Monday, October 27, 2014

India - Navdanya Biodiversity Farm

India is such a colourful and exciting country to visit. We touched on only a small part of it. There is much to share, but I won't bore you completely. I promise to give you a couple of posts with what I consider the highlights of our trip. The reason for our visit was of course to visit Navdanya, a farm about 200kms North of Delhi. This farm was founded by Dr Vandana Shiva and is run using biodiversity principles. 
So let's go!
Arriving at Dehradun Airport. Only a few flights from here each day. Clamber down the flight steps and stroll across the tarmac. No safety cones or pretty hostesses waving you away from dangerous propellors.
After an hour experiencing the most amazing driving skills, we arrived at the entrance to the farm. On the way we dodged a train, many dogs and a few cows.
Our digs for the next 16 days. A room with basic furnishings, dung and straw walls and a very noisy ceiling fan. We were not complaining! That fan never went off, except during the daily power outages.
Our ensuite. We were lucky to have our own shower. If you want hot water, then you use the bucket. If you didn't mind cold, you can stand under the shower. The floor and everything around it gets wet and slippery.
Our room on the top right. 
Schedule for week 1
Schedule for week 2
Tea and juice station, just outside the dining hall.
This is the 'internet cafe' area. If you're lucky, you'll get a half decent wifi signal. Most days it was too frustrating to try. But we still gathered on 'the wall' to chat with fellow students and travellers.
The only down side in the evenings, is the mosquitoes!

Frans showing Taonga from Zimbabwe some pics of our farm. She is a widow with four children and farms a small three acre block of land. This is the source of her only income. She was sponsored by her village to come to the course so she could take back new knowledge on farming.  
Breakfast. Chickpeas with spices, tahini sauce, dosas and a few apple chunks. Followed by chai. No eggs, no bacon. 
Some of the seeds grown on the farm.
After breakfast, it was time for 'morning circle'.  This was held under a large thatched gazebo. A short meditation, notices and a game were part of the agenda. Communication was open and clear. 
Some folks started the day with meditation. Everyone was welcome, even the farm dogs!
After the morning circle each mooring, teams were set to work for an hour. This is called 'Shramdaan'. My favourite task was to chop veggies. The kitchen area was rustic. Very rustic. Here I'm chopping with Britta and the chef.
Sweeping floors crouched on one's haunches is something learned! Soft lemongrass brooms are used everywhere. Long handled brooms are not common.
The kitchen cutting area. Good thing we were taking Probiotics!
If you know Frans, you'll know he does not cook. Much. At all. But here he was peeling veg. And enjoying it. I might get him into the kitchen yet!
Mealtimes punctuated the day. There is always rice!
A highlight was the time we learned from the esteemed Mr Sandor Katz. Kimchi, sour kraut and sourdough bread was all discussed, explained and shown.
See the big pottery pot on the left of the pic? Sandor went to the village nearby and bought it directly from the potter for 60c!
Cooking the sourdough in the clay oven. Hot hot work! Photo by Susan Zhu.
Sandor and I. Photo by Susan Zhu.
There were sessions on mixing dung and clay. We watched. 
Dung was collected! Here is our mate Aditya and Eliza picking up fresh cow poo.  Eliza does not look like she's having fun at all!
We learned composting in deep trenches. Here some cow urine is being sprinkled on the compost pile. Standing downwind is not advised. The smell is rather potent.
More cow poo being shifted for composting. Instead of flying airliners, Vishal was pushing the poop cart. I'm sure he was enjoying this more!
Here's me separating dirt from the borlotti beans.
Head seed saver showing us how to separate the good from the bad. 
Cutting rice. Hot work in the sun!
Peas, beans and rice drying in the hot sun. Did I mention it was hot?!! Frans is in the background making notes on composting.
Two sessions a day of 'school'. This was Soil Week with Marilyn and Chris from The Hummingbird Project. Facinating stuff.
Dr Anna Powar (centre) spent a few days with us and taught us stuff we never knew about food; Indigenous Knowledge and why we eat. We've come home with a different view on what we eat. From left: the lovely Sudha, me, Anna Ji, dynamo Paridhei and generous Poorvi.
Seems we're not the only ones who thought this place was rather cool.
The massage centre under the mango tree. 
Massage class. Here Frans is getting a head massage by the lovely Shaani.
Preparation for the Goddess Fire Ceremony.
Dr Vandana Shiva and her wonderful sister Mira on the right.
What an inspiration Vandana Ji is.
Feeling privileged to be part of something special.
Frans and his mate Aditya. Being a vet, he was full of great information on caring for our animals. He also held a small session for those interested in how they could help the farm dogs. The dogs tend to fend for themselves and are very thin. A lovely bloke.
Me receiving my certificate from Vandana Ji
And Frans receiving his.
Dr Mira Shiva. I loved her! What a wonderful, warm hearted, intelligent woman! 
Dr Vandana Shiva. Legend. 

These pics are a short record of our experience on the farm. I'll post again showing some of the sights and experiences we had outside the farm. Food alone needs its own post! 
Till next time.