swaYYam: Sister Project in India

swaYYam
Inspiring Sister Project in India

In 2014, Midwest Permaculture was visited by Malvikaa Solanki of India and her colleague Levi Mataga of the US.

Bill Wilson meeting Malvikaa and Levi for the first time at Midwest Permaculture.

Malvikaa was in the early stages of a pioneering permaculture project in India called swaYYam (a word that implies “unified self” in Sanskrit). The goal was to demonstrate an authentic and sustainable way of living to a culture that, like many, was blindly following what is called ‘progress’ rather than making conscious decisions concerning the long-term heath and survivability of themselves and their communities. (swaYYam facebook page.)

Malvikaa , slowly integrating herself into the local village. One way is by instructing the children. Not really wishing to ‘change’ or ‘fix’ anybody, Malvikaa is simply striving to be an example of what an authentic and sustainable way of living looks like. This is a long-slow process requiring great dedication, strength and perseverance, but is also the most important work on the planet.

Bill and Becky quickly realized that Malvikaa was a dedicated and passionate person undertaking very important work in her part of the world. An early bond was created between our two projects as we share similar visions for how humans can live on this planet.

We highly recommend this inspiring 40-minute video on Vimeo.
Malvikaa’s Personal Journey to Finding her Life’s Work

The work of permaculture is to take the small-first steps to create self-feeding, sustainable living communities, which draw from ancient tradition and natural methods devoid of stripping the earth of its natural resources — where people take care of themselves, feed themselves, build their own houses and create energy for their needs, more as a norm rather than an exception. It’s not a peripheral activity, an alternative; it is the work we must all move into as humans if we are to live responsibly. And, it is the work that feeds our hearts and our connections to life itself.

Aerial View of swaYYam
Committed to this work, Malvikaa sold her home in the city and purchased a small farm and named it the Open Shell Permaculture site. With love, support and time of multiple volunteers and local residents Malvikaa has worked to build the barren, degraded soil into a small oasis of life and possibilities. And as of 2019 she is beginning to offer workshops and permaculture live-in study opportunities.

It has taken all of Malvikaa’s personal resources to bring this project into being and we would like to do what we can from our side of the world to support her work.  It is inspiring to see these progressive satilite photos of the site over the past 4 years.  This is an amazing amount of progress over such a short time considering it also includes housing structures.

2014
2015

2016

2017

2018

Today

Malvikaa, in her polycultured-millet patch which was once a barren field.

Dear to her heart is inspiring the girls in the village to continue on with their education. In our opinion, her mere presences and the work she is doing on her property is likely becoming the greatest of inspirations to these young people.

The project aims to maintain the integrity of the local ecology – social and environmental – and integrate sustainability in every decision. The goal is to design and build capacities and self-reliance within the community and the individual as well. Malvikaa feels that for life to have meaning and longevity one cannot separate the outer world with the inner world. They are inextricably connected.

Let’s support Malvikaa’s work in this wonderful permaculture project by sending her some financial support from the US. Every dollar from us goes a very long way in India.
Donate here
(The link is on the right side of the page.)

Be a Volunteer at swaYYam and Visit India
We asked Malvikaa if she would like to enter into a long-term relationship so that we might trade educational travel opportunities to our Midwest Permaculture course graduates (and others) in exchange for willing hands to assist her in the work before her there.

From the swaYYam website about volunteering:

Volunteers are an essential part of the swaYYam community. One of our objectives is to be independent of outside labor and manage our daily work together with the volunteers. You are welcome at any time to come and participate in our project, to live and work together with us in awareness and respect for the environment. 

A minimum commitment of 15 days is essential to enable a worthwhile engagement. 

The project offers a wide range of working possibilities – vegetable gardens, fruit trees nursery, medicinal plants nursery, seed saving, composting, vermicomposting, natural soap making, cooking community meals, natural buildings, preserving foods – pickles, spice powders, jams, kombucha, documentation, tree planting, mulching, watering, maintaining the community space, educational workshops, building up a live fence etc.

Click Here for Full Details regarding
Travel and Volunteering at swaYYam

Malvikaa wearing her Midwest Permaculture T-shirt on a busy street in India.

swaYYam
“The Unified Self”
Sanskrit

Click - More About Malvikaa

Malvikaa began her young adulthood as a rather conventional Indian woman—she was married at 18 and became a mother at 19.  She lived in a small village where she raised silkworm and farmed.  By 30, she was divorced.  She moved to a city and worked with nonprofits and grassroots organizations that were related to women’s and children’s welfare, the environment, and public health.  She also pursued a master’s degree and worked as a research scholar studying the ecology of lakes and bodies of water.

This sort of work experience led Malvikaa to consider the possibility of building communities that are “progressive, inclusive, self-reliant and sustainable.”  Thus the concept of swaYYam was born, an organization that later came into official existence on December 2, 2011 as a nonprofit registered as a “Trust” with the Government of India.

In addition to Open Shell Permaculture, Malvikaa and swaYYam works outside their main site in the surrounding community.  The 1000 Tree Project works to bring farmers together in the cultivation of an abundant food forest.  Another project, known as Rangaayana, strives to celebrate and revive dying Indian folk traditions such as music, folklore, and dance.

Click - Multiple Pictures of Progress

Swales cut on contour hold extra water on the landscape

And they hold water every time it rains when this extra water would normally wash away.

With the extra water plants grow better and there are greater yields.

Passion Fruit

Before swales and building soil organic matter.

After

The yields are diverse and bountiful

Now growing on this once barren land

Drying banana for preserving

Local children are learning along with everyone else.

Threshing one of their grains

The evening sentries