A love for nature

Author: Paul Van Mele

When you ask 5-year-old kids what they want to be when they grow up, many respond veterinarian, pilot, football player, ballerina, or firefighter, depending on where in the world you ask the question. Fortunately, some also say they want to become a farmer, as a young father in Bangalore told me his inspiring story on my recent trip to India.

Naresh N.K. works as a senior administration assistant at the University of Trans-Disciplinary Health Sciences and Technology (TDU), a private university with a unique focus that I have never seen anywhere else in the world. TDU uses modern sciences such as ethnobotany, food technology, medical and veterinary sciences to optimally understand and integrate ancient Indian Ayurvedic wisdom into human and animal health practices, products and policies.

Naresh is involved in an Access Agriculture project, in collaboration with TDU, in which we assess the impact of some of our dairy farmer training videos, translated into the local Kannada language, on farmers’ knowledge and practices, and how this helps to promote natural livestock farming and reduce antibiotic residues in milk. When we met Naresh, he spontaneously started to talk about his earlier experiences with video.

“During Covid, buying food at the market became expensive and we didn’t know what chemicals were sprayed on the crop. As I have farmer’s blood running through my veins, even though I moved to the city 20 years ago, I started looking up things on YouTube and began to grow organic food in pots on my terrace. Whenever I needed advice, I also called farmers back home. They always gave me useful tips.”

By filling up buckets with red soil, and mixing it with coconut fibre and home-made vermicompost, Naresh created a healthy, rich soil to grow plants on his terrace. Flicking through his photos on his mobile phone, he shows me one amazing, thriving crop after another: there are tomatoes, green beans, snake gourds, bottle gourds and ridge gourds, sweet potatoes, passion fruit, and even grapes.

“Another reason why I wanted to set up a terrace garden,” Naresh continues, “is that during Covid the schools closed down, so I wanted to do something at home to keep my 4-year-old boy busy, as many kids were just hanging in front of the TV for hours. After we installed the terrace garden, Rishik would often take me by the hand and say: “Come dad, let’s go and water the plants”.”

When I ask Naresh what aspects of the terrace garden his son loves most, without blinking he says: “The birds, bees and other insects that have started to come to our terrace. Rishik observes the birds, collects insects and carefully studies them. It is like a whole new world he is discovering.”

I was really touched by his account. Naresh, a concerned young parent wanting to keep his child busy and feed him healthy, pesticide-free food, was not only able to grow diverse plants in the city, but through his terrace garden also instilled a passion for nature in his child.

Clearly excited about the topic, Naresh continues with twinkling eyes: “This was the first year my son goes to primary school and when the teacher asked the kids what they want to become later in life, my son stood up and surprised all when he answered “make compost and become a farmer”.

Naresh is so pleased with his experience that he will continue to spend quality time with his son planting seeds, watering plants, watching the birds and insects, and harvesting food. “In a few decades, most of us will live in the cities and there will be few farmers, so those who will know how to grow food will be the kings (and queens) of this world,” he concludes.

School gardens can be a fantastic way to teach kids good attitudes towards the environment and eating healthy food. But Naresh reminded us how important the role of parents is. Parents have an enormous impact in creating an environment that allows their kids to thrive and live up to their dreams. Exposing children at a young age to nature, even if it is just a modest terrace garden in the city, can make a great difference in how people grow up to appreciate healthy food and cherish nature.

Related Access Agriculture video

Teaching agroecology in schools

Podcast : Nurturing a love of nature and gardening in kids

All Access Agriculture training videos in Kannada language can be seen here: 

www.accessagriculture.org/search/all/kn

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