Loyola College is lined with rows of trees that start at its front gate, continue past the church, skirt the playing fields and hostels and end at the Loyola Institute of Business Administration (LIBA) that is nestled in the farthest corner of the lush green campus.
Behind the open air auditorium of the LIBA campus, however, is a sparse patch of soil that houses something very different — tiny saplings that rear their diminutive, perky heads from plastic packets arranged close together.
The saplings are the result of an enterprise called the Indo-International Initiative for Billions of Fruit Trees (IIIBFT). The man behind it, Dr Alagu Perumal Ramasamy, director of IIIBFT and professor of international business at LIBA, explains the origins of the name. “Food security is a burning issue in our country and across the world. IIIBFT believes in planting not just trees but fruit trees. Not only do they prevent soil erosion and offer shade, but they also can supplement the nutritional needs of a family,” he says.
This initiative follows a simple model of functioning. “I collect seeds, dry them, plant them in old plastic packets and then donate them to the nature clubs of schools and colleges. Not only do I donate saplings, I also impart the knowledge required to raise them,” he says.
His efforts have borne fruit, literally. Several city schools and colleges, including Loyola, Good Shepherd and Vivekananda Vidyalaya now have fruit-bearing trees on their campus. But this is not enough, Dr. Ramasamy says. “I want to take this initiative to every educational institution in the city and expand it to include other cities too,” he says.
The volunteers of this enterprise meet every Sunday to sow the seeds. Once the seeds sprout, they are transplanted into discarded plastic packets and given away to anyone who wants them. We also conduct sessions in educational institutions where we teach children to plant and look after the saplings.”
The best thing about this exercise is the minimum investment required, volunteers say. “Some seeds, soil, water, discarded plastic packets and a few hours of our time are all that are required,” says Nishanthi, a volunteer.
“We are trying to involve the larger community in this mission. We start at the school level so that our children grow up to become environmentally aware citizens. It is also about creating a sense of ownership so people begin to respect trees and treat them better,” Dr. Ramasamy says.
Besides educational institutions, corporates are also being persuaded to adopt fruit trees. “Infosys has already adopted 500 trees,” says Chris, another volunteer.