The Saha Astitva Foundation was created by Daniel and Kalyani (Karen) Uppendahl, two Westerners who came together in 2007 in Ganeshpuri, India, close to the current location of the eco-farm they created.
Both were on personal missions to discover the essence of yoga, which they understood to be a path of human evolution. Living in the West, they realised the lifestyle of ‘consume, use and throw‘ did not meet their personal values of healthy and sustainable living. These values are now integrated into the farm.
In 2009 they began creating the organic farm on a 2 acre piece of barren land, at the base of Mandagni Mountain, purported birthplace of the Hindi God, Lord Parshuram, in the sacred Tansa Valley. It is in an area of rich cultural heritage with many important ecological and cultural heritage features, in the foothills of the magnificent Western Ghats.
They took their time in engaging members of the fragmented local tribal community to work on the farm, initially as labourers. They learnt Vedic growing techniques and natural farming (inspired by Bhasakar Save). They marveled at the talented Warli adivasi youths, whose traditional growing methods resembled the modern day permaculture approach.
Livelihood Continuity and Skills Training
They realised that by providing the young men (who struggle to fit into a standard working structure) with steady jobs, their village and family life were able to improve. The young men proved to be capable and talented in learning all sorts of skills. Today they know organic farming, welding, masonry, cow care, driving and now take responsibility in the day to day running of the farm.
Many of these young men have gone on to manage their own farms, forming a co-operative for the revival of growing indigenous rice grains, using for their own consumption and for sale in niche markets. Others continue to work there. Others have taken there new skills and gone to work in other local NGOs.
Saha Astitva is supported by a no. of partners from Mumbai. These partners are often customers who sell organic merchandise, who are in turn supporting the supply chain.
The farm has hosted over 100 volunteers, predominantly through the WWooof network. Many of these volunteers utilized their talents adding to the richness of the farm, pioneering research while learning new techniques and skills themselves.
The farm continues to offer events hosting city people to tours, lunches and interactive experiences.
The farm’s development has been a journey of personal growth and discovery for all involved. Of risk taking and magical unfolding.