Aikya is a newly started farm in the South of India. When we arrived in February 2016, it was just 2 ½ month old. Especially for a farmer this is both charming and challenging. It is a little piece of land, 1.6 acres, (0,65 ha) and lies only 5 km from the Bay of Bengal. Each of the three fields on the right side of the farm are approximately 20x20m. ''The zone'' to the left side comprises approximately 40x40m and the kitchen garden about 5x10 m. The main composition of the soil is red loamy sand. Because of the long drought, the soil is very hard and lacks organic composition and structure. One of the most important steps for the next few years will be to add biomass in the form of compost and manure. By doing this, the earth will slowly become a living place for insects, such as worms. This life not only adds to the nutrition of the soil, but also develops the soil's structure for good water conductivity and water retention capacity. Crops such as tomatoes, cabbage, pumpkin, and lettuce will be more successful as well as more nutritious. This will benefit the animals that consume them too. During the dry season, groundwater is used for the watering. Since the source of the groundwater is limited, plans are being made for the future to collect rainwater. Despite some of these challenges faced by this small farm, it has an enormous diversity of plant life (See list). The species list shown here is not complete, but this is a good example of the variety of plant life. This is the ideal place to become familiar with the names of many native plants of South India, as well as their growing, harvesting, and uses.
Connected to the farm is a restaurant called ''Mother`s Grace''. The restaurant is located in the small village of Kuilapalayam. In the future, the farm will supply the restaurant with all fresh organically grown produce.
Aikya is a wonderful peaceful place that becomes alive with the variety of personalities of the many Workawayers. Transporting food and drinking water 2 km to the remote location, chopping wood for the fire, and power failures are some examples of the challenges of life on the farm which brings the workers together in a communal and cooperative environment. The highlight of the amnentites of the farm is the bathroom with western style shower and toilet. The necessary condition being that the water tank is full. Each resident should bring his or her own toilet paper (if needed) as well as shampoo, soap, shower gel, and laundry soap which should all be natural and biodegradable. And there is a fridge too.
♥ We arrived in Ferbruary and, because of the heat, we realized this was a good decision. February and March are quite warm, so we could only work in the field in the morning and evening hours, however it is still bearable.
♥ Also, it is not the time for the Dengue mosquitos. So no need to panic about all of the mosquito bites you get during the dawn. There is also no stagnant water on the farm, which means less chance of malaria mosquitos too. The mosquitos are more of a nuisance than a danger.
♥ The owner of this farm is new to farming and most of the knowledge of farming comes from volunteers whose stay is temporary. So, if you are interested in learning agriculture then I suggest making sure that there will be a farmer on site at that time. For every other traveler Aikya farm is a nice place to stay for a few days to spend some time amongst the nature.
♥ You can buy all natural beauty and cleaning products in Kuilapalayam. The residents on the farm are provided with black tea, fresh bread from the auroville bakery, homemade jam, and delicious authentic North Indian lunches and dinners. If you desire any extras, such as coffee, peanut butter, or fruit, you can purchase these in the village as well. There are also many clothing shops and because Kuilapalayam is near Auroville the willingness of the shopkeepers to barter is low. For cheaper shopping, it is easy to take a 20 minute busride to Puducherry (engl. Pondicherry) for 5 Rupees.
♥ A wonderful way to spend your day off is a day trip to Mahabalipuram (engl. Mamallapuram). The two hour bus ride from the main road will cost you 60 Rupees. There you will find interesting ancient ruins, nice street shopping, and a beach where you can take a dip in the ocean. The beach here is well-visited and easy to find. Further up the beach there are less people and it is possible to swim in western swimwear! The beach restaurant ''Santana'' has amazing food (especially the seafood) and cold beer (which is not on the menu).
Translation: Karen Marcucci and Béatrice