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World Environment Day 2022 - An inspirational story of R.K. Vijay Vijaian (Khyaal Community Member)
“I have been a garden enthusiast from a very young age as gardening was a wonderful hobby and a great stress-buster. Wherever I went, I used to collect plants from there. At 50, I created a garden on my terrace and kept plants in pots, bottles & bags available at home. I wanted to motivate others regarding gardening and build a platform to exchange flower/vegetable seeds and plants. There were many groups existing already but all were businesses based and used to sell the seeds/plants.
With my mission in mind, post-retirement, in 2019, I began an online community, "Chennai Plants & Seeds Exchange Group" on Facebook. It was a platform to encourage people to plant and have a garden as we all are just surrounded by concrete. The main concept of the group was to exchange plants/seeds or give them for free. Though the name was Chennai Plants and Seeds Exchange Group, many from other states also joined the group. Exchanges have been done all over India, right from Assam, Delhi, Kolkata, Rajasthan, Orissa, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kerala, Kanyakumari, etc… Also, seeds have been sent to other countries like Malaysia and Japan.
The group started functioning more actively during the 2020 lockdown as many people began working from home and developed an interest in gardening. People joined the group and volunteered for the exchange of plants/seeds. We had problems during COVID as all were alive plants, and they were dying because it took longer time to deliver than expected, so we stopped couriering plants. If the houses were nearby, then the members did a self-pickup. Additionally, many people visited my house garden and interacted with me on gardening related topics.
This group was a small initiative for getting the idea of swapping plants and seeds into existence instead of buying flowers and plants from nurseries at a high price. Initially, some members in the group were trying to sell plants/seeds for money which was against the rule as it was strictly prohibited to sell or advertise in the group. Here, members can share gardening tips, have some healthy discussions related to gardening, post garden, plant, or flowers photos, guide the new gardeners, encourage the use of waste plastic materials as planters, and much more. All the postings on the group have been going live after I monitored and approved the content to avoid any kind of non-related posts.
The hurdles that I faced in the group were to identify & remove unethical members from the group as per our guidelines and to ensure members in the group were not carrying out any selling or advertising practices. Many people approached me with business proposals, but my answer always stayed the same as my mission. Currently, the group is nearing 6000 members, and I never want this group to stop its journey of exchanging/swapping seeds, bulbs and plants or giving them free to the newcomers.” - R.K. Vijay Vijaian (Khyaal Community Member)