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1000 tree project - Suvarna Yojane

Tuesday July 23rd, 2019 we went on our first boundary walk of the land
for our 2nd 1000 Tree Project – the Suvarna Yojane. The first
application for the 1000 Tree Project was filed in January of 2018.
Our neighbouring 4 farmers – 3 men and 1 woman – brought together 10
acres of land which had only been sporadically cultivated over the
last decade due to sparse and unpredictable rainfall. The fence was
completed in January 2019 and we began digging the first set of tree
pits and earthworks.

Our second project brings together 30+ acres of land, 4 families and 2
generations. Five women and Eight men joined us for this 2 hour walk
to survey the land and to discuss its history and future. The families
have not farmed for the last 4 years on their lands due to
unpredictable rainfalls, recurring droughts and wildlife conflict
(primarily elephants and wild boar activity). They have survived only
on daily wage and semi-skilled labour work when they would prefer to
be farming. Like many lands in our area, it is a challenging land to
farm because of its proximity to the forest added to the reality of
the climate change induced erratic weather patterns.

The land offers many opportunities for regeneration with a range of
landscape features and a willing group of people who want to work on a
viable solution for the unstable conditions in which we currently
live. They have agreed to plant 1000 trees for every 10 acres, engage
in non-chemical farming and work on methods of water conservation.
They will save and share seeds once they begin to farm regularly
again. Like many others in our village, they have not been able to
save their own seeds because there is no continuity in their faming
and the saved seeds lose their viability.

These farmers are semi-literate and illiterate members of the
Scheduled Caste. The people of Suvarna Yojane look to farming and to
working on their own land as a means to living a dignified life.

The 1000 Tree Project was started in response to the drought of 2016
when we saw large scale cattle deaths in our area. Deforestation and
failed monsoons combined with chemical farming, soil erosion,
overgrazing and plummeting groundwater supplies created a downward
spiral for the community living here.

Find out more about the 1000 Tree Project on our website at
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1000 Tree Project

The 1000 Tree Project was started in response to the drought of 2016 when we saw large scale cattle deaths in our area. Deforestation and failed monsoons combined with chemical farming, soil erosion, overgrazing and plummeting groundwater supplies created a downward spiral for the community living here. Climate change, erratic weather patterns, changes in rainfall volumes and frequencies have all made livelihoods and fodder availability uncertain. The 1000 Tree Project is a holistic design strategy that supports small groups of marginal farmers with a minimum of 4 farmers including at least 1 woman farmer on 10 or more connected acres in a cooperative endeavour to reduce the risks of farming in these erratic climatic conditions.

Each project begins with support to acquire fencing, water harvesting earthworks, drought tolerant native crop seeds, and high-quality tree saplings. The program stipulates that the farmers must engage in holistic and sustainable practices such as water harvesting, alley cropping, mixed cropping, seed sharing and the planting of a minimum 100 trees per acre. This will help change the agricultural practices from monoculture cash-crops, which produces a maximum of 2 crops per year, to a variety of foods and fodder produced year round. These polyculture systems will better provide for the needs of the farmers giving them surpluses to sell and trade while guaranteeing a yield even if some crops fail.

With the 1000 Tree Project we co-create productive landscapes helping them farm again, protect their crops from wildlife and overgrazing, and plant local, drought tolerant trees which build soil and restore biodiversity. The practices of agroecology, agroforestry, mixed cropping, alley cropping and water harvesting heal the soil and nurture the ecosystem while providing food, fodder, fuelwood, medicine, timber, income, and seed security for marginal farmers.

Along with sparse rainfall, man-animal conflict, a history of chemical farming, eroded and exposed soils, the farmers here are small farmers holding 2-3 acres of rain-fed land. These fragmented land holdings are a result of the breakdown of the extended family, the lure of  “greener pastures” in the city and the harshness of the conditions here. The cooperation among families for sharing resources such as food, seed and labor has also been lost. Farmer debts are increasing as the inefficiency of monoculture, chemical farming continues to produce less while inputs continue to rise. Making village life attractive to villagers must include viable economic opportunities if we are to keep the youth and families from moving away. Recurring droughts and changing weather patterns force villagers who depend on the land for their livelihood to migrate to cities to find menial jobs to meet their needs.

The aim of the 1000 Tree Project is to prevent these farmers from becoming landless by reviving the traditional polyculture systems and reducing stress on the already fragile forest ecosystem through a program of afforestation and ecological conservation. By further helping to nurture and protect the trees until they are established, as well as supporting farmers with access to native seeds, exposure visits and trainings, we are facilitating a method that can provide nutritious food, consistent fodder, a diversity of produce for trade, and livelihood security where farmers are empowered, self reliant and live a life of dignity.

Through the 1000 Tree Project, our goal is to plant as many trees as
possible, build soil, recharge water supplies, restore the
biodiversity of the area and bring sustainable farming back into
practice. Our hope is to see the village come together through a
sharing of resources, cooperative actions, engagement in barter, and a
local exchange of surpluses. The farmers who have fed us this long,
who were silently toiling to make that meal on our plates, need
recognition, support and a voice.

