India going the Perma(culture) way!
Quite literally, Permaculture would refer to a set of design principles centered on thinking, simulating, or directly utilizing the patterns and resilient features observed in natural ecosystems. It uses these principles in a growing number of fields from regenerative agriculture, rewilding, and community resilience.
To put it simply, permaculture is a way of life. Permaculture is a blend word; originally derived from ‘permanent’ and ‘agriculture’- but has since evolved. A more mindful way of living, it encompasses both the words ‘permanent’ and ‘culture’ today. Coined by Australian ecologist and University of Tasmania professor Bill Mollison and his student David Holmgren in 1978, permaculture came into being as a response to highly unstable industrial-agricultural methods that were straining both the land and its resources, to yield disproportionate results. Explained as a design concept, this term was introduced with the publication of the duo’s 678-page book ‘Permaculture One’.
Mollison has said, “Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labour; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system.”
The major methods that are used to construct the Permaculture design:
1. Mainframe Design
2. Sector Analysis
3. Zone Planning
5. Analysing & Connecting Components
Mainframe design is often the starting point when it comes to Permaculture design- as it looks at the big picture. The mainframe consists of identifying and designing for the major features of what will be a human landscape. These features are, in order of the important in which we approach them: water, access, and structures.
In this piece of document, we are going to discuss the element of water.
Water is a vital component of life as we know it on Earth. Every facet of our existence as human beings depends on water. Clean and potable water, however, does not exist in infinite supply and at our current level of human activity, we are both consuming and polluting our water supplies much faster than they are being replenished. Water exists as a cyclical phenomenon and is interdependent with life on earth, particularly plants, algae, and phytoplankton.
Permaculture design uses this nature of cycling around to maximise the interactions with water as it cycles through the landscape. Water is constant inflow and, regardless of what we do with it, will eventually leave our system in some form or another.
How are the Indians using permaculture to revolutionise the mindful use of water?
Andrew Millison is a permaculture designer and instructor based out of the Pacific Northwest. He has been studying, designing, building, and teaching permaculture since 1996. These are his accounts of how in every part of India, a new and stronger wave of water revolution is growing at a fast pace.
- Andrew journeys to India to oversee the epic work of the Paani Foundation’s Water Cup Competition. In the village of Velu, in Maharashtra, who won the 2016 competition to install the most amount of water harvesting structures in a 45 day period. Guided by Paani Foundation’s chief advisor, Dr. Avinash Pol, there can be witnessed the village watershed and a massive water diversion and groundwater recharge project that has dramatically improved the lives, economy, ecology, and stability of this village.
- In the state of Tamil Nadu, Auroville is a spiritual community that has been revegetating the landscape and restoring soils and groundwater since it was established in the late 1960s. The lush landscape that stands today has a story of how erosion was stabilized, forests were established, and groundwater recharged over the entire Auroville region. There are some of the many biological water filtration systems that abound for the treatment of grey and black water.
- In the state of Andhra Pradesh near the city of Kurnool, where the organisation ‘Aranya’ works on drought mitigation and resilience with rural farmers. Aranya is working there in partnership with government and NGO’s on land planning, resilience, and establishment of rainwater harvesting ponds and other structures. There are established- water harvesting structures to provide water resources and recharge groundwater. Aranya’s holistic approach linking water supply, organic fertilizers, tree planting, and cooperative resource management was a deep expression of the permaculture spirit of integrated design and people care.
- In the state of Maharashtra, a three-generation spice business called ‘Suhana’ is creating news with its self-sufficient wastewater treatment methods . Anand Chordia, the grandson of the founders has pioneered that company’s production and distribution methods creating the first LEED Platinum-certified industrial building in India which is Suhana’s distribution warehouse. The warehouse not only is net-zero in energy use; it is also net-zero waste. That warehouse is surrounded by permaculture gardens, harvests rainwater, and treats its own wastewater using biological methods.
- In West Bengal, Kolkata based NGO that has worked in over 300 villages for nearly 40 years: the Development Research Communication and Services Centre (DRCSC) founded by Ardhendu Chatterjee in 1982. They have sought out the most marginalized populations on the most marginal lands to work with to develop ecologically harmonious self-reliance. This means working with tribal communities in remote locations with challenging soil and rainfall conditions.
- In Chennai, there can be seen the beautiful gardens of families who on a small scale, in the heart of this city, have recharged the local aquifer of their well and grown a humble forest. In this city that went dry this summer and where drought has threatened the livelihood of millions, a small site has shown that planting trees, harvesting rainwater, growing food, and providing habitat can regenerate water tables, restore habitat, and provide abundance. This is the essence of permaculture!
These impressive organisations develop sustainable and healthy communities that work in harmony with nature, permaculture practitioners, and by many other actors such as activists of organic or local food and other influencers and philanthropists. They take part in similar events and gatherings and keep themselves no apart from the big or small hindrances.
Let’s take a moment to acknowledge and support these organisations that are not only bringing the communities together but also are helping to rejuvenate Mother Nature in innovative manners.