Open for volunteers in 2019
Does "pioneering" an off-grid settlement and growing a forest interest you?
Namaste! A dream and design exists and now I need your help to get things rolling in making it a reality. This is a 6 acre (3 hectare) property privately owned by a couple going into retirement. Their dream is in establishing a space for low impact lifestyles, learning, experimenting and co-creating abundance.
We will be pioneering the first phases of a master Permaculture design starting with nothing but a blank canvas. The property is blessed with a dozen or so native trees that volunteered themself over the last decade and a few large mounds that are the remnants of a small settlement from maybe a 100 years ago. At present there is no electricity, water or shelter on the property and this is part of the excitement in pioneering a site!
The approach here is not to dominate the landscape or impose our ego on nature. Instead we will work with nature and honour the divine spirit. We will build humbly, plant trees, grow flowers and clothe mother earth with dignity that she deserves.
The region (Thalli) was fondly named "LITTLE ENGLAND" by British colonists, due to its pleasant climate and landscape reminding the settlers of the countryside back home. During the colonial era, this was still a heavily forested area that served as an important wildlife corridor between the vast jungles of South India. Google "The man eater of jowlagiri, kenneth anderson" to read about an Englishman who was called in to hunt a man eating Tigress in this forest. Nearly 70 years later the region is entirely deforested and heavily degraded due to modern monoculture/agriculture. Nearly a decade of draught has further worsened the condition of farmers and most inhabitants have abandoned the villages and moved to other close-by towns.
The collective goal is land regeneration and reforestation as a result of which nature will do its magic and begin to provide an abundance for humans and animals alike. The site will showcase how agroforestry and permaculture techniques can provide for all human needs and a sufficient income for communities (significantly better than current income that farmers in the region earn). Farmer suicides are now a norm in India as they are stuck in vicious cycles of poverty and debt. A key aspect is to demonstrate that life can be sustained without a negative impact to the environment. Income can be earned while simultaneously recharging aquifers (water table), increasing carbon sequestration, rainfall patterns and native flora and fauna without destructive chemicals in the systems. As a reminder, 1 out of 4 farmers in the world are from India and it is critical to create alternative support systems for these groups by providing living examples of abundance as opposed to NGO aid work and subsidies.
The site will be a volunteer driven community initially, facilities like a dorm, classroom etc will progressively be built with natural materials in coming years.
The rough timeline :
- Survey, Water harvesting earthworks (Swales, Ponds, Percolation tanks, Access etc)
- Continue refining earth works and water harvesting systems, establish a nursery, building outdoor compost toilets, start planning structures, ideally from natural material. Be prepared with 1000s of seedbombs and saplings for planting as and when there have been enough rains for a few weeks.
- Experiment with small natural building structures. Some planting, composting, rock gardens, ponds etc. Continue with water harvesting work, prepare for sowing local millets and crops
- Refining existing systems and also last crops before the dry season
The evolution of this site will serve as a "living classroom" for whomsoever will benefit from it.
Update 24/05/2018 : I have an idea of setting up a vegetable garden/food forest at a nearby primary village school as a side project from our main tasks. This could be an interesting way to engage the children and also give back to the community.
Cooking / shopping
Help with Eco project
Help in the house
The area is dotted with forgotten old traditional temples, schools, village communes and most of these area's have never seen foreigners before. There is a tiny hamlet about 10 mins away and a larger town about 30 mins away.
The interaction with locals would be a very enriching experience especially with the children and youth who are extremely smart. There is a much better chance of locals taking interest in our activities when they see that city folk are volunteering time out of their lives to come and work in difficult rural environments.
Our immediate need is in garden and building work. No specific prior experience necessary as long as you are able bodied and can sustain a couple of hours of outdoor work everyday you will be able to contribute and also learn along the way as we build from scratch!
People that would be of great value in these initial few months would be those with experience in :
*️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️building garden beds
*️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️arid land, desert land environments / water harvesting
*️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️surveying, architecture, engineering
*️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️️artists (music, painting, yoga...whatever your craft is!)
So far I have camped few days at a time. We have not yet secured the accommodation. Presently accomodation will be off-site. We are shortlisting renting a house for 3 months which will be a short walk/cycle ride from the project.
Update 20/10/2018 : We have faced some delays with respect to the offsite accomodation and facilities. Will hopefully resume with volunteers late June or July
A more solid on-site structure will start to materialize in early 2019.
Depending on how things go and if you are a sleeping under the stars kind of person then a tent and makeshift campsite is very much possible. I plan on rigging a basic low watt solar setup for charging of necessities, toilets will be outdoor, dry compost toilets. If we have enough hands we can even built a makeshift treehouse and use a tarp for protection!
In a 100km radius of this site you have wildlife forests, waterfalls (Hognekkal). Tiruvannamalai (Arunachala mountain and Ramana Maharishi ashram is 150 km away).
70km away is the major metropolis of Bangalore, that is very cosmopolitan (Coffee shops, cafes, art, night clubs, colleges, theatre, lots of expat workers and an international airport connected globally).
As this is not yet a working farm, there will be periods of free time where we can plan a few days away to close by sites of interest. If you have a craft/art or hobby there will be plenty of time to indulge in it during the off time.
Oh yes there's the odd herd of Elephants that swing past this area very ocassionally....and loads of birds and other natural beauty that one can appreciate if we slow down to the beat of nature:)
In terms of luxuries and entertainment, there is not a lot close by in the form of shopping or western type products. However we will aim to do visits to the city every fortnight for supplies and any creature comforts should be available if you feel the need!
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
More than two
Maximum 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week