“Conservation is not the mandate of a single department, every single individual has to work for conservation.”: An interview with R Keerthi, Director, State Forest Training Institute, Kerala

1 month ago 28
Posted in: Blog

From ranking first in the Indian Forest Service (IFS) Exam nearly nine years ago, to now leading the State Forest Training Institute (STFI), Walayar, Kerala, R Keerthi has come a long way in her prestigious career as a forest officer.

We spoke to her about her motivations for serving in the IFS, her biggest learning experiences, and her current role as Director, STFI.

Tell us a little bit about your motivations behind joining the IFS. What drew you to it?

I always loved nature. When I was a kid, watching National Geographic and Discovery Channel and seeing people walking in the woods was really a motivating factor. Of course, I even graduated in Forestry from Kerala Agricultural University. And it was an opportunity for me to roam in the wilderness and protect the wilderness. Mother Nature has a lot to teach us, and protecting her helps us protect the coming generations and secure their future. I really love to work with nature, it is my true passion.


Photo courtesy: Keerthi Jathish via Facebook

Can you tell us a little bit about your previous postings before your current role?

As a trainee I was attached to the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve where I was exposed mainly to ecotourism and tribal welfare activities.

My first independent posting was as DFO, Chalakudy, Thrissur district. There I was exposed to leased land cases, rescue operations of animals, wildlife offense cases, etc. Memorable moments in the division included securing the first organic certification for my vanashree with the help of Prakriti Srivastava IFS, bringing in an intervention with the help of VSS to remove plastic waste along the Athirapally route— a tourism spot, introducing interventions like storage sheds for honey collected by tribals, a vehicle so they could be taken to school, PSC coaching classes for tribals, planting interventions in schools, public places and tribal colonies under the Green India Mission, creating water storage structures in forest areas for animals, and development of infrastructure in the central nursery.


Photo courtesy: Keerthi Jathish via Facebook

My next posting was as DFO, North Wayanad. The posting was full of challenges, of which facing human-wildlife conflict was the most important one. My posting coincided with the 2018 floods. We actively participated in rescue operations, especially in tribal areas. We provided our buildings as rehabilitation centers for tribals, visited all the rehabilitation centers to enquire about their needs, visited tribal colonies and provided them with rations, our staff helped to rescue people from landslide areas. I also brought in a few steps to revive FDA of North Wayanad.

Another experience was leading an elephant back to the forest. The elephant had come to a township and was stuck in the middle of the road. Coordinated work by the revenue authorities, police and Forest Department helped to drive the elephant back to the forest.

It was a great learning experience. Camping and trekking inside forests was memorable. I also had the opportunity to conduct interdivision patrolling and night patrolling with the adjoining division to strengthen protection activities. It was a very challenging posting, but a good learning experience.

What were your biggest learnings as Divisional Forest Officer, North Wayanad?

Wayand was a very challenging posting, as I mentioned earlier. Human-wildlife conflict management, and staff management were part of our everyday work. Protecting nature is a very challenging task and we should all stand united for future generations.

As an officer, we have to follow the rules, have integrity and honesty so every challenge becomes a sweet learning experience.

How is your current role as Director, State Forest Training Institute different from previous postings? What do you enjoy most about it?

A training institute is the place where we mould the human resource of the department. The way training is given determines to a great extent the work culture, efficiency and discipline in the department. Better the training, better efficiency of the department and its work culture. A well-trained staff is always an asset for the department. This posting gave me an opportunity to make a big difference in the training methods at the institute. I could bring in a lot of innovation, modernization and changes in the training methodology. A lot of infrastructural developments are also in the pipeline. One of the greatest achievements of the SFTI was the development of an indoor sports court of international standards. The best part of this posting is the abundance of opportunities to implement new things and train human resources of the department. With immense support from the department and my conservator, we are planning a lot of new developments at SFTI. It is one of my best postings and I enjoy it the most.


Photo courtesy: Keerthi Jathish via Facebook

You have called the balance between development and conservation one of the biggest challenges in forestry today. How have your views on this issue changed over the years? How do you approach this balance?

My views have not changed – it’s the biggest challenge till date. We need both development and conservation. But development has to respect nature, it has to be environmentally friendly. Conservation should not be seen as the mandate of a single department, we have to stand as a team and work for conservation, every single individual. Conservation is a great fight and everyone should stand as a team. We should understand that nature is needed for the survival of the human race, our survival is closely linked with nature and its protection.


Photo courtesy: Keerthi Jathish

Have you had any mentors or role models who have inspired you? If yes, how has their guidance changed your perspective?

My present mentor Khyati Mathur IFS has had a great influence on me. She is a very bold officer with a strong stand. Her practical approach in dealing with things and getting them done is great to learn from. She constantly motivates us to improve and give our best, whatever we do. She is a good officer and a great nature lover.

