This project is the result of Swami Rama's dream of development for villagers in the Gahrwal region of the Himalayan foothills. A team of directors for the project has been gathered and has begun the exciting planning and work of making the dream a reality.
Computer Center, Sewing Center, Library
The villagers of Toli, the birth place of Swami Rama, have sold sufficient good land to Swami Hari Hariharananda for the development of the projects. Last year as a beginning, a Computer Center was built and established in Toli. Eric Ness, an American Computer Science graduate has already graduated a class of 26 students in a six month computer course. He has now begun with a second group and is training a village man to be able to teach classes as well. A sewing Center has also been established for the women of the village. Gaining the skill of sewing and stitching increases their value for marriage and allows them to stay in the village area rather than go to the cities for sewing instruction.
With the help of the Rural Development Institute a library has been purchased and installed in Toli and a librarian trained and given a small stipend.
Upgraded Water, Sanitation and Infrastructure
From this point on there will be several stages in the project work. First an upgraded water, sanitation and infrastructure program will be put into place. Atem Ramsundersingh (a water systems expert from Holland who is in demand around the world) and four of his graduate students spent a month in Toli last year and assessed all aspects of the water, waste, infrastructure, etc and wrote a very exciting and detailed report as to how the systems could be improved and developed. With the continuing input of Atem and the help of the Rural Development Institute of the Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust, and input from other environmental experts, this first phase can be undertaken. All aspects of the water and sanitation project will use alternative fuels (primarily solar and bio-power) and the latest environmental technology that is appropriate to the village ecology will be used.
Herbal and Medicinal Plants Farming and Herbal Institute
Simultaneously, the Herbal Farming and Herbal Institute aspect will begin. Herbs and medicinal plants are Mother Nature's gift to the human race. The life of human, animal, birds, fish, etc will be endangered if we do not have the diversity of plants necessary to maintain them. Providing the highest level of information of the multifaceted bio-diversity of herbs and medicinal plants is one of the main goals of the Herbal Institute. The planting and fostering of all species of flora of the State of Utteranchal, will be accomplished. Rare and endangered species will be acquired and planted. A model of a kitchen garden of herbs, medicinal plants and trees will be grown and developed.
The Herbal Farming and Herbal Institute will also immediately provide work for villagers and income which can be put back into the project. At present most of the men of the village of Toli are forced to go down to the towns and cities to find work. A major thrust of the development program in all of its phases is to provide employment in the area of the village, not just for the men, but also for women. The Rural Development Institute will also be assisting in the project by lending agricultural advice and practical support, but also in working with women to give them a position of empowerment through gaining knowledge and earning power. First plantings can be harvested within six months to a year. Villagers can be taught to grow certain herbs and medicinal plants on their own plots of land and sell them to the project. There are many companies who are looking for pure organically grown herbs and medicinal plants. Villagers and others in the Institute will be taught how to grow, process and sell herbs and medicines. Some villagers can be employed on the project in these capacities and others will be able to find good jobs with companies who specialize in herbal medicines and spices. The Herbal Institute will create and instruct in areas such as herb cultivation, herb processing, research on value added production, pharmaognosory, pharmaceutics, phyto-chemistry, etc A seed bank and nursery are an important part of the project.
Alternative Energy and Organic Growing
As in the water and sanitation systems, the herbal farming will use only the latest methods for energy conservation, watershed management, use of solar energy, biofertilizers, bio-pesticides and recycling of water and waste. Construction of proposed buildings for all aspects of the Toli village development phases will use architectural design which makes use of local construction techniques and application of sustainable methods. The bricks will be fabricated in the area itself to save fuel and avoid pollution.
Another basic assumption of the Herbal Farming and Herbal Institute is that indigenous knowledge cannot be ignored in favor of Western academic university models of education. Academics, policy-makers and development practitioners on an international level have been showing more and more interest in indigenous knowledge over the last two decades. The work of Drs. Upadhyays as Ayurvedic specialists and the planning of this project carries forward a living indigenous tradition of Ayurvedic herbal and medicinal knowledge which goes back thousands of years.
