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This Bihari is teaching the world, how to live with nature

Women from Bihar have always contributed greatly in different sectors of society whether it is politics, social work, sports, literature, or showbiz. On the one hand we see Sharda Sinha ruling the hearts from her melodious voice, whereas Shikha Surbhi set an example of courage and bravery by performing stunts in the republic day parade. Today we’ll be talking about one such woman, Shagun Singh from Bihar, who’s making beautiful mud houses and teaching people from all over the world about sustainable life and natural farming through her venture, Geeli Mitti.

Shagun Singh is the founder of ‘Geeli Mitti Farms’ which makes sustainable mud houses and works and organise workshops on natural and organic farming. These houses are built sustainably, using natural materials and mud, but also waste materials. Various time tested and advanced mud building techniques are used like earthbag, cob, adobe, rammed earth and others. Houses are designed to better survive natural calamities like earthquakes and flash floods and last centuries. They are also designed to manage its own energy, waste, water and food for the residents.

Shagun Singh was born in Patna and acquired her early education from here only. After her matriculation from Notre Dame Academy, she shifted to Delhi. She did her graduation from Delhi University and after that she went for an MBA in Finance. She worked for different multinational companies for the next 10 years and witnessed a phenomenal career graph. She was living a comfortable life and earning a handsome salary at the end of the month but she wanted to get out of it. One night she decided to quit and typed her resignation letter. Asking about why did she take such step, she said,

“It feels so good when you’re earning money and buying cars and houses but at the end of the day you are just a slave. No matter how much money you make, you can never afford clean air, water and food because these things do not exist anymore. I wanted to explore what life has for me so I quit the job and gave a whole year to myself.”

In that year she started training herself and did what she actually wanted to. She learnt Organic farming, Natural farming, Bio-dynamic farming, making mud houses and many other things from the experts of the respective industry. She was already learning these things since two years while she was in her job. After quitting, she started focusing on these things more clearly. She also learnt Martial arts which she wanted to learn since her childhood. So in that leap she took, she focused on what she wanted to do. That’s when she decided to work on ‘Geeli Mitti’.

Her ancestral village is in Araria and she wanted to establish something there only so that she could help the local community. But due to property and land disputes and some other reasons, she had to postpone the plan and she started building Geeli Mitti. After a while, she bought land in Nainital, Uttarakhand and permanently established her venture there. Today ‘Geeli Mitti’ has developed itself so much that people from every corner of the world comes to take workshops on different techniques of sustainable living and natural farming.

“Geeli Mitti is an ideology, a social enterprise that inspires everyone to lives sustainably in communion with nature and fostering community.” said Shagun Singh.

Geeli Mitti is a permaculture farm, a research cum learning center for natural building and farming. It also works on generating livelihood opportunities for the underprivileged. They organise workshops varying from 4 days to 45 days on sustainable living and natural farming. People come to know about how to make such self sustainable house which exists for so long, is flood-proof and earthquake proof. Other than learning these things they learn about different kinds of farming. Whether it is rainwater harvesting or grey water recycling, they learn everything to live a sustainable life.

At the same time, they are also working in three villages inside Naina Devi Bird Sanctuary zone. These villages are remotely located and don’t even have roads. All the money ‘Geeli Mitti gets from workshops, they use for community activity in these villages. They work there for the livelihood opportunities of the villagers to stop their migration to cities. They also make sure that these livelihood opportunities support their local culture and tradition. Geeli Mitti has started stitching centers, computer training centers, and a school for children. Also they’ve opened a library. In the stitching centers, women of these villages stitch cloth bags which goes to local shopkeepers and grocery stores so that polythene bags could not be used. The money is given to these women which helps them in their household. Villagers are trained for Bee-keeping and natural farming so that they do not practice pesticides based farming anymore. Other than that they’re also taught about first-aid and health camps are being regularly organised for them.

They are also planning to launch their Food products like Honey and Ghee as they do farming, Bee-keeping sort of things. Geeli Mitti Foundation has been working separately on two other big initiatives – self defense training for girls collaborating with the Police forces and otherwise as well for corporates. Also the ‘Say no to Polythene and Yes to Cloth Bags’ campaign which has spread to six states including a prison in Gurugram.

The cloth bags are stitched by prisoners and women in slums and supplied to stores like Patanjali. The money goes back to support the families and for education of their children. Geeli Mitti Foundation was also invited by the Indian Army in Kashmir and now works there as well.

Besides these things, Shagun Singh keeps travelling and gives workshops at various places. Talking about the approaching women’s day she said,

“It’s strange how suddenly everyone wakes up around women’s day and wants self-defense corporate workshops and talks and events… In some ways, women also need to stop thinking of themselves as victims or oppressed, and trying to prove that they are equal to men and can do whatever men can do. That thought itself instills in women a feeling of being less. I encourage every woman to revel in who you are and be your own best version. Each one of us is unique and has incomparable strengths. The need is to embrace that strength within and be proud of your feminity. What you can achieve as an awakened woman, you cannot achieve as an aspiring man”.

Shagun is planning to establish something similar in her ancestral village in Bihar. She is working hard so that she could free herself from the venture in Nainital so that she could focus on bringing ‘Geeli Mitti’ to Bihar.

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Quote of the day: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.
― Mahatma Gandhi

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