Bhoomi College offers a course in sustainable living, in which students get lessons in organic farming, ecology, waste management, community involvement, etc.
“There is a movement towards sustainability gradually growing around the world. In India too we need such educational institutions to join and foster this movement. The only way forward is to focus on youth and women to work / create livelihoods through activities for sustainability,” begins Seetha Ananthasivan, director, Bhoomi College.
The institution finds its roots in an Earth Citizenship seminar held in 2007. Along with an expanding, enthusiastic Bhoomi Network, Bhoomi started the Bhoomi magazine and organised several programmes on “Inner and Outer Ecology.”
Since August 2012, Bhoomi has been running a college that offers a one-year course in Science and Management of Sustainable Living and multiple short-term courses in sustainability, gardening, ecology, etc. The first batch of 10 students belonging to the one-year course completed it this June.
The aspect that sets Bhoomi’s course apart is that the college does not charge any fees. “We decided to offer this course without charging tuition fees because of our belief in a ‘Gift Economy’ which we, and many thinkers and economists who focus on sustainability, believe is necessary as an alternative to the capitalist economic system which has almost become a global religion today,” says Ms. Ananthasivan.
She explains that the gift culture does not mean that the current economic system can be replaced, but a faith that human beings, when they receive a gift, are quite likely to give gifts also.
“Hence our students can donate any amount, small or big, for a student in a future batch if they wish to.”
The course, which is aimed at fostering an interest in green careers among youngsters, mid-career professionals in IT, education, etc., only seeks students to have a keen interest in sustainable living. A minimum graduate degree in any stream is the basic eligibility for the programme. “The college looks for students who deeply care about what is happening to the world today, want to do what they can about it, are over 20 years old, and have a basic knowledge of English,” Ms. Ananthasivan says.
The college also promotes the course as a ‘gap year’ programme for those who wish to explore the possibility of learning and action connected with sustainable living.
The selection procedure involves submitting a detailed form where students indicate why they want to do this course and a personal or group interview.
Ms. Ananthasivan says, “Primarily, we want students with a positive outlook on what we can do rather than getting caught with a doomsday or business-as-usual scenario. They should also get in touch with a network of people and organisations who can support them in their journey. We believe that sustainability is a complex issue and we need to understand root-level problems and also look at root-level solutions rather than short term, end-of-branch solutions.” Bhoomi students will also be exposed to economic, food and knowledge systems, political and education systems, medical system etc.
“All these systems are interconnected and have led to an unsustainable world; how each one of us, especially in cities, are part of it and bottom-up solutions are important too,” she says.
At the end of the one-year course, students are given a diploma in the subject by the college. The course offers modules on “inner and outer” ecology, sustainable food and farming, education for sustainability, ecological economics, science and technology, renewable energy, sustainable buildings, social entrepreneurship, waste management, eco-principles in organisation building, and human rights and legal issues in environmentalism.
“We facilitate students to engage in a critical analysis of ecological issues faced by the world today as well as positive steps to address them through cutting-edge thinking from around the world. Localisation, community involvement, alternative energy, education for sustainability, activism and advocacy are some of them,” says Ms. Ananthasivan.
Students will be involved hands-on in natural, organic and biodynamic farming and holistic food. This is the best way to understand not only food and farming, but deeply understand ecological principles as well.
“Students will also work with renewable energy, say bio-gas plant or solar cooker, as well as get to work on eco-friendly buildings such as rammed earth building. “Shram dhaan” or doing some of the work to look after their own spaces and needs is also a part of living in a community here.”
If what the alumni are doing is a benchmark to go by, those who join Bhoomi will be the torchbearers of sustainable living.
“Three students from our first batch are doing work on / related to their own farms in Rajasthan, Hyderabad and near Bangalore. Two students are focussing on urban gardening, particularly square foot gardening; one is training with Selco on solar lighting; another student is working on setting up an education centre for sustainable activities for children,” notes Ms. Ananthasivan.
The course as of now has an intake of only 20 students.
On whether this course will be open to more students, she says, “As of now, we believe ‘small is beautiful.’ We think that a small number can work better on this course, since it is highly participative and interactive.”
The college though is soon planning to start a separate course focussed on organic farming, so that it can cater to the specialisation that some students desire.
Students only need to cover their living (hostel & food) expenses at Bhoomi College.