‘My Green Home’ Heros
By Anju Chhatwani
GreenFootprint.ae is turning 1 on June 5, World Environment Day. We organised a couple of initiatives to celebrate nature and biodiversity, such as planting trees and educating kids about waste reduction and recycling. As we also believe in community sharing, which is one of the key pillars of this platform, we are featuring “My Green Home Heros” that make the UAE greener place and spread love for nature.
GFT: Can you tell us about your passion?
I have been passionate about gardening since I was a child. I used to watch my parents grow fruits and vegetables at home back in India. I am from Udaipur, Rajasthan. I moved to Dubai in 2008. I had never lived in an apartment, always used to have a big green space at both my homes in Udaipur and Ajmer where I got married. My first apartment here was without a balcony. I could not live without a green touch to my place and went and got some bougainvillea in pink, white and yellow colour (I still have them until today). I did not want to take a risk so I just started with them as I knew they are the most hardy fellows and can stay with minimum care in the heat of UAE. When I saw them flourish in my small window space I was encouraged to get a few indoor plants like pothos.
When we were moving our house in 2013 I wanted a small balcony. Here my collection grew ten times and I had a mini forest in my little balcony where we had visitors like the bees, wasps, moths and bulbuls, pigeons, doves and sparrows would come and chit chat and use it as their maternity home bringing joy and cheer everytime a new little one was born until it left its home.
GFT: Did COVID-19 help people to connect with nature?
In 2020 we got a chance of moving into a bigger apartment in the same building in OUD METHA. We moved in January 2020 and the pandemic hit in March 2020.
My green space, my little garden in the balcony, was an inspiration during the lock-down and made me look forward to every new day with hope. I would do experiments with growing vegetables like tomatoes, bitter gourd, green garlic, ladyfinger, beans, papaya trees, jamun (indian berry), thai tamarind (jungle jalebee as some of them might know it as), pomegranate, capsicum, green chillies etc.
The time went by slowly but my passion for gardening took up speed and my visits to Warsaan to get the sand, soil, manure etc. While I was going through some facebook pages and groups of gardening in the UAE I got to understand that people had so many queries as the pandemic and work from home had brought so many of them to begin getting plants in their houses.
GFT: “Connect with nature” goes along “connect with people” principle. You discover your second passion- Teaching?
That is how the idea of sharing my knowledge with all came to my mind. As everything was online I started with my online sessions on gardening. I created a whatsapp group by the same name and was happy to have 100 participants already in that group. Our First session was on 26th of December. The topic was BABY STEPS TO MY GARDEN. We have covered many topics like making compost, how to fertilize the plants, how to plant vegetables etc. The whole idea here is to share my knowledge and experience with the people who want to start with gardening in their small space.
What I realized during these sessions is that people need someone to answer their daily queries, they have many answers available on google but they need a real check of the same. The second important thing was feeling discouraged after losing a plant or when your attempt to grow something fails, I would always motivate them to restart without any doubt and continue till they succeed. I am Glad that I could help so many and am still helping them through online ways to create their own happy green space.
I have been conducting sessions for gardening and recycling at schools and for the Second Scouts Group of Dubai as I am a voluntary leader in the same. This is my way of giving back to this land which is now my home away from home.
All this is possible with the help of my sister who takes up the technical part of making it go live on FB and then my children who help me create the flyers and of course the guidance from my father comes in handy still with all cooperation and support of my husband too. I am thankful to a few people like Bishnoi, Ms. Indrani and Ms Selin who also have joined me in my journey to spread awareness and share their knowledge.