Featured Member of Vanastree
Lakshmi Siddi lives in the belly of the ghats, 40 km from Sirsi, and a sharp descent of several kilometres from the nearest bus stop. Her home, garden and orchard gently wrap themselves around a steep forested slope. It is here that she lives with her husband and son, and organises ten other forest gardeners who are part of Vanastree. Lakshmi is at ease hiking up and down the slopes with an impeccable sense of balance and speed, come rain or shine, leeches or ticks. She is vocal about issues that concern her and the Siddi community she is part of, while being wise and gentle enough to know where to let go. Since sunlight is at a premium in the deep forests, her speciality is growing a variety of local tubers. She extracts oil from kokam seeds by the traditional hand method, which then goes into the kokam butter balm that she makes. Lakshmi loves having people over and sitting around in her kitchen, while she prepares chai or delicious meals on her wood stove. Her jokes and laughter always lighten your mood. Lakshmi’s tongue in cheek remarks about the local community dynamics and caste driven politics are poignant and powerful.
Profiles of Select Members
Bhanumathi Hegde, Huthanajanmane
Outstanding home gardener, seed saver of rare and unusual varieties, great cook and quiet supporter of Vanastree’s mission and work.
Parameshwari Marathe, Bengaon
Farmer, home gardener and unconditional supporter of Vanastree – someone who smiles all the time.
Radha Bhat, Sonda
Retired school teacher with a generous heart, abundant wisdom and knowledge to share, and ever ready laughter.
Late Savithriamma, Mathighatta
A strong spokesperson for the underdog, a forest gardener with a lot of wisdom, bold in her approach, and a friend to many while laying aside her own numerous challenges. Savithriamma, a part of the hills around her home since March 2010. Celebrated and missed in one breath.
Shyamala Hegde, Appikoppa
Outspoken farmer, seed saver and cook with a flair for folk dancing.
Vanishree Bhat, Sirsi
Our youngest member, Vani started as an intern in February 2013 and is an excellent communicator and intrinsic part of the Vanastree family. Vani relocated to Dharwad in November 2013 but stays connected.
Vasumathi Bhat, Golikoppa
A soft spoken, kind person. Vasumathi is a solid presence in Vanastree. Expert gardener, cook and maker of gashis (traditional quilts).
Vijaya Hegde, Sugavi
Steadfast presence in the group, active in the livelihood programme and articulate about the agrarian situation. Makes excellent traditional snacks.
Vinoda Hegde, Athisara
Expert cook, homemaker and gardener who rallies around the collective and is a seed leader in her village.
Board of Trustees
Dr. Muthatha Ramanathan
Independent scholar in Human Geography
Media person, Kannada writer
Seed leader, horticulturist and gardener
Founder and barefoot ecologist