So far… 22 August 2017

It’s been a great August. We hope it’s been the same for you!

Aranya’s farmhouse, which can be seen in the photograph above, is well underway. We’re hoping to have it finished by the end of 2018, alongside the toilet block and the foundations to the co-operative cafe. This year, the cafe will operate from the farmhouse, later moving into the finished cafe building, which will be our focus after the farmhouse is able to fulfil our operational needs.

From its very beginning, Aranya’s philosophy has been to regenerate for the future, and learn from our past. This is a general opinion of both the founder Rajnish Kumar (many know him as Raja) and ourselves, the co-founders. This philosophy underpins everything we do, our construction, food production, social and managerial arrangements and the way in which we promote development.

All of the buildings and facilities created on Aranya can be best described by an approach known as Vernacular architecture. The term ‘Vernacular architecture’ can be misleading, because most building classifications are based off their end-result. This style is actually focused on the process of constructing the building.  Paying close attention to the local context in which it was created and how this individually shaped the end-result.  It is the outcome of an individual or collective, designing, and then, creating a building from the local natural (and unnatural) resources available, drawing on traditional and local architectural knowledge, and designing it to support their needs and comfort.

Indian Vernacular architecture has three broad sub-classifications: Kachcha, gatiya/pacca or semi-gatiya/pacca. Aranya’s constructions classify as semi-gatiya/pacca buildings/facilities, for now.

Kachcha is a building made from naturally occurring resources, such as mud, bamboo, grass and so forth. This often means the buildings are not durable enough to last over a long period of time, requiring continuous maintenance. Luckily, these buildings often incur minimal costs to make and maintain due to utilising locally available resources.

Gatiya/pacca is a building made from more resistant and durable resources, such as timber, bricks and tiles, which creates a long-standing but obviously more expensive construction. Maintenance of its features is often minimal in comparison to Kachcha’s, and decorative features are easier to include.

Semi-Gatiya/pacca is a combination of both. Generally these buildings begin as Kachchas, and over time, as the creator acquires more durable materials, original features are replaced, evolving them into a semi-gatiya/pacca building.  Some buildings begin as semi-gatiya/pacca’s due to the materials available to work with, but many have naturally evolved.


At Aranya we love soil. Soil is the resource that enables us to build our facilities on the farm and grow all the food. We are lucky really, the farm is situated on the edge of Tamil Nadu state, south of Karnataka. Tamil Nadu’s land is largely made up of red/yellow soil, with a low/medium level of innate fertility. This type of soil has great potential for being used as building and plastering material.

Other available resources include recycled timber, locally collected leaves and grasses, recycled glass bottles and metal, donated and locally sourced bricks and stones, occasionally bamboo, some cement, sand and clay, but most of the time, especially at the moment, its simple mud and water.

Keeping it sustainable

Our power: Like 11.8% of households in India (NFHS (2015-16) we are not on the grid. For us it is not such an issue, as we plan to receive our energy from renewable and low impact sources. Unfortunately, until we test out the amount of energy we can generate from both solar and wind power, we won’t be able to present to everyone how much of our operations can be supported purely through renewable energy sources.  Currently we use the wood stove and (bottled) gas cooker to rustle up food, with a small solar panel helping us charge devices.

Our water: We have access to groundwater and use it for consumption and also watering the crops through drip irrigation or when our ponds have dried up. After the roofing is finished, the design, on both the geo-dome and the farmhouse, will help harvest rainwater, and once funding is stable, we will be constructing a sanitary tank system that simultaneously stores the harvested rainwater and treats it for consumption. The groundwater for now will support on-farm drinking water, the single shower and toilet system and occasionally irrigation and manual watering. We are making it a priority to utilise all other possible avenues for harvesting and improving usage efficiency. Overall, due to climate, agricultural requirements, pollution, salinisation, lack of policy and until recently, an expanding industrial usage, India’s national groundwater is severely compromised. Fortunately, in this area of Tamil Nadu, ground water is compromised at a low level, rather than a high level.

Water scarcity directly affects farmers and households around the country, often seasonally, but in some areas, permanently, with many crucial water wells being lost to pollution. Maintaining the safety and improving the usage efficiency of water needs to become a priority for all Indian farmers. Good planning and short-term investment can really pay off in the long-run, and can enable better on-farm results from increased water reserves. Many alternative strategies require minimal financial input, it is rather an investment of time and effort to change the agro-ecosystem.

Our materials: We focus on renewable resources, our timber is recycled and our bamboo is well sourced. The metal and occasional plastic that we use is from recycled sources. We make a considerable effort to not buy new materials, reducing the overall energy used to create the constructions and therefore, emissions released. Certain materials are met with controversy, such as unstable recycled material. Recently we learnt how to use recycled tires safely, minimising the direct contact with the slowly decomposing rubber. It is a constant learning process, with some adjustments along the way, but sustainable living itself is at the point of its own creation, so only through experimenting, adjusting and learning through experience, will our chances of living within nature’s boundaries increase.

Durability: We have tried to enhance the durability of the constructions in any way we can. Plastering, glass bricks, complimentary designs (such as sloped walls), a circular cafe building to reduce the pressure on certain points and just making sure we source as much help, inspiration, guidance and local, traditional knowledge as possible. The maintenance ensures low investment because of the building materials chosen. A lot of items can be found for free or created on the farm.

Utility of the designs: The farmhouse and cafe building are North-East facing to enhance the amount of light from morning to dusk. The roofing will facilitate easy rain-water harvesting. The designs will be open, allowing for ventilation and to change the interior and layout for future requirements. But most importantly, the designs all help us to lead low-impacting lives.

At the centre of everything we are doing on and around Aranya Eco Village, is the idea of creating something transferable. A setup that supports social, economic, biological, cultural and environmental well-being for the farmer and their household. A setup that improves rural food security and reduces the common risks of a small-scale farming livelihood. Every decision, design, development and change is made with this in mind. Drawing on knowledge and resources that are sustainable and cheap for rural households to acquire, and empowering farmers and households to recognise their collective potential to make the changes they want to see for themselves and their local village. To find out a little bit more about why we are constructing a community cafe  and how we are setting up Aranya Eco Village click here

line break


International institute for Population Sciences, 2016. National Family Health Survey-4. Mumbai: India. 


2 thoughts on “So far… 22 August 2017”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s