There’s a certain enthusiasm with which Hyderabadis with a keen interest in farming speak about the forthcoming International Permaculture Convergence (IPC) and Conference. Chemical-free farming is just the beginning of a learning curve. A lot goes into making our food nutritious and ensuring the soil in a farm remains healthy. A meeting point of science and traditional farming techniques make it possible.
Well known environmentalist Vandana Shiva, permaculture designer and educator Robyn Francis from Australia, author-activist Starhawk from the US and Austrian teacher Margarethe Holzer are among the several speakers who will participate at the 13th edition of IPC, which will take place in Hyderabad and Medak.
From sustainable farming methods to water conservation systems, role of women in the environment to ways of handling radiation in the soil and body in the aftermath of a situation such as the Fukushima disaster, several issues will be discussed.
The Conference and the Convergence will do more than just talking about issues. There will be several workshops to get hands-on experience in permaculture methods. The IPC 2017’s focus is ‘Towards Healthy Societies’ and will be addressed through six sub categories — women as agents of change, sustainable water resource management, revitalising and preserving traditional farming practices, permaculture as social responsibility, grassroots permaculture in action, permaculture and climate change adaptation.
The Convergence venues, the 10-acre Aranya Agricultural Alternatives (AAA) and 100-acre Polam farm, have been a beehive of activity for the last few months. Nearly 50 volunteers from 20 countries have been working towards setting up facilities for the delegates for the five-day Convergence. “We will be hosting 400 international delegates, 250 from AP and Telangana, and 125 from the rest of India. After the two-day Conference in Hyderabad, those registered for the Convergence will move to Polam where arrangements have been made for their stay and food,” informs Padmavati Koppula, CEO of Aranya.
The food, in this case, will be made with pulses, rice, millets, fruits and vegetables grown at Polam, Aranya and the other farming communities they work with. At the Convergence, participants will learn about native methods, from the use of cow dung to ploughing methods, use of stone grinders to how pulses and millets are de-husked before being brought to the kitchen.
“The Conference in Hyderabad will have scientific sessions on using permaculture for water management, climate change solutions and how it can help cut down carbon credits. At the Convergence, participants can watch the demonstrations after which they can also make presentations,” says Padmavati. Visits to AAA are also part of the itinerary.
Padmavati and Narsanna Koppula are the go-to permaculture experts in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Aranya has been actively involved in propagating the techniques of permaculture since 1999 and has also helped convert the erstwhile barren Polam, helmed by Supriya and Anil Gaddam, into a thriving farm.
At Polam, the plenary sessions will be hosted at a hall named after the late Bill Mollison, and can accommodate 500 to 800 people. Several sessions will be held in different classrooms — traditional structures with thatched roofs — named after nine tropical fruits — mango, pomegranate, jamun, ber, tamarind, guava, sapota, custard apple and jackfruit.
Delhi-based Ritu Mathur who has been working closely with the couple since February 2017 to help with the IPC, says, “Growing food is one part of the work; I’ve learnt how to nurture the soil by channelising nature’s energies. I took up a Permaculture Design course four and a half years ago. That was the initiation. I was able to put it into practice after observing the methods at Aranya.” Among the other sessions at IPC, the focus will be on the slow food movement which Ritu terms ‘food for future’.
* What is permaculture? The term was coined by Australian researcher Bill Mollison and refers to ‘permanent agriculture and permanent culture’ and designed to bring a harmonious synergy of people and land to preserve and enhance natural ecosystems.
* The 13th edition of IPC will bring together permaculture practitioners from 57 countries. The IPC is held once every two or three years in different venues around the world.
* A two-day Conference will be held on November 25 and 26 at Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU), Hyderabad. The five-day IPC will be held at Polam and Aranya Agricultural Alternatives farms in Medak from November 27 to December 2. A few spot registrations will be open for the Conference. However, one has to register for the Convergence before November 20. For details, look up ipcindia2017.org
* The Conference is open to anyone keen to understand permaculture while the Convergence is for those who have prior understanding of Permaculture and preferably have completed a Permaculture Design Course