Following my heart

01 Sep 2022

Following my heart

I’ve always been interested in Sustainability and waste management. That is what drew me to do my fellowship with Bhoomi College, last year. During my time there, I used to take part in Bhoomi Santhe – organic farmers’ market, held in the campus. I was able to see how the space not only supported local farmers & vendors by creating business but also helped deepen the relationship with the local community. As part of the course curriculum, I came to understand more about circular economy, the importance of soil, localisation, food miles, millets etc. This created a spark within me and I started dreaming about organising a Santhe in my hometown, Patna, for my local community.

In January ’22, as part of my Bhoomi Internship, I had the opportunity to work with a farmer organization in Simultala, Lakhisarai, small hamlets in interior Bihar. The farmers were hardworking, who had top-notch quality products. However, they lacked the exposure and necessary funding to scale up. I sat with them, floated the idea of a pop-up stall in the city and convinced them to participate in it.

I now had the vendors on-board. The next step was to organize the actual event. However, the summer in Patna was so terrible with temperatures averaging 42 degree Celsius that I had no choice, but to wait. 

Finally in July, my dream of hosting a ‘Sustainability –Mela’ came to fruition. 

From the beginning I was very clear that I will not be spending money/resources unless it was absolutely necessary. I spent zero money on advertising. For the posters, I reused old flex banners, previous year calendars, waste cardboards and used-chart papers (zero printing cost). The Mela was held in the front yard of my home (zero booking charges).  It was a rather small area but it could hold close to a hundred people. For almost ten days preceding the Mela, I was in constant touch with the organizations for product ideas, pricing, the process of setting up a stall, encouraging them to be creative and innovative.
We had farmer organizations from Simultala (219km), Lakhisarai (135kms), and Gaya (120kms), all from interior villages of Bihar. Their primary work is in the area of seed conservation, millets, forest food, agroforestry, and education of tribal children.

The stalls had Diyas made with cow dung, Dhoop batti - a mosquito repellent made from cow dung, lemongrass, and neem. There was a food stall which had only millets. North Indians are not familiar with Ragi (finger millet). So Ragi dosa, herbal tea, laddu thekua (biscuit) and Ragi halwa (pudding) were a massive hit, especially with children. For farmers, there was a stall with Jeevamruta, Beejamruta, Neemastra, Fish amino acid and other organic growth promoters. I had organized a discussion on Millets and the process of making various food items. I even had a stall of my own. A ‘Sustainability Shoppe’ where I had displayed planters, seed rakhis, water pot for birds, upcycled clothes, henna tattoo, and mishree (candy alternative) for kids.

It was like a festival that day. People came dressed up, went around interacting with the farmers, enjoying the food and learning about millets. Some of the guests who attended the Mela were doctors, seed activists, teachers, people from the American Embassy, theatre artists, people from NGO network, etc. All of them appreciated the initiative and were eager to know when I would be hosting the next one.

Though the week leading up to the event was very hectic and sometimes I felt lost, handling everything on my own, I was so glad I followed my heart.

Most of my friends who studied with me have moved overseas, for job opportunities. I have often wondered what would happen if everyone did the same. There is so much to be done here and I have always wanted to make a difference to the place that I belong to. This Mela is a small step in that direction, to give back something to the community.I hope to continue to make this happen as a regular event for everyone in my hometown to look forward to.

- Shared by Kumari Slish (Bhoomi Alumni, 2021 – ‘22 batch)