With the water, sanitation and infrastructure in place and with the on going development and income from the Herbal projects, the next phase will include the construction of a sizable polytechnic (vocational school), something Swami Rama specifically asked Swami Hari to carry out. Within a 15 km radius of Toli, which includes 36 villages with a population of about 17,000, there is currently no polytechnic. The polytechnic will offer three year diplomas in English, Electronics, Mechanics, and Computer Applications, and Business Management. We will also teach Food, Nutrition and Ayurvedic Cooking and Clothing design and manufacturing. The addition of a fourth year will eventually be possible in order to offer full degrees in these subjects. Evening and weekend classes for a part-time diploma of four years and a six month or one year diploma course will be offered in some of the subjects. The polytechnic buildings will be built and subjects phased in as funds allow. The Herbal Institute will also be housed in the polytechnic building. Each subject area will have three classrooms and three labs allocated to it. The Herbal Institute will have at least six rooms allocated to it. Students will also have classes in yoga, cultural studies and environmental attitudes.
Because Toli is some distance from the homes of many students, two buses will be purchased for transportation. A hostel for boys and a hostel for girls will eventually be built to allow students who need to live on campus in an ashram setting. The selection of Toli for development was purposeful even through it is more remote. Less remote areas are already developed to some extent and the effort is to carry the benefits of the project to those parts of the Garhwal region not yet developed. Also, the pollution and waste problems that often go hand in hand with development can be avoided in these areas.
Primary Health Clinic
In the last phase, a 10 bed primary health clinic will be constructed. It will primarily operate as an Ayurvedic and homeopathic clinic run in conjunction with the Herbal Farming and Herbal Institute using allopathic medicine only in emergency cases where it is necessary. It will also be the job of this clinic with the assistance of the Rural Development Institute to educate villagers about basic health and population issues. An ambulance will be acquired to transport serious cases to the Himalayan Institute Hospital. The government has constructed a hospital building in the next village, but with the recent change in government, it is not known when or even if the hospital will be equipped and staffed. If, in the future it is up and running then, the clinic can work with that hospital as well as with the Himalayan Institute Hospital.
A Guest House will be built next to the Computer Center to be available for people visiting the project site, staff, etc.
The major people involved in this project are:
As spiritual guide, Swami Hariharananda, Sadhana Mandir, Rishikesh
Mahamandelashwar Swami Veda Bharati, Sadhana Mandir, Rishikesh
Drs. Venod and Kushum Upadhayay, Ayurvedic doctors and herbal specialists, Haridwar
Dr. Krishan Kumar Upreti, graduate Garhwal University Srubagar, Dr. Zoology and specialitst in environmental protection and technologies (project manager), Rishikesh
Vijay Dhasmana, director of the Himalayan Institute Hospital, Jolly Grant, Dehradun
Maithili Rural Development Program of the Himalayan Institute Hospital
Prof. D. K. Dhawan, principal, Mehr Chand Polytechnic, Jalander, Punjab
Dr. Claudia Crawford, Professor of Eastern Religions and Environmental Ethics and Fundraiser in the United States &endash; several methods of fundraising are being pursued both in the United States and other countries, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Mr. Horst Rechelbacher, patron, Wisconsin, USA
Mr. Atem Ramsundersingh, water systems expert, Amsterdam, Holland
The Syal Foundation, Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota
Many other financial, legal and expertise advisors and team support members have been engaged or will be engaged in the project as it progresses.
All are dedicated to an unusually high degree to creating a model of village development that can be transferred in a modified manner to other mountain villages, even other countries. To creating with the villagers a spiritually viable and environmentally inspiring model. To assist and serve villagers in the means of economic improvement through herbal farming and other income generating means, the construction of the polytechnic and Herbal Institute and clinic. To facilitate the use of alternative energy sources and environmental technologies. Because of the emphasis being placed on environmental attitudes, indigenous relationships to nature, alternative environmentally friendly technologies, it is conceivable that at some point the project can also integrate and Environmental Institute of learning based on the models created here. However, the major goal of the Toli Development Project is to assist villagers in the Garhwal region of the Himalayan foothills in becoming and remaining self-determining and self-reliant over the short and long term. It is not just a matter of preserving indigenous knowledge, but of helping indigenous people themselves to come into a modern world in the least compromised way possible.