Urban Leaves India: TCS - the first corporate to initiate Urban Farming

Thursday 27 January 2011

TCS - the first corporate to initiate Urban Farming

A few pictures taken by Chinmai Hemani particpant at the Workshop. CLICK HERE to see the slideshow.

The crisp morning of 22nd January saw many of the Urban Leaves volunteers all assembled in the sylvan campus of Maharashtra Nature Park. It was to be our first workshop to be conducted for a corporate group of TCS employees.
Bharati & Nirmala had taken up the responsibility of guiding the participants to the registration desk where Vidula, Anuja & Purvita gave them our compiled booklet. Breakfast & herbal tea were relished by all.
An awesome surprise greeted the participants and volunteers.Julius brought a small jar in which a butterfly had emerged from its pupa. It had not yet been exposed to sunlight and was still to gather some strength in its wings. The first flight of a new born butterfly! A rare treat indeed! Thanks Julius!
 In the meanwhile Mavis, Julius, Shekhar, Sameer, Bharat, Narendrabhai & Samprati were busy making ready the Upper tank area for the first session. A special mention of thanks to Ubai who although could not attend the workshop, had prepared Amrit Jal for the soaking of leaves and has always been willing to help out for this activity.

Once all the participants were assembled on the upper tank, they were divided into eight groups each being guided by an Urban Leaves volunteer. Shri Uday Acharya explained a small exercise to them which was: each group was to decide for themselves a common name from amongst Mammals, Birds, Insects, Reptiles, Trees, Fishes and Flowers. Each member of the group had to then select a creature from the decided group and identify himself/ herself with the same. This was to be presented to all in the form of words, songs or poems.

Shekhar with his group.
And we had all sorts of creative presentations – a song for the Mammal group headed by Shekhar to identifying one’s mood swings with the seasonality of Mango fruits. This exercise brought about a good bonding amongst group members and the volunteers who were in charge of the group.

After a brief introduction of the activities of Urban Leaves by Shri Uday Acharya, Preeti started explaining the fundamentals of Natueco science agriculture, city farming and its importance in our daily life – as a source of fresh home grown produce, assurance of being organic as also being a refreshing activity involving community bonding. The demonstration of available cultivable land with the help of an Apple was an eye opener for everyone to know how little amount of cultivable land is actually available for feeding the entire worlds population. Everyone was also amazed to see the capsicum and cauliflower that Preeti had grown at home and brought them to show the participants.

Next, Purvita & Samprati explained the process of how to prepare Amrit Jal. They also explained the significance of each constituent of Amrit Jal which helped the participants better understand the importance of microbes and their role in the decay of nature’s biomass.

Purvita and Samprati giving demo of Amrut Jal
Preeti then demonstrated the process of preparing Amrit mitti in beds that had already been kept ready. Thereafter, she explained the process of greening the beds, the choice of seeds for greening and finally the harvest of Amrit mitti to be used for growing one’s own vegetables. In the end, she demonstrated how to sow saplings in the Amrit mitti. The importance and use of Amrit Jal at all the stages was now clear to the participants.

The initial aversion of the participants to the smell and texture of cow dung and cow urine was soon taken over by enthusiasm of preparing their own beds of Amrit mitti, as each participant was putting his hands in the drums to pick leaves pre soaked in Amrit Jal. As the participants experienced the activity, more and more of their doubts seemed to be dispelled. The beds once prepared, Preeti also explained the importance of mulching – which is very essential to any soil in the Natueco farming way.

A few participants replicated the Amrit mitti process in plastic tubs which they wanted to carry back with them for observation on a daily basis.

After the tiring activity, all proceeded to the main building for lunch to be followed by the Audio Visual session. Delicious pulao, tomato saar and ukadiche modaks were welcomed by the participants – many of whom were observing a fast on account of Sankashti.

In the next session, Preeti went through a revision of the entire Natueco farming principles, the making of Amrit Jal & Amrit Mitti and the importance of mulching. Here, she also explained the process of using kitchen waste for composting and adding more nutritent value to the soil. She then showed then a small documentary (prepared by Vidula) of the terrace farm at Mumbai Port Trust’s central catering office. Subsequently, the documentary titled ‘Homegrown Revolution’ made by the Dervaes family was also screened.

The programme concluded with a brief question and answer session after which Mavis showed all the participants her ‘surprise’ – potatoes that she had managed to cultivate on her small terrace garden. The participants were encouraged to read books such as the ‘One Straw Revolution’ and ‘Plenty for All’ to better understand the principles of natural farming and a healthy lifestyle. These books, along with packets of vegetable seeds were made available to the participants.

Group photo with TCS participants and Urban Leaves Volunteers
The workshop concluded with a group photograph and with a hope that many more people will be growing their own food the Natueco way, with a hope that this method will be carried far and wide to benefit all, with a hope that we will have many more volunteers to look after activities in their respective localities.  This gave a satisfaction that Urban leaves had indeed touched the lives of a few Urban dwellers with a positive chord. It also invigorated us to reach out to more and more people with such workshops.

Written by Samprati Gada
Urban Leaves