All the interventions I could bring into the training institute were with great support from her. She believes in my potential and fully supports all the new ideas and innovations we bring in for the development of the institute. The indoor sports court in the institute was made a reality with her support. I am inspired by her cool and calm attitude, her integrity and her strong decision-making.

Finally, do you have any advice as a mentor for forest officers who are starting out?

Protecting forests and wilderness is a great, noble cause. Protecting nature is protecting life for generations to come. Be true to yourselves – honesty, integrity and sincerity should be in everything we do. Be humane too. Follow the rules and regulations in all the work you do as forest officers. We are all doing a great job and securing the earth for future generations. We are in one of the best and most prestigious services, which is serving humankind by protecting water security, fresh air and better life for many many generations to come. If we all want good water to drink, good air to breathe and good food to eat, we have to have good forests.


28 Responses

  1. Sanoop says:

    Great 👍👍

  2. Abhin M Sunil says:

    Your passion and dedication towards conservation is an inspiration for people like us. Best wishes mam .

  3. Aparna Anand P G says:

    You are an inspiration to Us Madam ❤️

  4. Vipinraj says:

    Superb Mam

  5. Jubily Jerome says:

    Well presented. Excellent informative talk. Great effort Feeling Proud of you Mam and Wishing you all the very best dear Mam.

  6. Ganga says:

    Such a great role model ✌️

  7. V s parvathy says:

    Proud of you ! Keep going

  8. Athira says:

    Appreciating the Inspiration and Passion you spread. All the best wishes Keerthi chechi.

  9. Reshma R S says:

    Its really excellent mam…. all the best….

  10. Arun Bhaskar,Dist Fire officer says:

    It has been a nice experience with the Director & team SFTI
    We have given training to two batches of BFO’s
    Basic training & Refreshment course of DFO’s Range officers.
    I think that this will be the first time in history, these special Rescue & First aid trainings given to Beat forest officers.
    And the trainees are all performed well above our expectations
    These are not only training classes but also serve as a rare platform for interactive sessions between the two major field departments.♦️And these types of joint operations will be the need of the hour in view of the Changing scenarios & challenging situations..And our Department is ready 24×7 for any type of joint ventures at any time ..♦️ Thanks to Keerthi IFS for creating a platform for these interactive sessions & for providing high quality Rescue & self Rescue training to the Forest staff in association with our Department.♦️

  11. Sabharish Suryakumar says:

    Great inspirational words..!! All the best..!!

  12. Anees Muhammed says:

    Inspirational and motivational thoughts best words madam

  13. Santosh ks 9446622549 says:

    It is very inspiring words of your life and to become an IFS officer as a passion is a great thing to love nature too.Iam very glad that I have worked under you.It was a great time with you sir. The support you gave for us to catch the sandal thiefs was very inspiring. Thank you for your support in the career. Under your guidance vellikulangara range chungal forest have performed a great time. Thanking for that great time with you.

  14. Santosh ks 9446622549 says:

    It is very inspiring words of your life and to become an IFS officer as a passion is a great thing to love nature too.Iam very glad that I have worked under you.It was a great time with you sir. The support you gave for us to catch the sandal theirs was very inspiring. Thank you for your support in the career. Under your guidance vellikulangara range chungal forest have performed a great time. Thanking for that great time with you.

  15. NH Parvathy says:

    Great clarity of thought.. best wishes for you to carry out the good works.. you guys are doing a great job by protecting nature for future generations to experience

  16. Ajmal Edakkandi says:

    Keerthi madam was my DFO in North Wayanad Division. Since i joined in the forest department i got wonderful learning experience during her time in Wayanad. As a subordinate staff , I could say that she managed and protected us in a very good manner. Wishing you all the best madam.

  17. Suresh says:

    Excellent informative for outsiders,really interesting and challenging career working against all odds.Definitely we require such bold officers and your interview will definitely motivate many girls to aspire for the career.well done Keerthi and wish you with blessings for many milestone to achieve in your career ahead.

  18. Niseetha Parveen KS says:

    Its really informative and you are such a proactive person..

  19. Niseetha Parveen KS says:

    Its really informative…

  20. Nagesh Prabhu says:

    Good evening Keerti.To be Frank only today I came to know that you were the topper of your batch- what a great honour- state should be lucky to have topper- all throughout your interview I could read your emotional attachment to the forests and mother nature-Excellent- well said – you have a long way to go and bright future a head- Kerala Forest department is one of the best managed forest departments in the country and it offers you plenty of opportunities to experiment all your dreams- may all your dreams come true !

  21. RAVINDRAN S says:

    Wishing you a Happy and successful career

  22. Rekhakrishna K says:

    Excellent informative talk.

  23. Ajayghosh says:

    Very passionate words. Happy to see the Development in SFTIW. Keep going madam.



  25. Annamma John says:

    It is excellent !

  26. MANOJ K JOHN says:

    All are best keerthi

  27. Indu says:

    R.Keerthi, You are a great inspiration for many of us….

  28. P. Krishnakumar says:

    It’s really good to follow your passion.
    Wishing you much more success.

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