Community garden group in Chennai organises seed and sapling exchange event

Beady-eyed and opportunistic, animals rarely miss a trick. Their eyes fall on spaces that our own ignore. In a derelict state, the open spaces on the premises of the Kasturba Nagar Community Hall caught those of bandicoots. Bandicoots go it alone. Each had made itself a snug burrow. Eviction notices were placed next to these burrows a month-and-a-half ago when a bunch of resident-volunteers from Kasturba Nagar started reclaiming the space, replacing unplanned unruly vegetation with a planned edible garden.

“Any kind of animal life is fine, but what was unacceptable was the construction debris and the overgrown vegetation that had taken over much of the open space. As we worked the soil, we found small plastic material mixed with it,” says Samyuktha Kannan, a resident of Kastuba Nagar and a member of the core team of volunteers driving Kasturba Nagar Community Garden (KNCG).

(On September 19, from 3.30 to 5.30 p.m, KNCG would hold its biggest event since inception, organising Seed & Sapling Exchange on the premises of the Kasturba Nagar Community Hall).

Samyuktha says that after obtaining the necessary permission, the green volunteers started ‘owning’ the open space around the community hall and transforming it.

The vegetable garden which has only barely put out shoots, serves a trifecta of needs for a majority of the participants — experimental gardening, fitness and social engagement.

“For people with green thumbs who are limited for space, time and even sunlight, a community garden is the best bet. It gives them access to experimental gardening together with like-minded people. We are trying to make this a learning group,” says Samyuktha.

While resident-volunteers tend to the garden daily, they come together as a learning group every weekend. Concepts of gardening are firmed up for them through practice sessions on the land outside the community hall, and theory sessions inside.

“A group of gardeners share their expertise in these sessions,” explains Samyuktha.

A striking aspect of the initiative is that paid help is not considered, and the participants alone have to labour over the garden.

“Volunteers pitch in whether it is sowing, watering, creating a bed, separating dry leaves from trash to have them mulch. We create a set of activities on a weekly basis for people to participate in. The idea is to get out there, have some physical activity, enjoy nature and the process of gardening. The volunteers come with that objective in mind. It is an out-and-out voluntary effort and the funds are pooled in by the volunteers.”

Residents decide what shape the garden takes, says Samyuktha, adding that a diversity of thoughts is promoted, as evidenced by the various areas of interest among participants.

Says Samyuktha, “There are those keen on growing organic food and there are those committed to preserving native seeds. There are residents who have sought a mushroom growing area. Someone suggested a mini apiary. We are working towards honouring both these suggestions among others.”

She points out that being named after Kastuba Nagar can cause the initiative to be mistaken for an insular, neighbourhood-centric exercise, but it is far from being that.

“It might have been initiated by a group within the neighbourhood, but it has grown inclusive with residents from elsewhere also participating in it.”

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2021 12:42:05 AM |

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