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Permaculture and Building Food Security

Beas Paul Chowdhury | September 17, 2021
Permaculture and Building Food Security

Over the past two decades or so, the unwavering attention to education in India is commendable. Regardless of economic status, parents always prioritise on their children’s education. And thanks to government efforts, both at the centre and in states, literacy levels have risen consistently.

Meanwhile, board exam results each year seem to only have more and more students in the coveted ‘90 percent and higher’ club. Be it in the languages, the sciences or even in the arts, achieving cent percent marks are not a rarity anymore. But in this perpetual race for higher marks, followed by cut-throat competition to enroll in a college or university of top repute, and then hopefully a high paying job, are we missing out on the basics? Are there simpler elements that we have completely brushed aside?

Farmers are our everyday heroes

Drawing from personal observation, the first aspect that most seemed worried about when lockdowns were announced, was their food security. I am sure we all wondered whether we’d be able to purchase our daily supplies without interruption. And this was because food really is what sustains us. Even clothing and shelter are secondary when a dire situation sets in.

But we seem to place negligible focus towards what is a basic requirement. Governments try and ensure food security as a way to not only make sure their population is fed, but to also maintain law and order. Several conflicts in history have been sparked by food shortages. In India particularly, the Green Revolution did wonders towards making the country more food secure.

Come to think of it, farmers really are an indispensable part of our lives. Without them, a lot would be at stake. But farming in itself is not considered a glitzy occupation. Even a farmer would probably want his or her children to take up some other form of sustenance. While India continues to be an agrarian economy, the agriculture sector’s contributions often go unnoticed. In an attempt to cast the spotlight both on farming and environmental stewardship, let’s take a look at permaculture.

What is permaculture?

The term permaculture is derived from the words ‘permanent’ and ‘agriculture’. In recent times, its scope has widened to reflect a more ‘permanent culture’. Permaculture was first coined by two Australians — namely, David Holmgren and Bill Mollison in 1978. Holmgren is an ecological designer and writer, while Mollison was a scientist.

Mollison defined “permaculture” as, “The conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive systems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of the landscape with people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.”

Permaculture’s key principles

Permaculture is based on the philosophy of developing systems that work in harmony with nature. The idea is to ensure that man-made agricultural, building or energy producing techniques are harmonious, productive and efficient, all while minimising resource use. The intended outcome is to ensure environmental conservation, while making sure that future generations are not deprived of a sound ecological balance.

Permaculture calls for the developing of closed loop systems. For instance, any system that is self-sufficient in terms of its fertiliser or energy needs is considered sustainable. The use of manufactured fertilisers, for instance, can be substituted by using organic or livestock manure. It highlights the need to turn waste into a resource while transforming, what may seem problems, into solutions. At Father Leblond School, we have succeeded on this initial aspect — of turning our waste into a resource.

Academics remain central but the basics cannot be ignored

The focus on academics is necessary. It has been a major contributor, no doubt, towards India’s socioeconomic development. But let us acknowledge that agriculture is of prime importance. This avenue holds as much promise as a degree in computer science or law.

With easy access to technology, taking to agriculture or permaculture is now easier than ever. There are tutorials aplenty and even for the uninitiated, it is not as difficult a task as it may seem. Let us give permaculture a serious thought, and in doing so, let us encourage our children to also learn the basics of growing food. If they so desire, encourage them to pursue careers as farmers, and take forward practices that also ensure environmental sustainability.

Beas Paul Chowdhury

Beas is an educator and mother to an adorable daughter. She loves travelling, food, beautiful cozy spaces and a good story. Beas is the Deputy Director at Father Leblond School, located near Siliguri, West Bengal.

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