Creating heaven on earth on Uttarakhand farm (Feature, with images)February 19th, 2012 - 11:27 am ICT by IANS
Dehradun, Feb 19 (IANS) Some spend a week, some a fortnight. And some like Germany’s Stephanie have spent more than 40 days away from their mainstream lives on an off-grid community farm in the Himalayan foothills of Uttarakhand.
The farm is an attempt to demonstrate that an elementary way of leading one’s life could also give the happiness people search for in the materialistic world around them. Hari Pant and Richa, a father-daughter duo, call it the Himalayan Farm Project (HFP) in absence of a more appropriate name.
Promoting organic farming, HFP is a community farm in Raila village, some 200 km from this Uttarakhand capital, disconnected from cities and spread across five acres of land, isolated and situated at about 4,500 feet above sea level and has absolutely no electricity.
Still it is “heaven on earth’ for Pant, a 70-year-old retired brigadier, and those who visit it as volunteers from as far as Australia, Belgium, Croatia, Ecuador, France, Germany, Italy, South Africa, Switzerland and the US.
The idea is to live a simple life, where you recycle and harness natural sustainable resources to build a world, grow your own food, and thereby reduce the carbon footprint.
Pant got the idea after returning from a six-month fellowship for studying agro-ecology and sustainable food systems at the University of California, Santa Cruz. So, he started looking for a farm near his family home in Bhimtal.
In June 2011, the father-daughter duo acquired the farm with some financial help from friends who supported them.
The farm had been abandoned by its earlier owner. “It took us a couple of months to restore what all was left there, like turmeric, ginger, potatoes, onions, garlic and mango and lychee trees,” Richa told IANS.
“People practised sustenance farming in mountains. They have small lands. So they grew a range of crops, i.e., from vegetables to pulses for family consumption. But, because people slowly began to find mixed farming insufficient to make ends meet, they shifted to mono agriculture.” explained Pant, who has been attached with the local community through his association with some NGOs in the region.
His experience had also formed the basis of why he decided to take up this project. “Mono farming ruined our food cycles. Farmers began to use pesticides and chemicals to increase the crop yield to sell more and compromised their healthy food for money.”
Another reason he gave for HFP is the increasing disconnect with nature among city dwellers. “They do not even know the source of their food. I want people to experience the joy growing one’s own food could give,” he says.
It is this reason which makes this project globally appealing. Elliot Mercier, a student from France, who learned about this project last August, explained: “In the West where I grew up, people tend to forget their essence and what life is all about. They search for happiness in buying a new car, a new house, a new dog - only to get rid of them a year later. It is sad to see that people don’t know what to do any more to be happy”.
So far, the volunteers (26 foreign and four Indian) who have visited the farm have successfully built up a walled compost toilet (which earlier had no wall) and a new and more spacious kitchen, apart from repairing and maintaining the existing shelter and farming area. All this despite being inexperienced in farming or building any structures.
“I know organic farming is not a profitable proposition and it is difficult for people to leave their existing lifestyles. All we are trying to tell people is that there can be an alternative, yet healthy and happy life” Pant told IANS.
(Shikha Nehra can be reached at email@example.com)
- Himalayan rally of another kind - Apr 06, 2011
- Te Aroha - for hilly holiday with colonial feel (Feature, With Images) - May 10, 2012
- Floods in Uttar Pradesh claims 36 lives, destroys 20 villages - Sep 25, 2010
- UN accolade for Odisha tribals' green farming (With Images) - Jan 05, 2012
- To combat 'silent killers', India to conduct survey - Aug 12, 2012
- 'Gangs of Wasseypur 2' has its own place: Richa Chadda - Aug 04, 2012
- Leopard skins, bear gall bladder seized in Uttarakhand - Sep 30, 2011
- 'Bigg Boss-5' has strong Nepal connection - Oct 03, 2011
- Nepal hosts Asia's first public lesbian wedding - Jun 20, 2011
- How battle against polio was won in Uttar Pradesh - Jan 24, 2011
- Adding self-reliance to conservation, with jams and jellies - Feb 13, 2012
- Greenpeace "Living Soils" campaign calls to save soils from harmful chemical fertilizers - Aug 03, 2010
- Nainital schoolchildren to clean Bhimtal lake - Dec 11, 2009
- Landslides leave three thousand tourists stranded in Uttarkashi - Sep 25, 2010
- India to launch spoken web service for farmers - Jan 13, 2012
Tags: bhimtal, brigadier, california santa cruz, carbon footprint, family consumption, father daughter, feet above sea level, financial help, five acres, fortnight, heaven on earth, hfp, himalayan foothills, lychee trees, materialistic world, organic farming, pant, sustainable food systems, sustainable resources, university of california santa cruz