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EDIBLE LANDSCAPES – a viable design option


Imagine entering a resort or a hotel and walking into a beautiful, bountiful and a productive edible garden with a wide array of textures, colours, sizes and shapes that not only provide scrumptious food but also saves money whilst providing a multitude of other benefits.

A landscape that triggers a rethinking of the false distinctions between beauty and utility, that beautiful gardens need to be solely ornamental and edibles are restricted to vegetable gardens.

I’m beginning to believe that, in addition to being a viable design option and, if can be maintained organically an edible landscape is the most compelling landscape concept for the future.

I’m encouraged to have more of perennials and annuals (permaculturist, that I am) and a few seasonal varieties thrown in. A combination of hedges, vines, flowers, medicinal plants, ground covers, bushes, trees, aquatic plants – options area abundant and limitless. These edible landscapes become even more interactive and aesthetically appealing by integrating ponds, bird baths, pergolas, herb spirals and other static and dynamic hardscape features.

Watch this space for an exclusive list for south of India (sub-tropics), including a list of companion plants, growing seasons and related details..


AQUATIC PLANTS and water loving plants

water chestnuts (trapa natans)
zizania (wild rice)
bulrushes (typha latifolia)
Acorus calamus (sweet flag)
water lilies (nymphaea)
Euryale ferox
Fox nuts
Ipomea aquatic
Bacopa monnieri (JAl brahmi)
Aquatic mint
Sholapith (Aeschyomene aspera)



sweet potato varities
straw berries
varieties of mint
coriander / cilantro
Creeping thyme
Punarnava (Boerhavia diffusa)
Centella asiatica
Chamomile benghalensis
Alternanthera varieties
Ground nuts
Most greens
Salad greens



Elephant yam
Jicama (tuber)
Varities of peppers
Cherry tomatoes
Varieties of okra
Varieites of brinjal
Buck wheat
Herbs – rosemary,
biryani leaf



Curry leaf
Citrus varieties
Sweet leaf
Tree spinach
Varieites of Banana
Varieties of Papaya
Tree tomato/tamarillo
Mandarin Orange
Citurs varieties
Adathoda vasika
All spice
Strawberry guava (psidium cattleyanum)
Surinam cherries
Barbados cherries
Celosia argentea
Chaya leaf / tree spinach
Tejpatta (cinnamon tamala/bay leaf)
Clove plant


Passion fruit
Lab lab
Ivy gourd
Jasmine varieties
Clitoria ternatea/ butterfly pea
Basalle spinach
Chayote squash
Dragon fruit
Rambling roses
Sweet pea
Betel leaf
Balloon vine


Lemon grass
aloe vera
Carissa carundus
Corchorus capsularis ? C. olitorius (edible leaves)
Tropical cherries
Vitex negundo
Sansevieria varieties
Lemon grass


Mustard varieties
Ornamental cabbage
Ornatmental peppers
Gardenia pandanus
Basil varieites
Indian borage
Colourful chards

The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping – Rosalind Creasy

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all about soapberries - natural laundry, dish, body and hair wash



Generally called saopnuts, but truly it’s a berry. It’s called reetha in hindi.

We got a generous gift from a dear friend of two varieties and are on our way to making some saplings of them. We already have both varieties growing on our land and we would want more and more to share with friends and farmers around us.

They’re excellent to use for laundry including in washing machines. What’s best is the greywater can go into your plants without a worry… use this to wash your hair, body and even dishes…

Soak the shelled seeds overnight or in hot water for 10-15 minutes and tie them in a small pouch and put them into your washing machine or bucket to soak dirty laundry. You could also make a coarse powder of them thus reducing the time for it to be used actively… I love the smell the clothes washed with these…Use the liquid as dishwasher liquid, to wash hair, body or anything. Traditionally these were used to wash delicate silk. The wash water is bio-degradable and eco-friendly. We let our greywater directly into our mulch pits that grow bananas, basalle, collocassia and papayas…

a Gorgeous beautiful large tree, hardy and drought tolerant.

Sapindus Trifoliatus is the Soapnut tree that grows in South India. Their fruits and seeds are slightly smaller than the North Indian soapnuts. The shell is of a red colour and become darker after they are harvested and dried. The tree grows upto a height of 12 meters. Flowering and fruiting occurs between the months of October to January.

Sapindus Mukorossi (Himalayan) is the Soapnut Tree that grows in North India. Their fruits and seeds are slightly bigger than the South Indian Soapnuts. The shells are a golden colour when harvested but become a darker red colour once dried. The trees grow upto heights of 20 meters. Flowering and fruiting occurs in the months of May to February.

