Today I revisited a property ten kilometers outside of Rishikesh currently owned by a North Carolinian Swami. There are two plots of land up for sale. One with a house, reservoir/fish pond and bordering on a river that feeds the Ganga. This river has water all year and doesn’t have a destructive spill over during the monsoon. There are no zoning restrictions to this land. Cows, chickens, sheep, goats, and even small huts can be put here with no government permitting. There are papaya trees already planted and many garden vegetables are already grown for the Swami on this land.
It is 1200 square meters in full sun for 26 Lac Rupee. The adjacent piece of land, bordered by a stone walls, is an old wheat, onion, and grass field that is also 1200 meters for 14 Lac Rupee. Together, the price nears 100,000 U.S. dollars. None of which I have! *Since I can’t even get paid from my work in California!
On each side of this property is more agricultural land that has been organically farmed for generations. Now however, Ashrams, camps and guest houses are eyeing this land. My hope was to raise enough money to buy it, cultivate it and sell a few highly sought after Organic foods ranging from ayurvedic and western herbs to arugala, chard and dandelion greens. I have made significant contacts with local shop keepers who are keen on transitioning into the Organic market. One such interest comes from the Pundir family, well known all over Rishikesh. I also have people who have attending Act Naturally’s camp outings, lining up to work (for free) on this project.
The problem is fundraising. Most “well-off” Indians I speak to are clambering for turn over. I suggest that if the land is bought, I and my organization would only “tend” the land for a determined amount of time. The owner, would ultimately hold all deeds, and rights. I point out that a bridge is going in down the road to connect both sides of the river and thus will increase the property value instantly. Instead of having to drive 20 kilometers toward Haridwar to the car bridge, or park and walk or cycle over Laxman or Ram Jula bridge you will soon be able to simply cross a sturdy bridge by car four kilometers out of town on your way to Jumping Heights. The time it saves, and access it opens up, increases the property value instantly.
The tourists and locals both complain that the food quality in Rishikesh is bad. When you cook local market vegetables, you can smell the pesticides burning off. If you look around you can see the bulging waste lines and unhealthy appearance of many of the locals who are now subsisting on refined oils, flours and sugars, and attacking their bodies daily with fruits and vegetables chock full of chemicals. And yet the mention that someone is ready to step up to become part of the solution to this problem if an investor can be found, gets a disinterested eye, and a long lecture on the practicalities of growing organic vegetables and making a profit.
The profit is not in the sale of the vegetables only I suggest. It is in the opening of the organic markets, vegetables are just a step, then there are possible organic retreats and workshops, and the eventually and if nothing else, sell of the land itself. The real profit is in how a return to organic agriculture can literally transform the health of a community, and reestablish the spirit in the practice of ahimsa to ones environment and self.
When I look around I see a new gas station, a giant prison-like megaplex hotel blacking the view of the Ganga, more cars and car show room, and less and less land maintained and acquired for food production, community property and aesthetic value. Here is a real chance to save some of this property, and put it to use for the community.
I am willing to work whatever deal out that I can to get this project started. This is a request for funding, …donations large and small, investors, or land owners near Rishikesh that can allow for this small non-profit to begin to change the health of the community one bite at a time.
If you are interested in this land for yourself, or as part of Act Naturally’s mission. Please contact email@example.com
God bless, in love and light,