IIT-IIM Alumnus Quits US Job, Helps Grow 6000+ Acres Of ‘Food Forests’ In Native Madhya Pradesh

Follow Us On

A changing climate and thus an aggravating agrarian crisis is putting India’s ever-growing population at grave risk. While droughts and crop failure continue to plague the agro-rich zones of India, most farmers struggle to find a viable alternative. Added to that, the excessive use of chemicals in agriculture to meet up to the bulk demands is actually taking a serious toll on the health of the consumers, aside from polluting the environment. However, in Madhya Pradesh, IIT-IIM alumnus Sandeep Saxena seems to have found an ancient solution to thwart an impending food crisis. His organisation Aranyaani is raising ‘food forests’ in 2500 acres of fallow lands in the central state. Aranyaani is also assisting farmers to manage such food forests on their own landholdings, amounting to another 4000 acres approximately.

What is a food forest?

A food forest is typically a very dense vegetation, created using all-natural resources but not exploiting the resources. Talking to Efforts For Good, founder-innovator Sandeep Saxena informs, “We are basically structuring a proper forest, but a sizeable part of it can come in use for human consumption, but only up to a certain limit that does not affect the ecological balance.”

So how are these food forests created?

Imagine a large area being selected for handcrafting a thick forest. At the centre, evergreen trees like Peepal, banyan etc. are planted. This, according to experts, enhance diversity and thereby increase natural production. Radially surrounding the central zone, fruit-bearing trees are planted, and the open spaces are filled with smaller plants like lemon and cranberry, which do not grow much tall. The outer circumference is sown with lentils and legumes while plain grass dominates the forest ground. Vegetable bushes and shrubs grow interspersed between the fruit-bearing trees.

As evident from the afforestation pattern, biodiversity is strictly maintained in growing food forests.

Support the cause you care for. Browse All CampaignsBrowse all campaigns
Work in progress

Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

1,36,505 Raised
Out of 3,85,000

Share

Instead of tilling the soil, seed balls are used so that the nitrogen cycle of the soil is not disrupted. Regeneration of seeds on their own is one of the main attributes of Aranyaani food forests.

No mechanical or chemical intervention

“A forest grows naturally without any human intervention, abundant with all its resources. So, for our food forests too, we had to ensure that human intervention is limited. So, we stepped away from all machinery and equipment, as well as any chemical or artificial additives in the soil: no hybrid seeds, no synthetic fertiliser. Everything grows as per the natural forest ecosystem,” he shares.

Food Forest Aranyaani
Aranyaani nurseries

The produce of these food forests finds a sufficient number of consumers in the local as well as the adjoining urban markets. Presently, much of their fresh, organic fruits and vegetables are also exported pan-India.

How Aranyaani happened

A chemical engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur, IIM Lucknow alumnus Sandeep Saxena has had an illustrious career in the corporate world, holding prestigious positions in USA-based firms. “At such a time, when I visited India, I discovered that cultivators in my native are harming the nature profusely in search of better yield. I saw how unplanned chemical farming has caused the perennial rivers in Madhya Pradesh to dry up. I was deeply stirred. I had an inner urge to find a solution to this since agriculture has always been the mainstay of the Indian economy,” narrates Sandeep, who soon decided to quit his job and move back to his motherland.

In 2007, for around a year, Sandeep did extensive ground research about the problems plaguing agriculture in India. He realised that the natural green resource of India is still the unexploited champion of sustaining the ecological balance. “So, it is necessary to preserve and propagate this resource at all costs,” realised Sandeep.

Initially, in only ten acres of land, Sandeep decided to try out his innovative concept of growing a man-made forest, as followed in many developed countries. “At first, we resorted to advanced machinery for quicker execution of basic tasks like tilling and levelling the soil. However, a failed production that year exposed the fallacy in my methods,” admits Sandeep.

Local farming experts and veterans joined hands with Sandeep to support his initiative with their knowledge and experience. Almost all of them advised him to refrain from mechanisation as much as possible. And the result was overwhelming.

Food forests all over India

“At the start, I had little idea that the food forest programme would be so successful. Soon, my friends from IIT, my family and local people volunteered to expand the project in other areas. At present, farmers are approaching us to guide them for growing food forests in their small plots and sell the fully organic produce in the market,” informs Sandeep.

Not only have the income levels of these rural farmers multiplied, but also they are now more environmentally aware than ever before. Sandeep Saxena and his environmental crusaders envision to popularise the concept of food forests throughout India, wherein lies the solution to a lot of India’s problems.

Love this story? Want to share a positive story?
Write to us: [email protected]
Connect with us on Facebook and Instagram

Let us know your thoughts on this story

Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

Follow Us On

Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

Posted by The Logical Indian on Saturday, October 27, 2018

Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

Support the cause you care for. Browse All CampaignsBrowse all campaigns
Work in progress

Empower Poor Women To Rise Out Of Poverty

1,36,505 Raised
Out of 3,85,000

Share

Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

Let us know your thoughts on this story

Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
Next Click right arrow to read the next story Previous