Has it been a year already?
Gaia Grid was conceptualised on a stray paper napkin as a fully off-grid self-sustainable farm aimed at achieving complete nutritional autonomy (by growing its own vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices, grains, pulses, lentils and the works) and eventually becoming self-reliant with water and electricity as well. This was in April, 2016.
By June, we had started scouting the perfect location for the farm. But little did we know that in many cases, you don’t choose a place, but the place chooses you. Thats what happened with us. We were taken by a friend to a rain shadow hillside in Kadambara, Kerala. The area looked visibly affected by the lack of rain and deforestation it had suffered over the years. Somehow, the place also emanated serenity, peace and infinite potential as well. We wanted to work on a piece of land that would require work, land that needs healing. But the land held in it the potential not just to be healed, but to heal us as well.
45,000 square feet of hill top were finalised for the farm. The soil was rocky and the winds were strong. Working here wasn’t going to be easy. Every drop of water was to be collected and invited back into the earth. Add to that, the remoteness of the place made it even tricker. Adding basic infrastructure to the land would also require a lot of planning and long trips to a city that is 2 hours away.
By November, our fundraiser had started. We called it “A Social experiment on unconditional giving” - simply with the hope that this idea would be supported by friends, family and strangers (who would become friends on the way). To our surprise, the idea started resonating with others and received (and is still receiving) immense support! People from far away places wrote to us and expressed their happiness at reading about Gaia Grid and we were overwhelmed by the love and support!
As the contributions and donations started pouring in, we started shaping the land to the best of our knowledge and abilities. We made mistakes on the way and quickly rectified them. Most mistakes a result of not listening to the inner voice. We were beginning to understand ourselves a little better. We added a solar fence to protect the land from deforestation and the future crops from herds of wild elephants. We built a small tool room to protect tools from rain and sun; the room doubled up as a shelter meanwhile. We started creating catchment ponds that would hold water on the land and encourage it to seep into the cracks, refilling the aquifer. The local biodiversity would also start getting positively affected by the increased availability of water. We created camping spaces and started hosting friends. We worked with our hands and got them dirty. We started an experimental vegetable patch on untilled and unprepared land; and the plants grew! And they still are!
By April we had moved to the land full time and started observing it closely - observing the interaction of the natural elements with the land; creating trenches and bunds, directing the flow of downhill rain water into the catchment ponds. The rain was also the best time to start planting trees that would provide nutrition over the next years. On a hilly slope, it probably makes perfect sense to make flat terraces so that one could maximise land use and grow as much food as possible. Our idea wasn’t that though. From the very beginning we were sure that we did not want to excessively dig, shape or organise the land. We created terraces where really required but left the remaining land as it is. We wanted to work in a way that did not disturb the natural setting but instead worked with it. On one side of the land, where the slope is too steep, we created close proximity percolation pits - 1 cubic foot and continued doing so at 2 feet intervals. These small pits look deceptively simple but are amazing at retaining water, washed up top soil and as an added benefit we could plant trees in them, interspersed with shrubs and fruiting bushes. The pits would break the flow of downhill river water and also check a lot of erosion.
We continued building basic infrastructure as and when funds permitted and continued the conservation work with friends/volunteers.
So thats the story so far. We continue to host whoever is interested to come work with us and we share our progress regularly!
If you’d like to come visit us and stay with us, please reach out either via our facebook page or the website contact form.
We would be thrilled if you considered this dream worthy of sharing with friends and family. After all, this was only possible with the unconditional support of people such as you. As we continue gathering support and contributions, the ability to go off-grid and self-sustainable becomes stronger. The eventual goal is to rely on physical money as little as possible and be able to recycle resources within the land and if all goes as per plan, spread this little learning unconditionally wherever required.
If you feel generous today or perhaps grateful for the good things and the not-so-good things that life has brought to you, then please do consider donating to our campaign!
---ORIGINAL FUNDRAISER APPEAL---
Does unconditional giving exist?
This is a social experiment designed to prove its existence.
Harsh spent the past few years leading a sustainable nature conservation project in Tamil Nadu, India and helped run a similar project in poverty stricken Haiti. In this time, he has helped grow more than a thousand trees, work in harmony with nature and introduce the sustainable way of living to hundreds of people.
Harsh believes that one of the ways toward achieving harmony with nature is to create small self sustaining pockets that do not rely on imported or non-local produce.
To align himself with this vision, he is building something unique. A model farm called Gaia grid.
Spread over 45,000 square feet, this farm will strive to achieve total self-sufficiency in terms of food, water and electricity. Having earned a total of “zero” in salaries over the past 3 years and sustained himself solely on the generosity of others, Harsh now aims at creating this sanctuary with the help of friends; people he knows and people he doesn’t.
He strongly believes in the existence of an invisible and at times very visible grid that nurtures those in alignment with nature. Based on this belief, he is reaching out to complete strangers to find out if he is able to raise enough funds to kick-start this dream.
His goal is to raise 8,00,000 rupees (€10,800 approx.). This amount will enable him to move completely off the grid and ensure he is able to do the following:
- Grow food naturally
- Collect and store rain water for drinking and irrigation
- Harness and store solar electricity
- Build a sustainable shelter for volunteers
- Share this knowledge with whoever is interested
- Never go back to the corporate job again
This is a call to action for all those who think being the change is the only way to bring change. In these times of great uncertainty and fear about who will rule the world next, it becomes an individual responsibility to promote grass roots change. The common citizen isn’t powerless. With every decision you’re actually casting a vote. With every purchase, with every TV show you watch and every person you support, you’re helping create awareness about it; you’re voting for it. If you like the idea of our project we highly encourage you to vote for it; by participating, donating and sharing about our story.
