Malvikaa Solanki from Karnataka, India

“As a young woman I lived on a farm, sowing paddy, raring silkworms, grazing buffaloes, and milking the cows. I have always loved the freshness of the food directly from its source and that translated into an interest in the connection between fresh food and good health as an adult and parent.

I moved lock, stock and barrel from Bangalore to live on the land in 2014 and been a hands-on full time farmer since then. I share my experiences and knowledge by regularly holding workshops for children and adults. Topics being – growing food in urban spaces and farmlands, Introduction to Permaculture and Agroforestry Workshops. I also consult on permaculture and farm designs.

Growing food is one of the most basic of human activities. What was once revered and was the centre of our existence, today is side-lined and disconnected from its roots. It’s time we revamped this and restore its place in our lives. This fundamental connection brings us closer to all natural connections and we start to recognise their values in our lives. Growing food is one of the few things that connects us to the very roots of life. For me, farming, apart from its practical realities, is a way of life, a spiritual journey – a joyous journey of self-discovery.

I founded swaYYam in 2011, a non-profit that engages with the local community to foster holistic regeneration. Open Shell Farm is a functional demonstration site of swaYYam which grows about 70% of all its food in about 1.3 acres of rain-fed land using Permaculture principles. The denuded, bare land five years ago is now a host to over 400 species of over 4000 saplings buzzing with a number of volunteer species of grasses, bushes, trees, insects, reptiles and other wild life.

1000treeproject is another initiative of swaYYam that is working with the small and marginal farmers in the village to increase forest cover, restore biodiversity and ensure food, fodder and livelihood security through regenerative practises. Seed saving and sharing, nursery development, reviving traditional polyculture farming of forgotten foods, building soil health, setting up nutritional and medicinal kitchen gardens, intelligent water management and inclusive approaches to conservation are our focus areas of work.

I suggest start from wherever you are, however small. Growing your own food, saving your seeds is the easiest and the simplest. One can learn best by doing. There is hope, security and joy in this less taken path and I am a testimony to that. Just begin, now! And everything else will fall in place. You don’t have to know everything.”

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