If you’re looking to move towards a sustainable and minimalistic lifestyle, this book is a great guide on how you can optimize, reuse and recycle things that you use in your daily life.
Sahar Mansoor, the young Founder of Bengaluru based Bare Necessities – a social enterprise producing zero waste personal and lifestyle products has teamed up with Australian sustainability advisor and environmental professional – Tim De Ridder to bring together this book on how to live a zero waste life from an Indian context.
Spread over 9 chapters, the book is a delightful read packed with insights, activities, DIY home care hacks, how-to-guides, recipes and tips to move towards a zero waste lifestyle from an Indian context.
Sahar Mansoor has been recognised by Google India as ‘The Most Inspiring Indian of the Year’ and is a Climate Launchpad Mentor and a Global Shaper at the World Economic Forum.
Tim De Ridder is an expert in circular economy principles and systems, zero-waste methods, the sustainable development goals, carbon markets, community development and social impact.
Despite their large numbers and immense contribution to Indian agriculture, women suffer from substantial disparity in wages, ownership rights and the roles assigned to them. Add to it, the prolonged hours of physical labour, exposure to pesticide poisoning, multiple responsibilities at home and on the farm, take a huge toll on their physical and mental wellbeing. Policies and programmes to alleviate their problems have proven to be far from satisfactory.
This book is a sincere attempt at bringing together scientifically collected information on their problems and relief measures available. It has valuable insights on gender inequality in agriculture, technological and economic empowerment of women, poverty alleviation and training programmes, role of Self Help Groups and Street Shakti Groups in rural development and a lot more
The practice of Fair Share and Earth Care extends in traditional farming, to Livestock care too! Unlike conglomerates and the commercial dairy industry, the farmers of rural India extracted and used milk that was in excess after the calf had had its fill.
Perhaps because of this, or just pure delicious taste, a form of Coffee that you will find in Coorg in Bella Kapi or Black Coffee made with Jaggery. If you love jaggery and strong black Coffee, this is a great recipe that’s light on the stomach but great of Caffeine hit.
At Poomaale, at the end of a lovely vigorous hike across the estate, you almost always will find our staff waiting with a hot cup of Bella Kapi and a smile! Do try this recipe at home too and let us know how you liked it
To the collectives and its members, Beforest, is similar to a CEO to an organisation. The members are true owners of this dream and Team Beforest is a dedicated enabler.
With the team of experts and hands on ground, we have built, what we may call a ‘House’ with a solid foundation. It is now the time to make it a ‘Home’. A place that connects members & their families to the team on ground, to the land, the wildlife and the plant life and the community that surrounds our landscape with one another seamlessly.
Over the past 3 years, we have managed to bring together a group of people who were aligned to a common goal – a sustainable lifestyle, a responsible lifestyle that does not ask to give up economic goals. Now it is up to us and the members to put our heads together and plan exciting activities and initiatives to take the collectives to the next level.
Ideas really start to flow when we get together. For example, the suggestion to set up a Poomaale Foundation to support various causes was one such initiative proposed by members. Another example is the solar power set up capability and cows at the Hyderabad Collective – both came from within the member community.
We must make the most of the time we have, despite the pandemic situation. The Beforest Virtual Office, Whatsapp Groups and Quarterly Member meets are great forums to catch up. While in the city, we could easily meet up for fun activities like cycling trips, hikes, workshops, virtual webinars, dinners and coffee!
Once the Blyton Bungalow is up and running, we can head frequently to the Poomaale Collective for wonderful forest activities like Forest Walks, Star Gazing, Bird Watching, Hikes, Camping, Meditation & Yoga Camp!
The possibilities are endless and the times ahead are exciting to say the least!
The importance of design being Ecosystem – Centric has always been a powerful driving force for me.
I am fascinated by the fact that ecological design is creativity deeply grounded in genuine needs of the landscape and its inhabitants, and Beforest, over the last few months has allowed me to push myself and explore its potential in these landscapes.
At the Collectives, the endeavour is to listen to the land and identify the appropriate response that helps each landscape reach its potential in Biodiversity, while providing for water, food, and power security. The estates are varied and every intervention approach needs its own study. There’s so much to learn and try out! United Designers and Biome are worthy partners in this endeavour and I have been privy to many insights through this association!
As the teams are building and being woven together, there’s more conceptual clarity over the timelines and implementation plans for the work to proceed. As we have all come to know, execution is a long process – but there’s never a boring day!
Being conceptually different – at Beforest every decision needs to be weighed by the ecological as well as the financial cost involved. Finding the right balance is taking us through trials-and-errors and constantly challenging me to stay present and evolve my process.
We are in exciting times with the food forest for The Hyderabad Collective being designed. The hydrological layer is what I’m most passionate about. This involves understanding drainage, soil porosity and characteristics, and where we can harness it best for the agrarian zones. This critical layer decides the base design of the land which is then wide open for further creativity with growing food – be it nurturing bees, plants or other creatures to creating the experience of an edible garden for a morning walk!
I’ve been given the opportunity to direct this process and that has been very special over these months. The best aspect has been the team’s open mindset, that allows me to contribute new ideas and take risks while building my capacity to learn. This is what makes me feel alive.
Visitors at our orchards near Devgad, often marvel at the effort put in by my father in transforming a once hard rocky land into a thriving mango orchard. I always make it a point to inform them that it was my mother who played a bigger role in setting it up while my father was away in the Middle East.
