A muddy pathway behind the Aarupadai Veedu Institute of Technology (AVIT), Chennai, leads to a green patch of land, that has now been cleaned and cleared of garbage dumped in it, and the wild bushes pruned. The space now boasts of a ‘fruit forest’ being set up by RAC AVIT, RID 3232. “We had the whole campus abuzz when we walked in with forks, shovels, and spades,” quips club president B S Kavin Harshith, adding that “many non-Rotaractors helped us in the cleanup and digging pits to plant 100 fruit saplings.”
This year the club wanted to start a sustainable project and “with the help of our partners — RC Chennai Spotlight and Delfingen Foundation, Chennai, we could make this happen,” he says.
A fruit or food forest is “a powerful way to grow food by mimicking the structure of a forest. It is like the Miyawaki forest, except that it can help you work with nature to grow more food with fewer resources.”
Deeksha, the project chair, came across the term ‘food forest’ when her team was researching ideas. “Keeping in mind the space we had and our desire to do a sustainable project, this sounded like a good idea. Everybody in the club was excited when we spoke about growing and harvesting local fruits like papaya and guava with our own hands,” she says and adds “this was also an opportunity to start a project that will bring our future club members together while improving the environment.”
Saplings of guava, cucumber, gooseberry, custard apple, papaya, mango and pomegranate were planted on the campus. “If you want to see a young forest in its splendid bloom, do visit our college,” says Harshith. As for the harvest, “we won’t be around to see the trees bear fruits. It will be left to the club members and college administration to decide what they want to do with the produce.”
Last year the club visited Arungundram, a village near Mahabalipuram, to celebrate Independence Day. “A teacher informed us that the village school had no library and it will be very helpful if our club could set up one,” says club secretary M K Manobala. Club members have started collecting newspapers from neighbours and friends to sell them and raise funds to start a “small and meaningful library at the village school.”
Recently thirteen club members organised a flash mob at a mall in the city for cancer awareness. They also highlighted the danger of tobacco use as one of the major causes of the disease.