Malvikaa spent her early years in a village, raring silkworm, milking buffaloes, sowing paddy and growing melons and bananas. Later on she lived in the city wading through the city life till she realized it was time to move back to the land, back to the roots. In the city she worked with nonprofits at the policy & grassroots level, mostly with women and children on issues of ecology, environment, livelihood, health and gender. She worked as a research scholar, doing her masters degree, studying the ecology of lakes and water bodies. She has been working extensively with urban households in helping them grow their own food, compost their kitchen wastes and sensitizing them to issues of lifestyle choices that have collective long-term repercussions on our environment. She has held workshops Introducing Permaculture and Natural farming for aspiring ‘city refugees’ who are increasingly becoming aware of their unsustainable ways of living and aim to take charge of their lives, starting with food.
She strives to live life conscientiously and in harmony with the environment. Towards achieving this harmony she realized that she couldn’t do this alone. That is when she started to look at various possibilities of building communities that are progressive, inclusive, self reliant and sustainable. That was the birth of ‘swaYYam’, an idea that lingered for years but came into formal existence on Dec 2nd, 2011.
She was highly inspired by Masanobu Fukuokas’ ‘One Straw Revolution’ and Schumacher’s ‘Small is Beautiful’. For the past one decade she has been inspiring people to discover their inherent strengths and gifts to live with integrity and in harmony with nature. She is a certified Permaculture Designer, a yoga therapist, an excellent cook, and prefers to dig her hands in the soil and stare at the stars than do anything else.
She lives and works on the project site of swaYYam in Bandipur, Karnataka, India.
Levi Mataga is a native of south Texas, USA where he and his father started landscaping in 1985, which he continues, reorganized as ‘eat Your Yard’, an overseas project of swaYYam that seeks to replant the south Texas urban landscape with useful, edible plants and trees.
He has been working with Community Garden Projects and Community Supported Agriculture in Chicago, Texas and Vermont since 2001. He has been involved in Gardening initiatives for students in San Antonio, Texas while a teacher at the Circle School. As the founder of Firefly Learning Academy, a Montessori-based preschool for financially disadvantaged kids, he helped design and install rainwater catchment systems for irrigation and a composting program to handle all organic waste from the school. He was a member of the Rhizome Collective and their Urban Sustainability Training in Austin, Texas and worked on soil restoration projects with the group in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina.
Levi traveled to India in the summer of 2012 to work with Thakkar Bapa Grama, a privately run school for rural and marginalized children on the outskirts of Bangalore. It was here that he met Malvikaa and learned of the mission for swaYYam and became directly involved since then.
He is primarily interested in permaculture methods to create healthy biospheres, natural farming for producing food without chemicals and rainwater harvesting techniques to address the coming difficulty with managing the world’s limited water supply while integrating all of these actions with the education of the next generation.
He shuttles between the US of A and India and will be spending more time working on the pioneering efforts of swaYYam in India.
Geetha, is best known for her magnetic smile and her divine cooking skills. She has evolved with swaYYam as a gardener and works on home composting, growing our organic vegetables and training on healthy Indian vegetarian cooking. Her curious, energetic participation in the work of swaYYam makes it a lively experience for anyone living on the land. Geetha has been greatly inspired by the ‘Ondu Hullina Kranti’ – the kannada translation of the Masanobu Fukuoka’s book – The One Straw Revolution and has had so many curious questions on our current systems of agriculture and answers to many of our current crisis as well.
Nagappa is our neighbour on the project site in Yelachatti. He is a marginal farmer and practises rain-fed non-chemical agriculture on his 2 acre land. While he helps us out with his wisdom – a result of his years of living in the village and around the forests, he also is an eager learner. His valuable experience lends itself to rich learning and understanding of the local culture, forest ecology and the village life. He is a keen observer and a patient teacher. He is in the process of planting his bund with some native tree species and learning how to make Vermicpost and Jeevamrit to build soil. He keeps about 10 native hardy cows’ that graze in the forest. He is also keen on re-introducing millet cultivation in the area that grow easily in poor soils and tolerate drought better.