A collective of women brings the forest to the city

We Grow Forest, an initiative by a group of women, is working to regreen cities and encourage an appreciation of Nature

Seven months ago, as people began finding solace in Nature during the pandemic, four women from Thiruvananthapuram decided to bring the forest into the city.

“The forest is a passion, an addiction” says Merin Jacob. Merin, Aparna Anand, Sreelakshmi GS and Meera Asmi started the We Grow Forest Foundation, an outfit that conducts tree plantation drives, Nature study tours and spreads awareness among corporates.

The ‘We Grow Forest’ team 

Meera, with 19 years of experience in leadership positions of private and Government organisations, took the lead and brought the women together. “Our main aim is to green urban areas and we plan to do so by organising related activities,” says managing trustee Aparna.

The 15-all-women-outfit comprises residents of Thiruvananthapuram or thereabouts, two members from Chennai and one from Mumbai. The outstation members will conduct the activities of the foundation in their respective cities.

“We are in talks with private landowners with small holdings, of three to 10 cents [a tenth of an acre], in the city, to allow us to raise a forest on their land. Many are open to the idea,” adds Aparna. Calling them ‘urban recharging zones’, Sreelakshmi explains that “these will be spaces where people can come and rejuvenate themselves. It is part of our urban forestry initiative.”

They recently held a small tree planting drive at Kanjirampara where they planted fruit-bearing saplings of mango.

The ‘We Grow Forest’ team at a planting drive  

“There are so many roads in cities without a single shade tree. When we see birds building nests on traffic signals, we realise the desperate need for trees in urban areas,” says Aparna adding that the Forest Department and people’s responses have been encouraging to their venture.

Women In Woods, featuring a trip to Ponmudi, a hill station with a lush tropical forest, 50 kilometres from Thiruvananthapuram, was recently held. “It was like a study tour with a forest guide. We learned about the habitat and saw bare deforested areas too,” says Aparna.

Merin who works as community development officer for the organisation recalls the days when she would walk with her father in the forest to collect gooseberries and watch peacocks. “The forest sustained us and we cared for it,” she says. In her new role, she organises Women In Woods’ events managing interaction between forest communities they visit and the urban women who wish to explore the forest.

An e- magazine, related to their work, was launched on International Women’s Day (March 8). It will feature conservationists, tree huggers, seed planting drives and such. Greening of buildings and office interiors by introducing ‘plant walls’ that will make the surroundings “more breathable” and holding public seed ball events are some of their other planned activities.

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