Manoj Kumar IB, who believes fruits are not just for humans, is on a mission to create dense fruit forests for animals, birds and humans to feast on.
In an everyday ritual, a robin flies into Manoj Kumar’s kitchen and fearlessly beaks pieces of diced coconut. This bird and many other creatures are residents of Manoj’s fruit forest. This one-acre land where his home stands, has hundreds of fruit-bearing trees, green vegetables and medicinal plants. Jack fruit, varieties of mango, jamun, amla, guava, pomegranate, fig, lemon–name it, and he has these indigenous varieties growing here.
An engineer by profession, a naturalist at heart, Manoj leads the life of an eco-saint in his lush green forest home in Edavanakkad, near Cochin, Kerala.
It was nearly twenty years ago that Manoj started the work of converting his backyard into cultivable land.
His greatest challenge was to protect the land from human interference. While Manoj wanted to let the field be and allow it to grow and flourish in its natural way, his father insisted on clearing up the ‘mess’. Can’t blame the father; who grows a forest in their backyard with crawling insects, birds and worms! “But that’s the way nature is and should be. Food is meant not just for humans, but all living creatures,” insists Manoj.
He fought fierce battles and finally succeeded in convincing his father and the rest of the family. All that Manoj had to do then was to let the trees grow on their own and not disturb the natural rhythm. He refused to interfere with the land by using any fertilisers or pesticides or even pruning and weeding.
The only bit of work that Manoj did was mulching and random sowing of seeds. Today, this land is ‘fruitful’ in its literal sense.
The food that Manoj eats, mostly raw fruits and vegetables, grow in this land. There is no harmful waste generated in his house. All vegetable and fruit waste go back to the soil. The produce is so abundant that even after feeding multitudes of creatures, the family gets to give away quite a bit of the produce to friends, neighbours and relatives.
There are two wells and a natural stream that flows through the land.
Living close to nature, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, Manoj reaps the benefits of a healthy life. He has not taken a single allopathic medicine in the last 20 years.
The tree fanatic that he is, Manoj is on a mission to create as many fruit forests as he can, wherever possible. He is an obsessive seed collector, growing them into saplings in his backyard. On any given day, Manoj will have at least 100 hundred tree saplings growing in his house. The best part is that Manoj has been giving them away for free!
Manoj is thoughtful about growing these saplings in cotton bags instead of the usual practice of using plastic bags.
He feels that using plastic creates so much non-biodegradable waste that it almost defeats the purpose of planting trees.
Manoj is now taking his concept of ‘fruit forests’ to schools and colleges. “I want to create these mini forests for children. We can create forests in small patches of unused land by allowing nature to do its job. With minimum interference and principles of ‘do-nothing-farming’, we can create forests wherever we want to,” says Manoj.
You can write to Manoj at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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(Edited by Shruti Singhal)