A breakthrough in sustainable farming

Permaculture, a term said to be defined in reference to the need for a permanent or sustainable system of agriculture, is being experimented all over the world across difference climatic and geographic zones and has recently come to the city in the form of a successful demonstration on a seven-acre piece of land in the Art of Living Ashram.

What permaculture hopes to achieve, according to an introduction in What Is Permaculture (austcom.org.au) is "Consciously designed landscapes that mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature while yielding an abundance of food, fiber, and energy for the provision of local needs".

"The whole world today depends on fossil fuels, a renewable resource that will soon reaches its peak of depletion. Out of the 98 countries that depend on fossil fuels today, 65 countries have reached their peak", says Venkatesh Dharmraj, co-ordinator of the permaculture project. "There are 35 million bore wells in India. Out of these, over two and a half million have already gone dry. So if we are to depend on ground water as our source, we have to increase ground water levels".

Venkatesh encountered permaculture on a visit to the Crystal Waters Eco Village in September 2012, which inspired him to do some research and take up courses on permaculture (through the Panya Project) and visit many permaculture sites.

"Then my wife met Bhanu didi (Bhanumati Narasimhan, sister to His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar), who suggested to my wife that I take up a permaculture project on a site at the Art of Living ashram."The Art of Living has through several initiatives supported chemical free farming.

So he, along with Brecht Deriemaeker and Nick Tittle as consultants from the Panya Project, designed to develop seven acres of degraded land that was offered by the Art of Living Foundation. The design was completed in July.

What permaculture does, he says, is help recharge the ground water table, build soil from bio-waste, grow crops through multiple cropping, build garden beds and forests that also generate fodder along with offering sustainable housing. This is done without irrigation or tilling to save fossil fuels.

"It is a design science that has three visions: earth care, people care, and future care", he says. "Twelve principles are at the heart of this science".

Many of these design principles are based on the principles observed by natural systems or systems found in nature.

Venkatesh and his team have, over 90 days, applied these principles and have already dug swales on slopes for water harvesting, raised garden beds, grown fruit trees, and built a bamboo and mud hut.

The swales, he says, have started filling up the nearby ponds; the gardens have started yielding flowers, vegetables, and fodder, which are being supplied to the ashram; and the land already looks green.

"Now, the idea is to teach people and inspire them to take up permaculture to bring sustainable farming back to life".

And this has already begun.

To know more or volunteer contact Mr. Venkatesh on vdharmraj@ramaavenkatesh.com

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Founded in 1981 by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar,The Art of Living is an educational and humanitarian movement engaged in stress-management and service initiatives. Mehr