Today is our fifth day at Navdanya Biodiversity farm in Ramghar village, 30 min outside of Dehradun. As I write this, i look out over the fields of rice and wheat and a bunch of other cool plants in the name of sustainable, organic farming. Here, biodiversity is a means to reach the goal of food that is good for you and for the earth.
Navdanya farm was started by dr. Vandana Shiva, a daughter of farmers, in 1987. Navdayna promots food soverignty, organic farming, biodiversity conservation as well as biodiversity as a goal in it self and farmers rights. We are here to learn, as are 4 other people as of writing this. We are called Bijak’s, Bija meaning seed and Bijak menaing sower of seeds. Apparently, if a farmer plants different crops in the fields and practices organic methods, they wouldn’t need pesticides. Some plants are pest repellent by nature and protect the rice or wheat or corn from pests. Here are some examples:
These signs can be found everywhere on the farm, name signs for all the crops that grow here. They even have a whole forest with only mango trees! There are maybe 15-20 people working here, as farmers, managers, one guy who knows everything, 2 people are coordinators for us Bijaks, some people work in the kitchen and some clean. Our job is to help out with cleaning everyday, and right now they are harvesting crops, so we help out with that, where ever our help is needed.
It’s peaceful here, away from the busy cities and traffic, although don’t mistake peaceful for quiet. There are probably a hundred different birds that “sing” along with crickets, bumble bees, dogs, and humans. Six times a day there are the calls for prayer that ecco thoughout the Dehradun valley. In the distance you can hear the sound of tractors, and the very creative honking of cars, scooters, buses, trucks and tractors on Shimla road. The days are hot, but not too hot, and it gets cold in the night (but not too cold, yet). Here the winter season is starting, which means that temperatures in December will drop radically in the night.
We are six bijaks, as I mentioned earlier. One girl comes from Geneva in Switzerland and is studying Agriculture in Berlin and doing her internship through her University here. She speaks four languages on a daily basis. Her mother is Swedish, so we speak swedish to each other! 😀 She will leave before us though, ’cause she has been here since the 1st of August already! A real veteran here, which is good for us newcomers. This is Magdalena:
Then there’s my roommate, Shannon, from the US. She studied Environmental studies in the US and has been working on a farm in the US and with fermentation in a shop that sells that stuff. She know alot about plants and has her favourite plats tattooed to her arm! She has been travelling in India a little before coming here and will continue onwards to Thailand when she is finished here. She came the day before us and will stay for two months, as long as us! 😀
Shannon and Magdalena knew about Navdanya and Dr. Shivas work before coming here and have a more academic interest in this work, you could say.
Then there is a couple from Germany; Kathrin and Wojtek. They are on a world tour and have been travelling for six months! They have been to Canada and Portugal and some African countries and Dubai before coming to India. They will travel in South East Asia after this. They have no final destination in mind yet, and will go on with the travelling as long as they can. Kathrin’s puropse of this trip is to see projects all over the world that work with sustainability and solutions for living a positive life. She has a blog called Weltblick 2.0 in which she writes about the different projects, makes interviews, she even has her own podcast, both in english and in German. She makes interviews with people she meets in these projects and she has one from here too, so check it out! Wojtek has a Youtube channel called Way of pirate . The most recent videos are in English and he is REALLY good at editing and shooting film. Click on the text and their projects will open in a new tab. Kathrin and Wojtek has only five more days to go here, before leaving. Here is a pic of Kath and Wojtek:
So yeah! These are the people we spend our days with. Its said that there will come more Bijaks, but three were supposed to come thursday but they haven’t showed. Someone said there will be 16 Bijaks in the end of November. Soon me, August and Shannon will be the veterans 😛
Facilities and accomodation
There are three dorms, August is alone in one, me and Shannon shares one and Magdalena has one. All buildings here are made of cowdung and natural building materials. So cool. It will how ever get pretty cold when the temperature drops later this year, and there is no sound isolation either, due to the naturallity of the walls. Here is my room, Augusts looks basically the same:
There are five beds, but so far there are only two of us so we are spreading out a little now haha. In August’s room there is six beds.
