For over 10 years, Sunith Reddy and Shaurya Chandra worked in front of glaring screens in the fintech and software industries. Little did anyone know that these two friends would one day pack up their gadgets and make room for a venture that goes far beyond farming, ultimately creating a community of earthly appreciation.
“I’d always wanted to own and run a farm one day,” shares Sunith, “but I knew it required a huge life change and a massive amount of commitment and funding. Then Shaurya and I met Sameer, who’d actually founded BeForest in Bengaluru and we really resonated with not just the vision but the effectiveness of bringing people’s interaction with farms to create a cohesive ecosystem in which the trees, the land, the air — the entire ecosystem, really, is working towards productivity and sustainability.”
At just over a year old, the Hyderabad leg of the startup operates out of Workafella in Banjara Hills.
So how does it work? The idea requires financial input, of course, given there’s a lot to do with land ownership here.
With BeForest, the first step is to buy a large estate collectively to plan and implement estate management techniques which — and this is the hook — don’t bring harm to the earth.
Shaurya adds, “See, it’s very easy to examine the ground and soil, and simply add fertiliser and take care of your next harvest, but what we are furthering with BeForest are the researched actions taken with the soil to ensure that the coming harvests — not singular — are successful. That’s what we found lacking in many farming communities.”
According to the BeForest team, the core ideology of sustainability has taken a back seat in the interest of aggressive growth, which has resulted in urban centres being the primary drivers of the economy. It’s the toxic cycle we’ve become far too familiar with: the ever-increasing urban population vacuums natural resources from rural and peri-urban zones, rendering them degraded over time. In fact, this whole she-bang has brought about water and food security issues.
That being said, the central idea with the BeForest farming collective is human-to-Earth dedication. Sunith elaborates, “What we’ve seen is that a person or group may invest in a farm, build a farmhouse, harvest some mangoes or some other fruit, and bring it to the city to sell. For the rest of the year, they’ll either have someone else take care of the farm land or they’ll forget about it altogether. That’s our USP, we actively have people fully engaging with their estates to bring to life not farms, but food forests. In that sense, the members, as we call them, feel a holistic connection with their food forests, and it becomes a part of their quotidian lives and not just a seasonal time-pass.”
But the team is clear that there’s no need to compromise on a modern lifestyle. BeForest makes sure that the type of self-sustaining farming undertaken is also financially sustainable. A caretaker is an added cost. So is a yearly revival of soil that’s been neglected.
The topographical setup of these collectives is also integral to BeForest’s USP; the housing is close to natural water bodies (no earth-moving irrigation systems here) and thoughtful placements of the farm plots, whether they’re on a slope or otherwise.
- So far, BeForest has three active farming collectives outside of Bengaluru: Poomaale Collective(18 members), Tamarind Valley Collective, and Alphonso By The Lake (4 members).
- Hyderabad’s Rachala Collective has 20 members with 210 prospectives
“We’ve also been wise to use the mulch to help with the cultivation and long-term enrichment of the soil. It’s all very old-school, but that’s what’s worked for centuries,” Sunith points out. If you’re curious about the details of the collectives, Sunith and Shaurya simply state that you’ll have to get in touch with them.
So what’s the deal with Hyderabad? There’s the growing Rachala Collective located 100 kilometres away from Outer Ring Road. Sunith states they’ve been mindful to acquire estates free of conflict and close to the cities so that members can go back and forth regularly. Shaurya tacks on, “We do take into account that commutes to and from the estates are a pollutant-emitting process so that’s another reason to have the farms as close as possible.”
Shaurya admits that the severe drought has put a hamper on progress but that’s where the sustainability plans come in. “There are people likely to grow tamarind and create secondary products on a business line... products such as tamarind jam, but in limited quantity,” he comments. “Cities like Bengaluru and Hyderabad have more family-oriented systems so we’ve had quite a few families, kids and parents alike, engage with the land.”
Sunith adds that they are not restricted to Bengaluru and Hyderabad set-ups. “If a group of seven to eight members in Chennai is interested in creating a BeForest forest collective, please do reach out to us via our website beforest.co, and we can talk about adapting the movement.”
Techies at heart, the partners wanted rigorous research to be a huge part of the actions they take forward. Do they use a lot of technology, given they’re a techie lot? Sunith shakes his head, chuckling, “We do use carbon-measuring equipment and other tools, but they’re not the driving force of what we do at BeForest. Here, you just have to get your hands dirty.”
Planet Healers celebrates green initiatives. If you know an eco-warrior, email us at hydmetroplus@ thehindu.co.in