While donating, you may pick an item that you wish to donate toward. Once the goal amount for the item is reached, you will receive an email informing you of the same.
To maintain full transparency with donors, we will email you a picture of the item being installed on the land along with a receipt mentioning the actual price.
A regular, monthly progress report will be available on our facebook page
and you may reach out to Harsh at any time for updates, comments and suggestions.
Some questions to help understand the project better:
1. What is Gaia grid?
Located on 45,000 sq. ft. of dry land on the hills of Kadampara, Kerala, Gaia grid is envisioned to be a model farm founded with the aim to create a self-sustaining pocket. The main long-term objectives are to achieve complete nutritional autonomy by growing all of our own food (organically) and promote off-grid living. In the future, we also plan on collaborating with local tribal villagers to help create similar self-sustaining farms which in turn can grow into a co-op of tribal farmers. Gaia grid will also promote permaculture, sustainable architecture, veganism, natural farming and unconditional gifting.
2. What is the significance of the name - Gaia Grid?
In Greek mythology, Gaia, is the personification of the Earth and one of the Greek primordial deities. Gaia is the ancestral mother of all life: the primal Mother Earth goddess. The Gaia hypothesis, also known as Gaia theory or Gaia principle, put forward by James Lovelock proposes that organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a synergistic self-regulating, complex system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet. Topics of interest include how the biosphere and the evolution of life forms affect the stability of global temperature, ocean salinity, oxygen in the atmosphere, the maintenance of a hydrosphere of liquid water and other environmental variables that affect the habitability of Earth. Cultures all around the world speak of such a universal mother; Tierra Madre in Latin and South America, Dharti Maa in India, Pachamama in the Andes and so on. At Gaia Grid, we take this definition further; all of existence – animate and inanimate, the void and matter, all components of duality and the absolute comprise to form “Gaia”. This network of seemingly chaotic existence arranged in a neat, almost mathematical symmetry where each element co-exists, harmonizes and thrives with another; this interconnectedness is Gaia Grid.
3. How is this dream funded?
For the initial set up, we are relying on the unconditional support of people. Once the farm is set up and producing an yield, we will sustain it from sale of our harvest, courses on dry land farming and by hosting workshops and conferences.
4. Is Gaia grid an NGO (Non-Government Organisation)?
Gaia grid is not an organisation of any sort yet. We have no affiliation with the government or any other private business. Gaia grid is simply a name chosen to realise a personal dream. Right now, it is a home. All amounts being raised through unconditional gifting are for this personal dream. All the people who wish to come help us build this space will be guests in our home. With Gaia grid we also aim to create an international network of peers who can support and realise each other’s dreams through unconditional gifting.
5. How can I support Gaia Grid?
You may show your support to Gaia grid in a variety of ways.
a. Talk about it
- You can support us by liking and sharing facebook.com/thegaiagrid
. You can write about us or just talk to your friends about what we are doing and spread the word about the campaign. The buzzword is #jointhegrid
b. Participate in person – If you are planning on visiting Kerala, we would be happy to have your hand in our day-to-day work. There is a lot of planting, digging, watering and cooking that you could help us with. You pay for your food and we share our house with you!
c. Donate – Books, heirloom seeds, tools, expertise (we know it rhymes) and money; we will be happy to receive them all as unconditional gifts. You may also donate monthly if you like what we are doing. While donating money, you may choose where you want your donation to be used and we will ensure to do that. If you live nearby you could support us by lending us your tools or your time.
6. How do I know this is legitimate?
b. We maintain accounts with receipts and pictures of all the items that are purchased/paid for with donated money.
c. Once we’ve reached our goal, we will intimate all donors by personal email stating where their donated money was used.
d. We will also publish a newsletter and financial summary on our facebook page after reaching our fundraising goal.
7. How can I stay updated on the work you are doing?
You could write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
to know about the work we are doing and to participate in this movement.
Our facebook page
is also a good way to keep track of our progress. We will update the page with news and pictures weekly.
Our website is thegaiagrid.org
8. Why should I support?
Our fundraising campaign is an experiment. Are there people out there who like the idea of what we are doing and are able to support us unconditionally? Many of them do not even know us personally. Will we be able to raise enough money to realise our dream just because we asked for help and people were willing to give it?
9. What will the money be used for?
A list of items with approximate cost estimations is provided below. They are sorted based on priority. The amounts include labor, loading, unloading, transport and taxes. The market value may vary and hence the costs (in rupees) are rounded up to the nearest thousand. While donating, you may pick an item that you wish to donate toward. Once the goal amount for the item is reached, you will receive an email informing you of the same. To maintain full transparency with donors, we will email you a picture of the item being installed on the land along with a receipt mentioning the actual price.
Gaia grid will also be substance free i.e. we will not indulge in, or support the use of smoking, drug use and/or alcohol use inside our farm.
If you've made it this far we deeply respect and appreciate your patience and your love. We hope this campaign moves you in some way and we look forward to your participation!