You don’t need to have the whole staircase in view, you just have to take the FIRST STEP


Place of assignment: Langenburg, Germany

Organisation: Ecoselva

Panma Yankit from India is involved with Ecoselva in Kirchberg an der Jagst and the surrounding area in ecological projects of the “Haus der Bauern” Foundation. She loves to spend her time in beautiful natural surroundings and to gain knowledge through seminars and TED talks on sustainability topics with a focus on nutrition and agriculture. In her report, she gives us insight into her life in Germany, her work and her host family.

Don’t wait until conditions are perfect to start. Starting makes the conditions perfect.

I have been in Germany for nearly six months now. I’m truly grateful to be here and to experience Germany’s culture, language and many other aspects of its fascinating life and history. Colourful architecture, castles, palaces, cities, half-timbered houses, landscapes, forests, rivers, good food and punctuality are some of my favourite things. The people I meet are very friendly, warm-hearted and kind. I have felt very comfortable here since I arrived. The weather in this part of the world is very changeable. The seasons are quite different here, but right now I’m really enjoying the wonderful spring.

South-North volunteer Panma Yankit sits on a meadow. Her right profile is visible. She is sitting in front of a herd of sheep. Green mountains and trees are visible in the background.
Panma Yankit in the great outdoors

I have felt very comfortable here since I arrived.

Learning in community

I particularly enjoyed one of the support seminars, even though it was in virtual mode. The group discussions with the other volunteers from eight different countries, with whom I’m still in contact, compelled me to learn a lot about politics and culture. We talked about the educational systems in Germany and other countries and included perspectives from my country as well. I’m really looking forward to the next seminar and new encounters with my fellow volunteers, who are becoming more and more like family to me.

The fellow volunteers are becoming more and more like family to me.

There is so much to discover

I’m doing my volunteer service at the non-profit “Haus der Bauern” Foundation. It’s a socio-political foundation of the Bäuerliche Erzeugergemeinschaft Schwäbisch Hall (Schwäbisch Hall Agricultural Producers Association). The “Haus der Bauern” Foundation features sustainable approaches to agriculture and is involved with nature conservation, lobbying and the worldwide promotion of organic agriculture. International networking is very important here, since everybody benefits from the mutual exchange of knowledge.

Panma Yankit, Norbert Fischer and Ajay Kumar pose for a group picture. They look directly at the camera and are in the centre of the photo. In the background, you can see they are in a wood-panelled living room.
Life in a farming family – Panma Yankit with Norbert Fischer from the sheep farm in Langenburg and fellow volunteer Ajay Kumar

In addition, I work on the farm of a farming family in Langenburg together with other volunteers. This organic farm is connected to the “Haus der Bauern” Foundation, since it belongs to the Bäuerliche Erzeugergemeinschaft Schwäbisch Hall. By working on this organic farm, I learned a lot of new things about livestock, the production of dairy products and organic farming. The collaboration with the employees and other volunteers on these different projects is really quite nice, and I always feel well supported.

The collaboration with the employees and other volunteers on these different projects is really quite nice.

In addition, in the last few months I was able to work on different farms that belong to the Bäuerliche Erzeugergemeinschaft Schwäbisch Hall (BESH).

During my time at the “Grünes Zentrum” (Green Centre), where BESH’s advisory service and various research projects are located, I visited various farms with the advisers and got to know the EU LIFE project “Insect Supporting Region Hohenlohe” more closely. In the process, I learned a lot about biodiversity action plans and biodiversity performance tools, which deal with the implementation of insect-promoting measures. This allowed me to learn how we can preserve biodiversity using online software to protect crops and insects in a field.

In a pigsty, three pigs can be seen on the left side of the photo, standing side by side looking toward the barn. They have black patterned rumps and heads and are otherwise pink. Another pig is shown from behind and looking toward the exit.
Tour of a pig farm in Schwäbisch Hall, Germany

In a sheep’s cheese and BESH member farm in Langenburg, I was introduced step by step to the preparation of Demeter certified cheese. This was new to me, because I had never prepared hard cheese before. I was also taught how to make yoghurt and ice cream. At first, this work was very unfamiliar to me and difficult, but with time, I became more proficient and was even able to make cheese creations using different spices.

In a cellar, on the left side in the photo, large, round wheels of cheese lie on boards in the shelf-rod fixtures.
In the cheese factory – this is how cheese is stored

I was able to witness the international and policy orientation of the “Haus der Bauern” Foundation as it prepared for the World Organic Forum 2022, a conference for networking global sustainability projects with agricultural connections. The focus of this year’s forum is the local implementation of the 17 sustainability goals of the UN Agenda 2030 through organic agriculture. To have been a part of these preparations was an enriching experience. I’m proud to have been a part of it.

A man stands at a lectern. Behind him are banners of the Academy Castle Kirchenberg. The magnificent castle hall can be seen in the background. The photo is taken from the audience so that the backs of other people's heads can be seen.
Opening speech by Foundation Chairman Rudolf Bühler to the World Organic Forum 2022

Life on the farm with the host family

I live in the Kirchberg Castle house, where I have a wonderful room to myself and share the kitchen and bathroom. Through my work on the farm in Langenburg, I’m in contact with the farming family, which has become like my new family. Here I became familiar with the German language and traditional German food and beverages as well as Turkish food.

The dinner table is set with dishes and food. A bowl of hummus, a casserole dish filled with falafel, a plate of chapat and a bowl of tomato salad can be seen.
Eating together

At lunch we eat together and we prepare Indian food as well. Chapati (a flat bread) and rice with beans are especially popular. Together, we eat the Indian food with our fingers and not with a spoon. Afterward, we have the famous Indian “chai”, which is called tea in English. So this is how we share our culture with one another and learn to work together. Tuba is the boss of this family. She is so kind-hearted and like a sister to me; she always prepares cakes and pizza for us. I tried “Danube Waves” cake for the first time at a birthday party.

We share our culture with one another and learn to work together.

Conclusion – “Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching.”

Day by day, I’m learning a lot about the Sustainable Development Goals, regenerative agriculture and farmers’ rights worldwide.

I want to continue to learn more about sustainable food systems and transparent food supply chains. I also want to collaborate with other farmers who practice different cultivation systems, such as arable farming, apple farming, vegetable farming and lots more. I always wanted to learn more about how farming is done in Germany.

So this is how I spend my wonderful and unforgettable time in Germany. To sum up, I never want to stop learning because life never stops teaching.