Aid Projects

Implementing Permaculture Across India by Royal Enfield?

by Paul Kean, aka ‘Ringo’

Whilst in Thailand last year I had an insight into what I can do to further my work and continue on my path with teaching Permaculture. I was sitting in an internet booth in Khao San Road, Bangkok when a vision came to me of doing mobile consultancy throughout India on a Royal Enfield motorcycle.

I had come to Thailand after having to leave Japan due to visa issues. Thailand was relatively close to get to to regroup on some ideas to continue learning more of sustainable agriculture. I had been emailing anyone I could find an address for from Permaculture sites around the world to offer my services to help.

I had been getting few results from this so I started to dive further into my vision and create a realistic goal to work toward. I had been offered a position in India when I was in Japan for the following year in April, from a visitor to Fuji Eco Park, but that was still 10 months away. The way I saw things was that I had to create my own situation to move ahead. I mapped out the idea to weigh up the pros and cons. The idea was to find the cheapest way back to Australia and work six months in the mining industry which is my normal field and pays well. This work is a means to an end but will get me closer to my goal sooner.

As much as Permaculture was in demand in these developing countries, no one was in a position to place me on a project where my skills could be utilized. Mind you, I had a good offer and opportunity to work at Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge in Ethiopia, but negotiations broke down due to the amount of financial support they would offer to get me there for a 12 month gig. I was going broke and it seemed I had to return to Australia to organize a visa for Ethiopia. This ended up being an expense that neither the project nor I could afford at the time.

I set my plan in place and started to cross off items as I reached a positive result.
The plan was to purchase a rotating laser level (for surveying) and a projector (for presentations on the road) and some other tools that would assist me on the adventure I was embarking on. I considered having a sidecar on the motorcycle but didn’t know the real possibility of this in India. I started researching these tools for the best price and the most durable products. As the plan was to buy a Royal Enfield Diesel, the tools I would purchase needed to stand up to the horrific road conditions in India. I had seen heaps of docos from India and had a fairly good idea of what I was in for. The other reason behind the Enfield Diesel was to demonstrate making bio-diesel to fuel my journey.

On returning to Oz I landed a good position as a Trainer/Assessor, which I hold a Cert 4 in, doing fly-in/fly-out work to mine sites throughout Western Australia. This work involves training site personnel in the safe and productive operation of heavy mining machinery (bulldozers, excavators, graders, haul trucks, etc.). I have been involved in this type of work most of my life, until Permaculture hit me, when I saw the ways that I was contributing to global warming and my own health. Like I have said, it is a means to an end and following more on a career in Permaculture I am hoping to balance things out by re-foresting the earth and teaching people to grow their own food where I can.

I bought my ticket to India in November 2008 as soon as I could afford it to secure the plan. Once I purchased it there was no turning back or I would lose the cost of the ticket. I was committed now. Return on a 12 month ticket cost $1064 with Qantas/Jet Airways. I found this flight through STA Travel then took the pricing to their competitors and got it even cheaper. It pays to shop around. I ended up getting the ticket from Magic Carpet Travel in Perth, WA, and they are located under the Indian Consulate which made it very easy for me to get them to arrange my visa at the same time.

I continued to work through the months leading up to April and in that time was hearing less and less from the project where I had the job offer of supervising and implementing water harvesting strategies in Hartola, Uttar Pradesh. Around about the same time I was contacted by Rico Zook, whom I had previously contacted from Thailand months earlier, offering me to project manage the implementation of an eco village in the south near Coorg, Karnataka. After some long distance calls to get info on this project I redirected my energy to this as the long term goals for both the project and myself were win win. The plan changed slightly but was in full swing to materialize.

I was nearing completion on the research for projector and laser level and was ready to finalize a purchase. I opted for a Spectra Precision LL100 laser level. This comes as a kit in a lockable carry case with tri-pod, staff, laser level and receiver all in one. It is very light weight (15kg) and the case is very durable. It is designed to be dragged around building sites to work in all conditions. I purchased it for $1600 with a remote which was great value. I had to import it from the US as suppliers in Australia weren’t bringing this model into the country. So much can be done with this tool – from large scale dam/swale earthworks layout to building foundations and wall truing.

Secondly I looked at the lightest most powerful ultra portable projector. I found a dealer with a Casio XJ-S35 on clearance sale and picked one up for $1100. A great investment and it weighs about the same as my laptop (1.3kg).

With all these things sorted and the major expenses covered I contacted Geoff Lawton from the Permaculture Research Institute, Australia to see if they could arrange an extra Permaculture Teacher Training Course to follow the Aid Project Workers Course scheduled in early April. These courses compliment each other but were not being held consecutively and I wanted to attend both before leaving. The P.R.I was very generous in assisting with my request and a 4 day intensive program was added to their calendar. Thanks again guys for your help. Covering these courses would give further knowledge for working in other cultures as well as using the template from the Master Plan for Permaculture projects. Even though the project I was going to be working on was not an aid project, I could still use the ideals in the implementation of it and potentially have it running sustainably after 3 years.

With all this arranged and just several weeks of work to go I had to organize vaccinations. I had used malaria drugs before but with terrible side affects. I opted this time to instead go with homeopathic remedies for malaria and updated for typhoid and cholera. I also purchased MMS as a counter measure against malaria and for balancing pH in the body. This stuff is amazing and its curing capabilities work not only on malaria.

I also was advised by others with past experience in India to travel with a water filter. Great sense and something I hadn’t thought of. The type I was told of was the Waterworks II. It is a ceramic filter which will take out all baddies above 2 microns. Also very light weight and portable.

Well, all the organizing was completed and the courses attended and bags were packed. I had also arranged a train ticket from Bombay to Bangalore for the day after I was to arrive in India. 24 hours on the train would give me a good chance to see a bit of the country. All that is needed now is to purchase the motorcycle in country. It has all gone fairly smoothly for me as I planned everything the way I had envisioned it to be then used common sense working around timing and other issues. My friends and family have all been very supportive and I have made some great contacts for when I hit the ground.

Stay tuned for the next report….



  1. Wow! Ringo. This project sounds amazing. I am interested in knowing more about the group in Coorg and for that matter, any group that you visit.

    Do let me know if you will be in Bangalore any time soon as I am based there and would love to participate :)


  2. I would re-think opting for an Enfield even though they’re fun and you will get plenty of admirers. It’s a macho bike to ride in India, its economically not the best choice (expensive to maintain – read often at the repairers, not very fuel efficient) etc. The gears are on the right side with the gear order upside down. Unless you get a new bike it’s kick start without disk breaks. They do start hard and watch that kick start going just a bit further than your knee cap will tolerate (ouch). Loved the sound of them though… If you can’t resist – get a Bullet 500. One more thing – if you get panniers for luggage make sure there are no sharp or protruding bits – I heard a story of a guy that caught a pedestrians dress with it and ripped it off the man’s body driving past. Believe me, that is not a good thing to happen to you in India.

    Good luck

  3. What’s good, Ringo?

    Great update…and many thanks for the gear suggestions. They will prove very useful for my upcoming project, for sure.

    Keep us posted, mate…


  4. sounds like a great adventure. make sure u get an up-to-date list of permaculture activitis/organisations in India, which seems to lack a national institution – people are always asking me for contacts there but there aren’t many. Good luck!

  5. hey hi tats a good start to go bout jus in time to get to the start, nice journal. as i have seen ur bike at Jatins place its jus awesome, its jus been worked upon it will need some running to get free n u to get used to the bike , happy riding , hope to hear from u soon, just in case u wonder who i am u have my card GREEEN CARPET there u go

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