One of the most satisfying, powerful and essential experiences of being a small, grass roots collective in a relatively remote location are the alliances and partnerships that emerge. Vanastree has been fortunate to network with such local and outside organisations to build meaningful and lasting relationships. This has been vital to further our mission of reaching out to groups on a larger scale and applying our learnings to other regions that can benefit from them.
Local partnerships that have brought the message of seed saving to women gardeners include working with Prakruti, Sneha Kunja on the coast, and TEED in Yellapur. For outreach efforts outside of the Malnad, we partnered with ARZ, an organisation rehabilitating victims of human trafficking in Goa. The two year project was sponsored by Kitchen Gardeners’ International (KGI). It involved developing a Garden of Hope with the beneficiaries of a laundry that ARZ assisted in setting up. The programme focussed on cleaning up the campus of the laundry located in an industrial estate and developing a garden that facilitated a therapy programme through land work.
In early 2014, Vanastree ran a semester long certificate course on Organic Kitchen Gardening in Kuvempu University, Shimoga. This generated a lot of enthusiasm and participation as students readily connected it to their lived village experience. It is hoped that the success of this pilot programme will convince the authorities to run it as a credit course with an extension to the surrounding rural communities as well.
Vanastree has been a long term collaborator with Punarchith, a small trust based in Chamarajnagar district near Mysuru. The trust runs an alternative, integrated learning programme for rural youth. Vanastree coordinates a module on food gardens for this programme and is helping develop Punarchith’s new campus along agroecological lines.
We believe that there is ample scope for further partnerships where the association brings benefits to a larger community and to what the agencies are accomplishing. We are actively seeking partnering groups of farmers and gardeners from relatively drier areas who will work with us in setting up a seed production facility.
Vanastree has enabled us to initiate an integrated home gardening program where issues of nutrition, food security and well-being are interlinked. In addition to encouraging women and youth to take to home gardening, Vanastree is also supporting us to develop a comprehensive curriculum on Home Gardening which will be a core part of our flagship alternative learning program for rural youth. Vanastree draws and builds on local knowledge and skills and seeks to integrate new ideas and strategies to revive, revitalise and promote home gardening as economic, ecological and emotional work.
—Dr A R Vasavi, Social Anthropologist, Punarchith Trust