BENGALURU: I didn’t want to buy a piece of land and then sit on it for 20 years. I joined Beforest to ensure a sustainable second home for my children,” said Rajvel Manoharan, member of the Coorg collective of Beforest. Many like Rajvel want to live in a home nestled in the arms of nature but only a few are willing to take the effort to maintain it. Sameer Shisodia and Sunit Reddy nipped the problem in the bud by introducing Beforest in 2017, which is an initiative to create sustainable living within a self-sufficient ecosystem.
“We are looking for people who are not only ready to invest in land but are also ready to buy into the idea of rejuvenating it first. The idea is to revive a self-sustaining forest ecosystem and then create pockets for agriculture in between,” Sameer said. The initiative is currently working with three functioning collectives, two in Karnataka and one in Telangana, while two more are in the pipeline.
Sameer initiated the first project called Tamarind Valley, in Bengaluru, with a group of 15 people in 2017. “Most of the farms we work on advocate forests or a good ecosystem,” said Praveen Ram, general manager, Farm Ops. “There is a lot of land that does not come under forest cover in government records, but has thriving forests growing there. We pick land where traces of a healthy ecosystem still remain, and improve them,” he explained.”
At the Tamarind Valley initiative, maximum effort is being put into reviving the ecosystem. “Because the land was dry, we borrowed functioning ecosystems from neighbouring farms. Our priority is to first set up a self-sustaining forest ecosystem over 75 per cent of the land,” said Sunit.
While their projects in Tamarind Valley and Hyderabad involve rejuvenating the ecosystem, their project in Poomalee, Coorg, is a whole new story. “With a rainforest cover and coffee plantation that pans across the 130-acre farm, we are still learning about what resources we can gather,” said Sunit.
The 30 to 40 members part of the Coorg project participate in maintaining the ecology at their farm. Many members meet regularly on the fifth of every month while the rest share inputs on their WhatsApp group. But the biggest challenge they face, according to Praveen, is the illegal extraction of resources from forest ecosystems, which makes the land dry and loose fertility.
“Hyderabad is our latest project. Due to the water scarcity, we are able to retain little of what the land had to offer. We started from scratch by first setting up a mono-culture, once that is grown we will convert it into a natural food farming ecosystem by introducing it to the land,” said Sameer.
They hired a ground team to carry out the day-to-day steps to care for the land. The ground team is in-charge of implementing all revival plans designed by the members. Beforest is looking forward to beginning work in the Krishnagiri district. They are also working on converting a mono-culture into a natural forest ecosystem at Alphonso By The Lake, another project set up in Bengaluru.
“We charge an initial payment of Rs 45 lakh for a 2-3-acre property with a house on it,” said Sunit. Both founders insist that the members renovate the houses on their land, since this ensures minimal intervention.
At a time when everyone is looking for speed in their lives, many may stop to smell the flowers but even fewer make sure that the flowers are still there.