Homes and gardens

COVID 19: An initiative to encourage people to grow vegetables at home

The lockdown is an ideal time to try your hand at growing your own greens   | Photo Credit: weerapatkiatdumrong

Tis the season of challenges – whether you’re suddenly pulling out your silks for the sari challenge, or resting your aching muscles after finally acing dalgona coffee for Instagram.

Ready for one more? A Whatsapp collective in Kerala that calls itself ‘The Marasena’ (The Tree Army) has called for a vegetable challenge that urges people to grow their own greens. For a State such as Kerala, which is hugely dependent on Tamil Nadu and Karnataka for its vegetables, the lockdown is an opportunity to become self-reliant, say the administrators of this 80-member strong group, with participants from all over the State.

To take part, you have to plant the seeds of different vegetables once every three days and post pictures of their progress on the group. The challenge is open to the general public as well. Those who live in independent homes and have a bit of land can take it on easily, says Jayaraj Mitra, an active members of the group. He adds, “Every household can grow one drumstick plant, one curry leaf plant and one coriander plant at least.”

Lockdown and children

He adds that this lockdown is a time when children can be inducted into the many joys of farming. "Not just can they see the seed germinating into a plant, they also learn about soil, creatures that live in it and more,” he says, adding, “The larger message we are trying to send out is that with a little time and patience, one can grow one’s own food.”

For apartment dwellers who have just a balcony to spare, kitchen gardens are a workable model. You do not need to go rushing out for seeds: green gram and horse gram can be sprouted, and the method does not require soil. Just wrap the grain moist biodegradable paper. (Newspaper is not a great option, as it has printing ink.) In about a week, the leaves would have grown long enough to be cut. They can be used to make a salad or even a thoran (coconut stir-fry). This method takes up little space and is highly efficient. More importantly, it qualifies you for the challenge so you can also take plenty of pictures of your new kitchen counter sprout patch.

The Marasena hopes this challenge will inspire a network of home vegetable growers, who will continue to grow at least some of their own food post lockdown.

How the group was formed

The group traces its roots to an art lovers’ collective that dabbled in making films too, got actively involved in tree planting initiatives. The idea came about when in the middle of shooting a short film in Thrissur, the host offered the team raw mango juice, made with fruit from his compound. The conversation veered towards planting seeds for future trees. Led by former head of the department of English of NSS College, Ottappalam, Govindan Kutty Kartha and announcer at All India Radio, Thrissur, M Thankamani, the foundations of The Marasena were thus laid.

Tree challenge
  • A school in Edavanakkad, Vypeen, has started a tree challenge. Mooted by the Student Police Cadet (SPC) wing of Sree Dharma Paripalana Yogam Kumara Panicker Memorial High School for its students, the challenge has received an enthusiastic response from the public in general, says KG Harikumar, a Math teacher and one of the co-ordinators of the SPC.
  • The challenge urges people to plant tree saplings and mail a picture to the school. Students are not regularly posting pictures. “This is being done as part of the State-wide tree planting campaign carried out by the SPC. And we thought why not reach out to the public, we have been receiving pictures from older people as well,” Harikumar says. He adds, “Of all the trees you see around you, how many have you planted?’ This is what we ask as part of the campaign. If you have planted none, this is your chance.”

Invigorated by the idea of planting trees, the members of the group joined hands with the Pookottukavu Panchayat in Palakkad (about 340 km from capital city, Thiruvananthapuram) and planted about one lakh seeds in the Panchayat. The seeds were those collected by the members of the group from different parts of the State. The team then had over 2,000 volunteers from across Kerala.

However, a year later, the group scaled down operations and decided to move over to an online space (Whatsapp). Today, with the core team of 80 members, the The Marasena is a veritable storehouse of information on plants, including technical know-how and maintenance. The group admins plan to compile the information into a book. “The ultimate aim is to have an Onasadya with vegetables grown at home,” says Jayaraj.

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Printable version | Jun 25, 2021 11:34:37 AM |

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