This lawyer-turned nature lover is not only promoting sustainable farming, but is also improving the lives of farmers
Aparna Rajagopal, a native of Chennai and a resident of Noida, Uttar Pradesh, graduated from the prestigious National Law School in Bengaluru.
However, today, she is not a lawyer but a self-taught farmer and a nature lover. She says, she founded Beejom, an animal sanctuary and a sustainable agricultural farm, in 2014, accidentally.
Aparna Rajagopal, source Facebook
Speaking about her journey from being a lawyer to a nature lover, she says it all started when she went to Noida to find a land to board a horse. Speaking about this, she told Efforts For Good:
After leasing too much land, I found myself on a charpoy under a Jamun tree with Masanobu Fukuoka’s One Straw Revolution in 2014. When I finished, I looked up at the land I had leased and saw it in a different light altogether. I fell in love with the soil. The last four-and-a-half-years on this land has been about me and the soil.
Hence, Beejom was born on the floodplains of Yamuna in UP the same year.
From a barren land to a fertile bed for farming
Initially, the land was dry and unsuitable for farming. Some local tenant farmers used to grow some crops, but they were a victim of depleted soil and erratic yield.
So how did Aparna convert the dry land to what it is today? Well, she says, the key to this success was dung. The dung collected from almost 106 cattle, and an equal number of bulls, horses, two pigs, a herd of goats, and a few geese and roosters, was used to make fertilisers for the farm. Aparna says, she took the help of Google to learn about fertiliser making using animal dung, and she made pesticides using neem plants and mixing it with cow urine.
Animal cattle farm at Beejom, source Efforts For Good
Today, the farm has crops such as wheat and toovar daal and vegetables like Swiss Chard, kale, and niche south Indian plants like maanga inji (mango-ginger), reports DNA.
Speaking about organic farming, Aparna said,
We grow food using traditional systems of intercropping, multi-cropping, companion planting and crop rotation. We mulch, compost, and use nitrogen-fixing techniques too, reports Efforts For Good.
Aparna’s land is also home to earthworms, butterflies, and, bees and has nine breeds of cows along with other farm animals.
source Efforts For Good
Talking to Efforts For Good, Aparna said,
We use natural farming techniques and primarily permaculture to grow food. All the animal products at the farm are used to manufacture organic fertilisers and used as pest repellents in the field.
Further, the farm uses solar power and biogas, and uses rainwater harvesting techniques and practices vermiculture.
Going beyond sustainable farming
Speaking on empowering farmers, Aparna said,
It is not enough to tell farmers to grow clean food, but they need basic facilities. Education, healthcare, sanitation, and other conveniences must be made available to them so that they can concentrate on growing food.
Having said that, Aparna has also started a school for farmer’s children called ‘Beejom Shiksha’, and has started a free weekly medical clinic for the farming community called ‘Beejom Arogya’.
The benches in the school are made from farm waste, source Efforts For Good
The benches in the school are made from farm waste, said Efforts For Good. Apart from this, a special training session is conducted for women from the farming community for skill development.
According to Aparna, women are taught basic skills like tailoring and sustainable alternatives like making newspapers bags to name a few. In addition, they are also trained in natural farming under the project ‘Beejom Samudaay’.
Through her love for nature, Aparna is not only contributing to the environment but is also empowering the farming community through her project, and is being an inspiration to many.