Generally propagated by seed. Its easy if you have the seeds!!! Soapnut seeds germinate quite easily. Just soak the seeds for 24 hours in warm water. Then sow them about an inch into the soil. A sunny location with well drained soil is ideal. Transplant the germinated saplings when they have a few leaves into pots/nursery bags till they are ready to go into their permanent location on the land.

Be patient however, the tree starts flowering after 8-9 years.

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. . . . . the Mountains are calling and I must go ....

…..  I only went out for a walk into the wilderness, and finally concluded to stay out on the land, for going out, I found, was really going in. In every walk with Nature I have received far more than I sought…..

view 1 (more…)

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…the Tiger roars…

our small village home is being set up for our dwelling…. planting moringa, curry leaf, pomegranate, neem trees and some flowering bushes; planning for a hammock space in the backyard; locating the papaya pit circle and the trelise crops on the fence in the frontyard; fixing the laundry wash stone and so on ans so forth…

as usual, and, I guess that is what I will need to get used to – slowing down, big time, people take their own sweet time to finish work – a quality that is good mostly and a little bad at times! So, finally after a 2 month wait we have a place to cook, sleep and work from.. (more…)

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the journey begins

IMG_2807After a year long rendezvous with the paper-work and associated legalities we finally have the legal ownership of the land that we start our project work on. The process of procuring land, especially in Karnataka can be daunting, wanting a weak-hearted to give up eventually.

The entire experience with ‘land’ has been insightful and has revealed very many aspects of my own deeper being. (more…)

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buying land in India

.. if there is one teacher to patience, it is this..Try buying land in India, and as a single woman.  It teaches you tolerance, patience and optimism and so much more…

While you think you finally can start living and working on the land, there comes the next hurdle.. legal titles, division of property between brothers, papers that were never updated, exact measure and extent of the land, failed negotiations – name it!



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rangaayana is an effort in reviving dying Indian traditions of folk-lore, music and dance – our ancient ways of passing wisdom & knowledge.
Not just India, but with the rest of the world, we are witnessing a dying of our traditions; music, story telling, poetry, folklore, dance, and more. This was culture; this was community; it binds people with life. With growing culture of alienation, a result of modern competitive consumerist living, all of this and much more is being lost to the big game. No one has time for leisure, unless, of course, earned.
These ancient traditions were not just activities of leisure, but held a deeper relevance. These traditions are of indispensable value as one of the sources of information. Records, not just of facts, but beliefs, that are not entitled to much credence for historical purposes in the form of stories were handed down, chiefly, by oral tradition. These have been passed from generation to generation, creating a bond of traditional values with the present-day generation.An antiquarian can trace folklore parallels between, not only, those of different parts of the same country but also of the countries of the world.With communities divided, we are at a risk of losing our ancient wisdom and ancient ways of education which charms the listener while passing the message from generation to generation bringing people together.rangaayana is an effort towards reviving our dying traditions of art forms.

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open shell permaculture

open shell logoWith Open Shell Farm, we began our work  in year 2014 on the ecological regeneration of a small piece of barren and degraded land located next to the Bandipur Tiger Reserve in the hills of the Western Ghats. The site is located close to a village which in an idyllic location with overlooking mountains. The sight of cowherds and shepherds driving their animals to the nearby forests, the curious village children, the intermittent bus service, the temples and the village life is something to  experience.

Today Open Shell Farm is a  demonstration & an education site for  social transformation through Regenerative Design using Permaculture principles that works towards creating harmonious relationships that already exist in nature. 

Open Shell is functioning farm, producing more than 70% of its food needs, including 100% of its edible oil and staples such as finger millet, little millet, fox tail millet, sorghum, maize. Oilseeds – peanuts, sesame, niger, sunflower, castor. Lentils and pulses – black gram, pigeon pea, cow pea, peas, lab lab, horsegram. Spices – turmeric, mustard. Others – onions, garlic, ginger and variety of fruits and vegetables.With the exception of our bore well pump we primarily use solar and wind energy and have structures built with mostly natural and local materials using local skill and labor. We are striving to return 5 acres of land, which was completely bare rock and subsoil, to a productive balance using age-old wisdoms combined with modern techniques. We are taking a long-term and holistic approach to restoring the land and hope to improve farming conditions for our neighbouring farmers.

What started as an open land has become host to over 5000 saplings of more than 400 species of forest, fodder, timber, medicine, and fruit trees. Open Shell Farm is a buzzing food forest with many voluntary species of trees, grasses, bushes and wild edibles along with a multitude of earthworms, termites, bees, insects, reptiles, butterflies and other life forms.

The project elaborates on methods of applying permaculture principles is restoring the fertility of land by preventing soil erosion, water run-off, overgrazing, burning, and use of chemicals, followed with restoration of native vegetation that was. This is being steered by long-term interns and volunteers along with the team. We would also build capacities through workshops and study in Permaculture and courses that will draw the community into informed collective action.

Simply put – we  want to learn by doing and lead by example!

If you connect with this area of our work and want to be involved, contact us and let us know. We will be happy to share our space with you and learn from each other.

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