Malnad Mela brings you produce grown in farms and gardens in the lap of the Western Ghats by a women farmers collective, and even handmade products

Vanastree’s Malnad Mela is back in Bangalore in its seventh edition this weekend, where women farmers will bring with them a whole range of produce — from seeds of greens and beans, to homemade happalas and pickles, tambli powders, vegetable-colour Holi powder and more.

Vanastree founder-trustee Sunita Rao, and farmer and board trustee Manorama Joshi both stress on the highlight of this year’s Mela being tubers. Manorama says there will be a live food stall where you can savour bajjis and bondas made of tubers like kesavu. “Tubers are the hardy sunrise crops that can withstand the vagaries of climate change,” points out Sunita. They will be bringing along a few varieties of yam too, and turmeric to the Mela. Tubers are resilient, need no pesticide or much care and have a great shelf life, she points out.

When women in and around Sirsi, in the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka came together around seven years ago to save native seeds from their region, they soon found themselves sharing and exchanging them. They realised they also had some to spare. Manorama says women also as a habit make pickles, preserves, papads at home, and had more that they could sell. That’s how Vanastree also started to sell their products, providing women in the region with an additional income. “They are happy that people in cities like Bangalore eat their food. And for people in cities, it’s like eating something their mother or sister would make at home,” says Manorama.

Malnad Mela will bring products from 62 forest home gardeners and producers all from within a 40 kilometres radius of Sirsi. They include organic vegetable (beans/brinjal) and flower seeds, wild and cultivated foods, kokum nectar, pickles, chatnipudi, nellikayi and pineapple preserves, jackfruit papads, tambli powders, kokum butter (for the first time a woman from the Siddi tribe who makes the kokum butter will also be coming along), beeswax balms soapnut scrub; natural vegetable colours for Holi, indigo hair dye, and patchwork bedspreads. There will be ready-to-eat foods and beverages.

This year they also have solar lights from One Child One Light Foundation and house plants from Scaperz.

Vanastree is also requesting people to share photos of them in their gardens where seeds from the Vanastree seed savers have been used, either in germination, or of the harvest.

You could be featured on the Vanastree updates too. If you have old but clean t-shirts/vests, corks from wine bottles, and spare paper bags to give away there will be a dropbox at the venue. These will be recycled into bags and bottle stoppers respectively. Malnad Mela will be on February 8 and 9 from 10.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Golden Bead School, 157, Rathna Avenue, (lane adjacent to Action Aid on Richmond Road going towards Trinity Circle).

For details check www.vanastree.org