VANASTREE - The Malnad Forest Garden and Seed Keepers' Collective

Sirsi - 581 336, Karnataka, India

The internship opportunity

ATREE and Vanastree offer you an internship opportunity to spend time with a local seed collective in the Malnad region of the Western Ghats.

The collective

Vanastree began in the summer of 2001 in the hilly Malenadu region of the Western Ghats in Southern India, which is regarded as a biodiversity hot spot. Like other areas, this region too faces the problem of deforestation, and as a consequence the loss of biodiversity. The area has a large number of forest home gardens that are an intrinsic part of the mosaic of reserve forests, spice
orchards, paddy fields, and homesteads. The home garden is emphasized as a means to halt the downward spiral of deforestation and species loss. Home gardens are repositories of biological diversity and therefore a source of food security, nutrition, and medicine, with opportunities to generate a stable, alternative source of income.

The collective has a modest seed collection and is documenting home garden diversity of the area. It has also begun producing and marketing ecologically responsible products developed from Malnad garden produce both locally and in urban centres such as Pune and Bangalore, with a relative amount of success. The collective has also organized Seed Festivals that provide members with the opportunity to sell and exchange organic, local, open-pollinated seeds along with other products ranging from aromatic herbal hair oil and recycled-fabric patchwork bags to packaged local snacks and spices. Other like-minded local NGOs are invited to participate, including groups such as Prakruti, Kalpavriksh, ATREE, The Concerned for Working Children and Sameeksha Ayurvedalaya (a medical centre).
The internship is based from a small farm in Karkolli Village northwest of Sirsi, Karnataka. The farm, “HuthinaBetta” (Hill of Termite Mounds), is a 9 acre-plot of formerly derelict land that is actively being reforested, cultivated into biodiverse home garden plots with a small forest nursery and multiple ongoing projects in green architecture and design, and simple, yet comfortable, living.

Activities may include research, documentation and writing, field visits, practical work on the farm in the nursery, vegetable garden, tree planting, earth work, seed sorting and packing, graphic design/art work, manual work, specific help with festivals or workshops, and any other tasks that the intern has taken on.
There are always many projects underway and therefore a considerable amount of freedom to discuss and determine what type of work is most suitable for applicants.
A typical 3 month internship will include:

  • Arrival, and selection of work (2 weeks at the most)
  • Internship work (Monday to Friday). At least 1-2 weekend homestays with
    farmers’ families, who are part of the collective, will be arranged per month.
    This will be a good way to learn about and absorb local culture and
  • Concluding part including report submission/presentation of work done (2 wks)
  • Longer internships can also be discussed as also internship openings for
    graduate and doctoral students.

Start date: Internship opportunities are available throughout the year.
Winter/spring (October - March) is by far the best time for people from the temperate world. However, summers are not that bad especially if you stay indoors in the afternoon. Mangoes and jackfruit and other summer goodies are a treat only in this season. The monsoon will be a challenge unless you love the rain or are mad about frogs and mushrooms that abound in the area.
Qualifications: students with a background in any of the following fields are encouraged to apply

  • Tropical agro-forestry (including nursery and seed work)
  • Agriculture (including practical work)
  • Ecology, environment and development issues
  • Graphic design and Art (including computer skills)
  • Marketing or social entrepreneurship
  • Product and package design
  • Carpentry, masonry, hands-on work (for our green architecture and design)

Language: English. Kannada is useful but not absolutely necessary. However, an enthusiasm to learn and preparation before leaving will go a long way in enabling better interactions with the people of the collective.

Other: It is important that students arrive at Vanastree - Malnad Forest Garden and Seed Keepers’ Collective, Sirsi, with enthusiasm and interest in the work of the collective, an open heart and mind, and a cheerful demeanour to complement the friendly, welcoming and active people of the region. General physical fitness and mental preparation to live and participate in the activities of the community are also necessary. Interns are expected to be highly motivated and work independently although the supervisor will also be closely involved in the planning and execution of the work taken on. Being able to cycle will be an asset.

Local activities: Weekends may be used to visit nearby areas. For big city thrills, Bangalore is an overnight bus ride away and Goa and Mangalore on the coast are 5 hours and 7 hours away, respectively.

Costs: Please check with Sunita Rao for the costs involved (contact details below).

Please apply with your detailed CV, Statement of Purpose, details of your skill set and the areas you would like to work in, to:
Ms. Sunita Rao
Karkolli Village
Hulekal - 581 336
Karnataka, India
malnadseeds(at)gmail(dot)com, cc’ginternship(at)atree(dot)org OR vanastree(at)gmail(dot)com, cc’ginternship(at)atree(dot)org.