Green Souls – Growing Together
The planet and its biodiversity will only be saved if urban and rural populations learn to live more responsibly, says Anirudh Nair, who writes about one organisation doing its bit..
Photo: Anirudh Nair.
“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”
– Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution
Japanese farmer and philosopher Fukuoka’s book, in which he connects the healing of the land to the process of purifying the human spirit and proposes a way of life and a way of farming in which such healing can take place, is the underlying influence behind Green Souls, a group promoting and practicing urban farming in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. Founded in August 2012, the group is involved in learning how to grow one’s own food using natural farming techniques.
A sincere vision and hope drive their purpose – that food, the source of life energy, deserves our care and connection, which can happen by deepening our relationship with it. Green Souls believes that by practicing natural farming, where only naturally available organic matter is used as fertiliser, we can have access to healthy, fresh and local produce from our own backyards, balconies, terraces, window sills, society compounds, city gardens and school grounds. They reach out to the urban community through voluntary and paid services in the area of kitchen gardening, composting, soil building, water recycling and other sustainable practices in order to collectively make small shifts from consumerism to sustainability.
The group conducts regular workshops at their community farms at the St. Jude Child Care Centre in Kharghar, the Dongri Children’s Remand Home in Dongri, and Our Lady’s Home for Boys in Dadar. These workshops teach participants to grow their own food using natural farming techniques, compost kitchen and garden waste and reuse plastic waste. They introduce children and adults to the food they eat at the source and build a community in the city through farming.
At the community farm in Kharghar, some 15 to 20 people participate in the workshops, which are conducted regularly. The group also provides opportunities to volunteer at the farm, where a variety of vegetables, legumes, herbs, flowers and fruit plants such as ladies’ finger, fenugreek, cow pea, tomato, spinach, radish, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, lentils, gourds, basil, mint, coriander, bananas, guava, lime, papaya, custard apple and more are grown. Children staying at the hospice while undergoing treatment for cancer are the beneficiaries of the produce from this farm. Workshops conducted by Green Souls at schools, housing societies, community organisations and corporate offices in Mumbai have become an effective way to learn about sustainability and the environment. Children who accompany their parents are able to connect with nature at a young age and their enthusiasm often rubs off on to the adults.
Solid waste management continues to be a serious problem in Mumbai, where around 9,000,000 kg. of waste is generated every day. “One of the reasons why solid waste is not managed properly is because the entire process is handled by the state machinery. This system of one or more centralised bodies managing waste generated by an ever-increasing population is not effective. Decentralising this process wherein individuals and communities generating the waste are made responsible for disposing it is the need of the hour,” said Julius Rego, an active member of Green Souls.
The group also helps individuals and organisations to set up their own kitchen and terrace gardens. “There is no shortage of such spaces in the city. Practices like these must be encouraged as terrace gardens ensure the long-term protection of buildings and enable people to grow their own food,” added Rego.
All the organic matter generated at the farms is reused in different ways. Waste plastic bottles and cans in which the saplings are grown are recycled and reused. Fallen leaves, twigs, flowers, fruits, coconut shells, banana stalk and weeds are used to make compost. One can also buy compost, saplings and seeds from the farms at nominal rates. Farming of organic crops in the past year has resulted in an amazing restoration of biodiversity in the one-acre farm at Kharghar, where insects and plants thrive. Birds such as Southern Coucals, Oriental Magpie Robins, bulbuls, sunbirds, drongos, prinias, lapwings, swallows, shrikes and doves are frequent visitors to the farm.
Green Souls believes that volunteerism benefits both society at large and the individual volunteer by strengthening trust, solidarity and reciprocity among citizens. “We welcome everyone who has something to offer to this community farming activity, be it music, art, food, funding, presence, lemonade or ideas! We wish to make the farm a friendly place with sustainable living as the theme,” said Sabita Rajendran, a Green Souls member.
The community farms run by Green Souls give people a chance to come together, learn to grow their own food and stay healthy. The group is furthering the alternative food movement by incorporating different cultures and generations and building individual and community confidence in our ability to craft a better world.
For more information contact
Julius Rego: +91 98200 74639
Sabita Rajendran: +91 98701 13541
Author: Anirudh Nair, First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXV No. 2, April 2014.