Aranya – Permaculture Design Course (PDC)
In my quest to learn alternative techniques of agriculture without using any chemical based fertilizers and pesticides, found a course i.e. Permaculture Design Course (PDC) – a way of farming by mimicking the nature. Working with nature to overcome the challenges thrown at us by the modern-day agriculture practises.
About Aranya Agricultural Alternatives
In this age of consumerism and capitalist corporate approach it’s very hard to find such organisations and individuals, who have dedicated themselves for the sake of propagating and helping educate the ignorant masses, about the wonders what nature can do it by itself with very less human intervention. Aranya is under the helm of very well experienced professionals and able guidance i.e. Mr. Narsanna Koppula and Mrs Padma Koppula who have more than cumulative of nearly 50 years of experience in successfully implementing such farming practices. They have time and again demonstrated that nature is the best teacher who mankind can learn from.
Permaculture Design Course:
Narsanna Sir being the front runner in India going through the permaculture design course in 1987 which was taught by Bill Mollison and Robyn Francis and Reny Mia Slay from Australia. Since then Narsanna sir has focused on training the youth and farming community the benefits and know how of Permaculture based farming.
The course is packaged in a very innovative way and taught in a very picturesque location, which is situated 9 kms from Zahirabad in Telangana, which is roughly 100 kms from Hyderabad. Bearing in mind the diverse backgrounds of the participants come from and their varying maturity levels of understanding the concept the course is stitched together so well that at the end one goes with a feeling and contentment of learning under the able guidance of Narsanna Sir.
When stumbled across this course in Hindustan Times in Mumbai, it was like everything in a capsule of what I was looking for. The course duration is for 13 days which is packed with loads of information for new entrant like me. The course is packed with practical’s and theory classes in an apt balance one could look for.
The course covers various topics ranging from one’s aspirations in this field, defining permaculture in global and Indian context in lay man terms, climate, soil, water and its management systems, design basics which include contour drawing, mapping to scale, sector and zone planning, planning the elements in one’s farm based on the vision of the owner, farm infrastructure and their importance of relative placement in the farm, natural building and natural living, food crops and food forestry, Animal Husbandry, community interaction and finally integrating them into a final design exercise. Giving a lot of practical insights through farm and forest walks.
The uniqueness of this course is the freedom given to every participant to express themselves and taken in very open manner without any judgement, which gives the necessary comfort for every individual to express freely and interact with no fear or hesitation.
Introduction to Permaculture
It starts from introducing themselves and their aspirations and getting to know each other and the varying backgrounds they come from, and also introducing us to the permaculture world through the principles and ethics which is based on.
Zone planning and Sector analysis:
A very vital part of course which gives overview of the planning to be done, keeping in view the macro and micro factors/elements, which can be clubbed into zones, which gives us the ease of operations and also helps us factoring the various elements required at the planning stage itself.
Sector analysis helps us understand the various climatic factors influencing various elements of relative placement in the farm. i.e. sun movement in summer and winter, the slope gradient in the farm, rainfall, dominant wind direction and many more. It’s an interesting analysis, which gives a fair idea of what expect with various climatic factors.
Land Forms and Soils:
This is very interesting and an essential topic, as the soil makes the main element in the whole process, one tends understands the various types of soils, this all begins with forest walk where are asked to collect samples for later testing them in a jar test. This is quite simple but gives amazing insight into the type of soil and its various benefits accordingly.
Climate and Micro Climates:
Various climates and microclimates affecting the crop and trees, especially when we are talking about microclimates, under large trees there are a lot of different species of plants and shrubs which thrive which are called as guilds and it’s amazing to see how many species cumulatively thrive together, which can be put together as microclimate. It can also be called guilds. We were also introduced to the concept of making compost.
Contour and the benefits:
Have never heard of such term contour prior to this, this session introduces to the concept of contour and its benefits, which are normally used for determining the where and how to do water harvesting on the field. One is also exposed to the practical aspects of how to draw using various tools i.e. A-frame, U tube and Dumpy. We were also saw given practical experience of how trenches (a part of water harvesting) are dug.
Natural life and Buildings:
As a part of the holistic picture we were introduced to natural living and natural buildings i.e. buildings constructed using as much as the locally available material, so avoiding transport, usage of cement in the process trying to reducing the carbon footprint. And also trying to reduce the use of detergents and soaps also.
Kharif and Rabi Crop Patterns
Kharif and Rabi are two main seasons for crops in India, which we are given a detailed explanation as to when one has to start sowing and what crops have to be sown in both Kharif and Rabi seasons giving a one-acre plot demonstration. This is a unique style of sowing the seeds, which has been passed from generations. Both the ladies i.e. Sammamma and Tuljamma who are experts, it was a delight watching them explain the crop pattern
Seed Preservation techniques
We have lost our traditional methods of seeds selection and preservation to the modern systems, where one depends upon buying the seeds, which do not guarantee the crop and in turn increases the risk of crop failure. We are taught the methods of seeds selection and preservation, which can assure of goods seeds and in turn good yield. Also, one can exchange seeds, through this one can spread the native variety of crops which are more resilient to the climate and ensure yield, which has been lost to the process of modernization of farming. We also learned the importance of maintaining a seed bank.
Vegetable Bed Preparation and Sowing
Laborious but interesting which demonstrates how patterns are used in permaculture. Practical experience of making a raised vegetable bed and sowing seeds and seedlings of various vegetables.
Also, one is introduced to the concept of annuals and perennials.
A very vital and exciting part of the course to see how one can influence the community with our practices, is a very essential process in permaculture, which teaches us that inclusive growth is organic rather than individual growth.
To pull all together what one has learned in the last 10 days, groups are given a land and its requirements/vision by their respective owners/custodians, the group is given the task of designing the piece of land with whatever we have learned in the past of a couple of days and trying to maneuver in the ethics and principles of permaculture and given the task of bringing the vision live by introducing the necessary elements, which gives every individual the required confidence that one can go do the same for their respective lands or help someone who requires the necessary guidance/help.
We also were given half day off and given chance to bake a pizza in the COB Oven, putting our team and coordination skills at the test 😊 which really was fun doing it.
For further information on this please visit this link Permaculture Design Course (PDC)