Only One Earth - World Environment Day 2022
We were born to parents who left the villages to work and live in the city. They left their share of land to their farmer siblings or sold it. One of us had no links to farming at all, whereas the other person saw members of her extended family farm. Buying land was an epiphany to us in the early 2000s. We had visions of growing our food through organic farming, water conservation and some other vague notions, nothing clear.
We bought about 5 acres of land and left it idle, unfenced for many years. That didn't do the land any good as we became the defacto grazing ground of the neighbourhood with cattle and goat grazing everything that grew. We returned to Coimbatore and first farmed it in 2014 and 2015, for three to four seasons. Growing groundnuts, urad, moong, moth beans, horse gram, millets ...tried everything we could think of, in that dry area.
It was truly humbling to actually grow organic crops, harvest, and go all the way farm to fork. We realized how much work goes into it, how incessant and challenging it was and how unrewarding financially it was for the grower.
That was possibly one of the triggers for us to found Bio Basics, along with Sundararaman ayya and others telling us to create a market for organic farmers. When we moved to grow Bio Basics to support organic farmers we decided to shift to trees on our land. Farming is a full-time occupation, which requires one's complete devotion and there are no shortcuts.
We planted trees every year and regularly lost them to neighbours' cattle and the harsh summers. The exposed topsoil of the denuded and cattle grazed land was lost to rains and winds.
We were forced to fence the land, which we earlier thought was unfriendly and un-neighbourly, losing us almost 10 years of growing time.Fencing helped, it led to better survival of saplings and made the land greener with undergrowth.
We have let every palm tree alone & and allowed every palm sapling on the land to grow. The state tree of Tamil Nadu stands tall in our land, about 50 of them.The speed at which these trees are being felled, we are afraid that after a few years ours might be the only land in the village having a good no of palm trees.
We have also dug two large rainwater pits that fill up during rains and a small pond is slowly beginning to hold water for 3-4 months a year
The grass stays green most of the year. The soil is holding up and biomass is increasing. The undergrowth and weeds are chopped and added to the land. About 600 tree saplings are growing in small pits, dug to hold water and protect the saplings from the harsh sun.
This land we hope is our contribution to the future. Soil that holds carbon, land that is starting to hold water, trees giving out oxygen, birds nesting in plenty, bees and wasps, and all things that we city dwellers dream about but can't live with. Hopefully, this land will also feed us at some point.