Innovator: Snehal Trivedi
Vocation: Permaculturist
Location: Auroville

When Snehal Trivedi, a graphic designer by profession, got the chance to spend two years in the UK, he soon found himself tired of the western culture and the fast-paced city life. So he returned to India and decided to settle down in a small village near Auroville in Puducherry. That was the start of a new chapter in life for Snehal.

In 2007, he bought a one-acre land near Auroville to build a house entirely of naturally available resources. He also wanted to use the land for farming and to improve the quality of soil.

Born in a village in Saurashtra region, Snehal was raised in an environment where they only ate fresh food from the field and where there was no dearth of pure ghee or rich milk. When he grew a little older, he used to even help his grandmother in the kitchen garden.

“We enjoyed the pleasures of fresh fruits round the year. We used to play in the mud, climb trees and enjoy our time,” Snehal recalls, adding that these are some memories that have made a special corner for themselves in his heart. Maybe that’s the reason he could never find himself in harmony with city life.

Snehal had saved some money by the time he was 33 and living in the UK. And so he decided it was time to say goodbye to the 9 to 5 life and return to his country. He traveled to various parts of the country to meet people who were working in the field of agriculture, and heard about permaculture. He was so impressed and influenced by it, that be began to read up and study more about it. During this time, Snehal learnt that permaculture is not just a method of growing food on a small piece of land; instead, it is a technique by which one can even grow a forest on a piece of land.

Snehal then went on to design ‘Heal the Soil’ project, which was first implemented as a pilot on his land.

When Snehal had first bought the land near Auroville, it was a barren piece of land. A lot of people had, in fact, warned him against buying the land and told him it was nothing more than a bad investment. However, over the course of a few years, by utilising the knowledge he had gained from other permaculturists — and by putting in determination to his passion — the surface of the land changed almost miraculously. The land which was once under tremendous heat from the sun — so much so that almost anything one tried to grow would end up burnt — was now home to such dense greenery that one had to step away from the canopies to even spot the sun. The land where nothing had grown successfully for over 300 years and the land where there was no top-soil, could now boast of a variety of over 150 trees and plants growing on it, besides various species of fauna.

Heal the Soil proved to be so successful that he was invited by various countries and communities to share his knowledge with them. Today, he is fondly known as Seed Snehal.

“It was only after I returned to my roots and started living in close harmony with nature that I was able to take a close look at the cycle of life. And I understood that every piece of grain, every seed, every plant, every animal understands it importance in nature’s cycle. Unfortunately, some of us humans have designed our lives in such a way that we have not only distanced ourselves from nature but also distanced ourselves from ourselves. At a time like this, every individual needs to reflect on his/her life and find himself/herself. We need to create our own paths, which restore ecological balance, connect with our soil and encourage others to do the same,” he said.

Today, some of our lives have become puppets in the hands of centralised forces. To get out of these clutches, we need to leave behind centralised forces and follow decentralised forces. We need to move away from global economy to local economy. We need to create small communities of people where alike people and live alike, and share the knowledge of learning and living with each other.

“I have learnt a lot of things about living from my life, things that I was never taught in a school or college. This is the kind of knowledge one can only receive if one has practical training. Studying from a textbook in an enclosed space cannot give you this knowledge. We need to make the world our classroom and nature our teacher. Only then will we learn to live in harmony,” says Seed Snehal.

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