The first lockdown in 2020 compelled me to stay back at school. However, while a global crisis shut the world down, I kept myself and my mind occupied. While the pandemic was exacerbating longstanding challenges of food security, I tried, in my small way to mitigate some of these challenges and reinforce the development of local food production via community gardens.
Thus, was born the idea of Planting Hopes, to establish a more robust and dependable food system. At Planting Hopes, we believe, access to fresh and nutritious foods at affordable prices is every human’s elementary right.
The second most populous country in the world, India has experienced stable economic growth and has attained autonomy in grain production. Yet, with virtually 195 million undernourished people, India shares a quarter of the global hunger burden.
I started small with harvesting vegetables that were easily accessible in the kitchen and for which I did not have to purchase seeds. The first sprouts skyrocketed my joy and so did my aspirations. I realized that to alleviate food security challenges in society and to bring about change, I had to structure my work better and move beyond the confines of the small garden space, I was presently cultivating.
Before long, my once small community garden of growing easily available kitchen vegetables grew into a large community garden that was not only addressing the effects of the pandemic, serving as a space that provided access to fresh foods but was also serving as a source of social support and emotional well-being for people around me.
For me and my team, my community gardens were way beyond mere growing fresh and healthy food and improving food access. They were a powerful means to bring about community or neighborhood-level social change.
When people work together towards a common goal to build something new, magic can happen. It’s as simple as that!
- We found new friends. In the urban milieu, our lives are entwined in, our neighbors are often strangers. Our community gardens drew members who live nearby and allowed them to meet, work beside each other and even forge friendships traversing often across generational and social divides.
- We learned. Contributing to or just stopping by a community garden provides several prospects to learn. I ended up asking a ton of questions to myself and the people who were helping us. This is also where I discovered the idea of conducting workshops to impart the knowledge I had gained.
- I became an inquisitive child. I explored every facet of the gardening process and learned from each step. The community gardens provided a space for children and adults alike to explore nature in the middle of urban areas. From beautiful butterflies to chirping birds, from slithering lizards to a variety of colors and smells, there was a vibrant ecosystem in action.
- My gardens instilled in me teamwork. We worked effectively as a team and overcame a plethora of challenges. The experiences were truly rewarding. I gained life skills such as discipline, collaboration, decision-making, and conflict resolution.
- The gardens made us leaders. Underprivileged people who worked with me took on leadership roles. In our society where power is not distributed equally, my community gardens had the opportunity to place a high value on equity and inclusion, something that I am sure will later reflect on our social wellbeing.
- Carrying on food cultures. Food is a powerful component of convention. Community gardens provide the occasion to produce, eat, distribute, and rejoice in one’s traditional foods, even far away from one’s hometown. This ability is empowering.
Whether you are living in an urban landscape or elsewhere, community gardening is an excellent opportunity to connect with nature, your neighborhood, and yourself. Community gardens are more than just great places to cultivate fruits and vegetables. They serve as spaces to cultivate social support and emotional well-being. Join us as we strengthen and nurture a space for collective action.