watch all our effort reduced to ashes in no time. But I was not taken aback. I held the pickaxe again in my hands with new-found energy.” – he says.
Since then Kareem did not look back; his dream started to bloom like never before. He expanded his land from time to time and today he is the proud owner of 32 acres of forest. And he lives in his own deep dark woods.
Tourists can experience Kareem Forest during their Bekal Tour. Kareem Forest is one of the best places to visit near Bekal during a summer day. It is growing as one of the refreshing places to visit near Taj Bekal and other premium resorts in Bekal. Tyndis organizes specially curated tours to Kareem Forest and other places to visit near Taj Bekal.
Kareem’s story was featured by the Indian Oil Corporation in their ‘India Inspired’ series, Trinity College, Connecticut, the USA once visited Kareem’s forest to study the relationship between plants and religion. Every year thousands of students, environmentalists and scientists visit Kareem to discuss environmental protection, energy conservation, clean energy and climate change.
Kareem was also honoured in 1998 by the Kerala Forest Research Institute for his outstanding contribution to forestry. He is still busy taking care of the magical land created by him – enjoying the fresh life inside!
“This is my kingdom and I would choose this even over the most luxurious city in the world!” – says a proud Kareem.
Kareem Forest is one of the top tourist places to visit near Bekal. By road, it takes around 1 hour to reach Kareem Forest from Bekal. One can head in the direction of Parappa from Bekal and arrive at Puliyamkulam to visit Kareem Forest. Want to explore Kareem’s manmade forest? Get in Touch with Tyndis Tours for special storytelling tour to Kareem Forest.
If you are planning to visit Kasaragod, Tyndis curates best Bekal Tour Packages with top collection of places to visit near Bekal like Kareem Forest, Ananthapura Lake Temple, Bekal Beach, Bekal Fort, etc.