A man who grew a forest

Manoj’s work is consistent with his belief that man connects with Mother Earth for survival

Manoj Kumar I.B. always walk barefooted in the forest. He has literally grown one, spread over one-and-a-half acres on which his modest house stands at Edavanakkad not far away from the city.

He says it connects him with Mother Earth, which he firmly believes has a therapeutic effect in building immunity and keeping one healthy. That philosophy is quite consistent with a man who has dedicated himself to the cause of environment.

In the last close to a decade, Mr. Manoj has let everything grow on his land along the lines of a rainforest rooting out only some invasive species of plants, insects and vines that threatened the ever thickening green canopy that almost blocks out sunlight even during a sunny day. Even the trimmed vines and branches are being used for mulching while seeds dropped by birds flocking in lured by the greenery have grown into trees.

“Even softwood trees widely perceived as waste serve a purpose offering shade to grow plants. Minimum intervention is the key to best conservation. Day-long ploughing associated with farming is a misguided notion that only destroys the top soil damaging its fertility,” he said.

Initially, the focus was on food security as fruits and vegetables were grown before it was allowed to grow into a rich biodiversity preserve free of even biofertilisers as global warming and climate change took centre stage.

In a place known for drinking water shortage, the campus has two ponds and a canal connected to the pokkali farm in the neighbourhood that never dries up thanks to the trees. Walk in through the gate and it feels like being in a world far away from the oppressive heat just outside.

As the love for nature fully consumed him, Mr. Manoj, an active votary of free software, shut down his computer service centre in the city and now mostly does data recovery works from his home.

For someone leading a frugal life and with only a cycle to show for a possession, his land gives him more than enough to survive and he is content. His parents who were initially not impressed by his outlook have now accepted his ways.

“Despite being literate, Malayalis still have no clue about the need for biodiversity and preserving wild habitats as they run around for vaccines and immunity boosters. We may have to return the community living of early human species and children should be brought out to the soil away from their computer screens,” says Mr. Manoj who freely distributes saplings and helps to set groves.

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