On Campus there is a kitchen and a dining hall which are connected, a big gazebo, a house with single rooms (as opposite to dorms, Kath and Wojtek lives in one of these), two indepentent houses for guests, an office, storage, a library, drying room for fruit and vegetables, and on the other side of the road there are more independent houses where staff members lives and other living quarters. There is a lot of houses, all in the coulour red, made from natural building materials. There are like 8 toilets, two of them in Western styles, the others are Indian-style toilets. There are maybe 5 showers, but they does not have a shower head, and there is only cold water in the tap, so we bring a bucket of water made hot by solar power into the shower.
What strikes me is how little water you acctually need to wash your self. The showers at home wastes HUGE ammounts of water. You only need like 3/4 a bucket to clean your body AND hair.
The farm is located maybe 5 min walking on a dirt path from Shilma Road. We love it here.
Schedual and food
First of all, like 90 percent of what we eat here is grown on the farm. From rice to bananas to chickpeas to herbs of different kinds.
At 7 am there is tea. Its not mandatory but its nice with some herbal tea in the morning. At 8 am there is breakfast. So far its been porrage or pancakes or vegetables and grains with bananas, jam and honey. It’s sooooo good. Of course there is chai also.
At 8:45 we have the Morning circle, where some one starts out with a quote, and then we have an opening, of an ice breaker as they called it. For example: “Tell us a story from your childhood where you felt shame”, or ” tell us one true and one false fact about your self and let us guess which one is which”. Then there are announcements and then we get divided into groups and each groups does one out of two things: cleaning the dining hall or getting trash and compost and cleaning the bathrooms. Who ever finnishes first sweeps the corridors and common areas around campus. This is part of Ghandi´s philosophy that everyone should help clean the common spaces.
At 10 we start work. Every day so far we have gotten different assignments, but this time of year, it wil be mostly harvesting.Our hands will be hard and roughend after these two months, I allready feel it!
Chai break at 11-11:15 approximatley. Nothing is definite here. Lunch is served at 1 pm and we have a 2 hour lunch. For lunch there is some form of vegetables, rice, bread, and everyday but today there has been Dal, which is a stew on lentils basically, and the best part; something sweet afterwards. They have this sugar which is taken out before the last step of refining sugar, it comes in cubes and it is DELICIOUS! It’s my new favourite candy. I just cannot get enough!
At 3 we meet for afternoon session. This is a time for presentations from the people working here and for us to present if we want to share. Then we have free time until 7, whin its dinner time. Quiet hours between 10 pm to 6 am, due to the walls not being sound proof. Unfourtunatly the dogs does not understand that they are supposed to be silent between these hours. Ear pluggs are my saviour.
The beds are hard, but you get used to it. Its clean and the air is fresh. So much oxygen being produced here on the farm!
They do not expect much from us. They like it if we help out in the farm but ultimatly we are responsible for how we spend our time. If we want to create something or fix something we are welcome to do so. They mostly just want us to be here and be happy and absorb knowledge. The main goal of Navdanya seem to be spreading their message onwards.
They provide courses here, conferences and field days for schools. Before we arrived they had serveral conferences and there was like 15 people apart from us Bijaks here for a course. Friday there was a whole school class here from a college near by. They studied agriculture, and we got some time to talk with them. Here is me and the girls (mostly)
Our life here so far
Life is slow here. When we are not working, most people fix their online stuff, write, read, reflect, sit, walk around, think… Its very slow. I’m probably the most active outwards.
Yesterday we went into Dehradun. It was way more fun in the day than it was in the night 😛 We went there by bus. To catch the bus, you just go to the road and wave when the bus comes! it just slows down enough for you to get in :P.
This is Shannon, Magdalena and August in a public Tuc tuc, called Vikram. Here you just squeeze in, they have another definition of “full”.
We found two very nice book stores in Dehradun, the Green bookshop and right next to it the English Book depot. We sang all the way back home in the Tuc tuc. It was very fun for us girls, but August was out of energy and had to hold on not to fall out xD.
Sunday is off. Today I made a Kubb game! It took almost all day, but it was fun! August read Earth Democracy by Dr. Shiva. It’s been a relaxed day. If people want to keep to themselves they do so. It’s nice. We hang out in silence, no pressure
Here is me with my Kubb game:
Here is me kicking August’s ass in Kubb:
Finally, I also want to tell you about the animals here, cause there are four big dogs and FIVE PUPPS!! 😀 They are about a month old and we love them. They are so cute:
We will be here for 2 months now, we will write a post about Navdanya later, to give you more of a background to the work we do here.
Stay tuned! Thanks for reading 🙂
Lots of Love
August & Linnea ❤