IIT Alumnus Leaves Job to Grow Over 400 Acres of Community Forest With 160 Farmers
An entrepreneur from Hyderabad desired to leave the city settlement to live a more “sustainable way of life.”
He claims that ever-increasing overpopulation in city centers and a busy lifestyle characterized by long commuting times and poor food make city living unviable. “Like many others, I became dissatisfied with the stressful city life and resolved to give it up and relocate to a remote location where I could engage in farming to reconnect with nature,” he tells The Higher India.
In the 2015-16 season, he attempted natural farming on a tiny plot of land near Bengaluru.
“I learned about the financial difficulties of small-scale farming. In addition, I spoke with individual farmers. Many people have bought farms and turned into weekend farmers. Only a few managed to make it work, but many struggled since the organic farming failed to sustain them after a few years or their excitement waned. “Recurring bills, staff management, and infrastructure investment all became financially taxing and faced various challenges,” he explains.
He claims that talking to many people helped him determine that full-time farmers who put their whole heart and soul into the project fared better than their weekend counterparts. “However, not many folks can afford to purchase a significant block of land,” he says, adding that “the success rate of farmers who practised farming on a greater geographic region was higher.” With the help of a small group of farmers, this may become a possibility.”
So in 2017, He made a life-altering decision. He quit his job to pursue a lucrative group forest challenge for those who have similar beliefs
Constructing a Sustainable Group
According to the IIT-Madras alumni, his friend and five others were the first members. They began by locating 10 acres of desolate land near Hyderabad, where they would start their challenge.
“The goal was to bring the land back to life, and farming was not the primary focus. The group worked on little areas and saw results. You went into farming because of the early triumphs. Finally, more people joined, and our numbers swelled within a year,” he recalls, adding that the campaign was dubbed ‘Be Forest.’
The concept grew into a business that allows others to do the same. “There are a lot of people who want to make a difference in the world, and the startup helps them by allowing them to construct a space in a self-sustaining forest. The houses are outfitted with modern amenities manufactured from locally available materials and a diverse range of plants, crops, and timber,” he explains.
He claims that the group forests, which were created by a group of landowners, “evolve in rhythm with nature without harming natural wildlife habitats, routes, or affecting the livelihoods of native communities.”
“The collectives are built using permaculture principles — a pure design methodology that makes optimal use of assets available on the website that complement one another,” he explains.
He claims that, unlike other jobs, the land here is collectively owned. Every individual has equal access to all aspects of the assets, including water bodies, hills, waterfalls, fields, woods, and various zones. “The group members define a course for how each collective is administered and receive a fair share of the cash earned from farming and related activities at each collective,” he explains.
He claims that Be Forest allows for the setup and facilitation of the process during the early years for a price comparable to a small home in the city in exchange for a piece of the money shared over a specified period.
The collectives, he maintains, are autonomous. “In addition, they reduce their carbon impact by emphasising the use of locally sourced materials for housing. The daily way of life is influenced by traditional settlements, which revolve around a drinking water source,” he explains.
“When it comes to clean air, water, low sound air pollution, and healthful, naturally-grown foods, the Return On Investment (ROI) is measured. The opposite returns calculated include the group’s overall values, and knowledge of the location, land, and farming practices,” he explains.
A Holistic Framework
About 160 people are involved in the initiative, part of a 400-acre group forest in Poomale, Coorg, and Hyderabad. “There are two further collectives planned between Mumbai and Chikmagalur that will increase the land area to 1,000 acres,” he says. Espresso, moringa, millets, bananas, and multi-crop food are among the crops grown by the organization.
According to a member of the Poomale, he learned about the collective through friends. “A number of my friends were members of the Hyderabad collective, and the concept piqued my interest. My wife and I have always been enthralled by sustainability and the collective commitment to the same values. The best aspect of the concept is that the group isn’t chasing any financial gains, and the ideals of sustainability are unavoidable,” he explains.
He (a poomale member) suggests that the members collaboratively consider and plan to protect and preserve nature.
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He claims that the first hurdles in any collective are convincing members of the concept. “A widespread misconception among buyers is that they are purchasing a farm plot, which is not the case; it is also not a real estate investment. It takes some time to explain how the new concept works unless they observe the difference through experience
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