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When all trees have been cut down, when all animals have been hunted, when all waters are polluted, when all air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money. - Cree Prophecy

Friday, July 23, 2010

Extraordinary couple!

How would u like it if some one or other comes
-to charge a battery
-to get some medical attention (one days medicine and attending cost is Rs2/- yes, two rupees!)
-Asking for some local/nattu medication for some ailment
-to take some traditional farm equipments on rent (ofcourse nominal rent)
-to get some seeds
-to get some advise on value additions or to plan next crop etc
-to get some electrical or electronic repairs
-to get some minimal lathe work (like welding or minor repairs) done for free or low cost
-to ‘buy’ some value added products like bringraj thel, tooth powder, herbal golis, etc
-some kids come regularly asking for the free notebook, pens, pencils?

Reading all this what do u make of this place?
By any chance an organic farm??

That’s Dhirendra Soneji’s and Smita Soneji’s fabulous farm!
This is one extraordinary couple who were professors in an Engineering college at Ahmedabad. When they were in their early 30s (25 years back) they asked themselves this great question ‘whats important for/in life?’.
They quickly arrived at ‘health’ and so the question of ‘what are we doing here in a city then’ came up.
They decided there was no sense in making money as that could’nt get them the required health nor satisfaction. The city or the urban life style will not help it too. So they decided to take it in to their hands, literally.
So they decide to buy a piece of land in some rural corner and practice agriculture and to take care of their health. So all in one shot. Health, simple living, controlling own destiny, healthy n tasty food, happy living.
Man! They are having all that now and its only increasing:-)
This 2.5 acre land that they bought from their total savings (actually they had to postpone their decision of moving by an year to save that much funds) was near Rajpipla, a quaint village called Saakwa with some 100 households (total population 500 in this predominantly adi vaasis village). From there on their journey is so interesting. They build their house with minimal stuff but beautifully, use Humanure and Gobar for cooking and lighting,
Some solar was added later and in the recent past one point electricity connection is taken to support the sons’ computer requirements. Their acumen and learning help them plan everything they wud need for their food and so make a great sustainable plan. All the prudent multi and mixed cropping and half acre of fruit trees is only for self consumption. They don’t even sell milk.
Many organic farms are sustainable and out of the grid, but this one has stretched that beyond all imagination. They even grew cotton and hand weaved and made their own clothes too. That’s why they are rated so high. They reached 60% self sufficiency in the 1st year and now they are at 90%. In a place with 14 inch rainfall they harvest 8 grains, 8 pulses, 25 types of veg n fruits, 5 tubers and spices (like turmeric, Dhaniya, methi, ajwain). 200 flora species in all that invite some 70 brid species. All this in a 2.5 acre farm!
But Wait! There are more facets that make them soar even higher.

The fact that such a decision was taken when they were just 30 years old is incredible.
They also decided not to send their kids to school but educated them, themselves. Every thing that the kids wanted was given. Plus these 2 were always there to teach them farming, other basics and languages. The kids are now grown in to well groomed adults who not only have mastered farming but are also well equipped in to many facets like computers (ofcourse social networking too), alternate energy and lots of other skills. I could meet only Vishven who in my opinion is gearing for future articles to be written on him!
Dhirendraji, as I told earlier, is a maverick who is muliti talented. He not only learnt agriculture but also was a king of many other skills like lathe, machining, design, all round knowledge. Smita ben would not only freak out with her cooking but in many other areas lke traditional medicine, preparation of many new/traditional stuff, preserving seeds and ofcourse participates in farming activities too. So between them they cater to a village! Talk of being self sufficient, within a family!
Dhirenji would also make lotsa implements, tools useful for farming and hence many farmers who cant afford buying or making, rent it from them. Yes, they do plough their land bcos there is more Calcium in the soil and hence hardens and doesn’t allow water to seep in. the roots do not get to grow well, he said and hence they need to plough. So more areas for him to innovate and design tools and implements!
While there are many things he has designed and made (manufactured) himself, the unbeatable stuff IMO is his handy oil mill!
It’s an amazing machine which has an efficiency of 35% for the seeds like Till, Groundnut etc (meaning if u mill 1kg, u get 350ml of oil where as the industry norm will be 400-450ml!). so whats amazing, eh? The normal output apart from oil is the oil cake (punnakku in tamil) but in his case u get the seed -a bit crushed- but can be used as a grain (for cooking ofcourse not as seed!). I was lucky to try 1 kg of till (sesame) and we got 350ml with our hand power and the till that was got after the process was very much in shape and Smitaben stored it. (will be used for chutney powder and in some dishes!)

Dhirendra soneji and Smita ben are so cool about all this and only think any one who admires them only has to try it and thnk it’s the right way ahead.
Dhirenji infact asked me in all seriousness “ if u think so high of what we do and of organic farming, why are u going around and not doing it yourself? Don’t u think the farmers will feel, why this fella who is not practising it himself is telling us? Don’t u think there are enough NGOs to spread this awareness”. Right! That’s the best thing to do and that’s where W & me wud head finally..but for now, I wish to use my networking skill and energy to popularize it and spread the awareness. Like how I changed for good and realized the benefits of organic/natural farming, health aspects, traditional practises, etc I wish I can help some more convert.

some fotos here!

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