She had the foresight to invest her savings in small parcels of land, building them one piece at a time, which eventually led to where our orchard stands today. Another accomplishment was to ensure the right documentation for the land title ownership, an element often overlooked back in the day and one which many women are still denied a right to under some pretext or another. The orchard may have been small in size, but it is a testament to her grit and determination in building, transformation, generating employment and providing an economic support system in whatever way she could.
Like her, there are thousands of women across the country, who play a significant role in supporting the economy but don’t get the due recognition they deserve.
India’s agricultural sector is amongst the largest in the world with an estimated 180 million hectares of farmland under cultivation. The average Indian farm is just about 1.5 acres in size as compared to 50 hectares in France or 178 hectares in the United States. Small land holdings have often been attributed to the economic unviability of Indian farming, leading to men migrating to cities in search of a livelihood, leaving women folk behind to manage the small farms. Estimates claim women make up almost 33% of cultivators and 47% of the agricultural labourers. Despite these large numbers, their contribution goes unrecognized not only in terms of due credit, but also land rights, access to credit, representation in local farmers organizations, but also in terms of pay, with daily wage labourers earning almost 50% less than their male counterparts.
So what can you do at an individual level to make a difference at your farms and within your families? Start with the basics. Promote women’s literacy, educate them about their rights, provide growth and leadership opportunities and an equal say in decision making. Support access to credit, their share in land rights and pay parity.
What I speak about is from personal experience … and I’ve seen it work.
Women play an important role in Indian agriculture in addition to their roles as wives, mothers and daughters-in-law.
According to the economic survey of 2017 – 2018, India has seen a ‘feminization’ of the Indian agriculture sector as men have been increasingly migrating to urban centres in search of employment, leaving behind their families (to reduce city cost of living). As a result almost 80% of the farm work is undertaken by women. However, they own just 13% of the land! It’s quite disheartening to see that the essential part of the workforce is devoid of their land-rights. Moreover, with low mechanization, their roles are largely restricted to manual jobs like sowing, weeding etc and not more decision based roles.
The gender based discrimination has always been visible at the policy level where women have not enjoyed equal rights as compared to their male counterparts. To counter the inequality, Mr. MS Swaminathan, former Rajya Sabha MP, introduced the Women Farmers Entitlement Bill in 2011. It was mainly drafted to address issues like land title of women, especially widows, water and other legal rights. Unfortunately, the bill didn’t see the light of the day and it lapsed in 2013. But, that does not mean, we get disheartened. As a member of society, we need to support female farmers both collectively and individually.
At Beforest, we are driven by the Permaculture Principles of ‘People Care, Earth Care and Fair Share’, which has been our guiding light since day one. Equal pay for women, full medical insurance, 20 days paid leave and education for their children are just some of the simple steps that we are taking in this direction. This is just the beginning and we hope to do more.
The power to create life is only present in women and in soil. At Beforest, we are lucky enough to be working with both. While we have spoken about soil on many occasions, we rarely touched upon the women behind the collectives. Take for instance Pushpa who works at the Poomaale Estate. First of all, she is the mother to two school going kids who need to be cooked and packed a meal before 9 am. She also has to make sure the breakfast supplies and utensils are all intact before her husband (the cook) gets started with the morning routine for the staff. It doesn’t stop there. She has taken on the onus of taking care of Laxmi and Harshad – our cattle. This means, clearing out their shed and milking Laxmi in the mornings. To be honest, when I first heard of this, it sounded like an entire day’s work but this is just her pre 10 am routine. Because, after that, she also participates in the plantation activities of picking coffee beans.
Pushpa is not alone. She is one of the many women at Poomaale, who brave the back breaking hours, the bugs and the bees to bring to us some of the best tasting coffee in the country. All of this is done with a smile on their face and none of the airs of a super woman. That is why at all our collectives, we have equal pay for men and women. Sure the men do more physically intensive work, but the level of commitment shown by the womenfolk and the energy that they bring to the table cannot be ignored.
We have also started an interesting initiative at our Hyderabad Collective, where in we are offering opportunities to vulnerable women groups like widows, single moms, etc. And by that we don’t just mean jobs, but also empowerment opportunities like skillset addition in overlapping spheres like bee keeping, jam making etc. These groups are generally either overburdened with responsibilities or are ostracised by social pressure. We thought of using our collective as a platform to create a win-win situation.
These are still early days, but we are quite certain that women like Pushpa have played a vital role in shaping the collective. So cheers to that and the incredible spirit with which our women move towards achieving our common goal.
There has been an Incredible amount of interest at the Mumbai Collective in February. With more than 100 conversations going on, we are expecting an early closure of Phase 1.
Thanks to this progress, we have started with our structuring, due diligence and other steps that have to be carried out at the start of a collective. We are also planning parallel drone surveys and mapping activities.
At the Hyderabad Collective, we are getting ready for the monsoon planting with the creation of a sapling bank of 15-20,000 saplings. This planting will focus now on riparian zones (i.e. the interface between land and a water body e.g. a river or stream). Primary types being planted would be pioneers like Banyan and Peepal, soil builders and nitrogen fixers like Moringa and Gliricidia and watershed plants like Pongamia and Vetiver among others.
As the design process for Housing Clusters 3 and 4 is being completed, the water plan for the place is also in progress. We are targeting to complete 3 primary stream beds before monsoon. The water plan is a mix of gully plugs, swales, earth bunds, check dams, de-silting of channels and more. At each point, we are focussing on our goal i.e. improving water or soil harvesting and designing accordingly.
By the end of December, we are expecting the visual feel of the place to be vastly different.