Permaculture is a model that is fast becoming popular, like the Miyawaki one. While the Miyawaki model is exclusively devoted to afforestation, permaculture is more expansive as a concept, and involves many aspects of our life. The word “permaculture” takes its origin from “permanent agriculture”. It came into common currency in 1978 or so. The Miyawaki model was introduced in 1970. Permaculture subsequently came to suggest the idea of “permanent culture”. It denotes a culture or lifestyle that accommodates biodiversity by protecting all plants and animals. This method seems to be more popular in Europe because nearly all videos on Permaculture come from there.
Though not widespread in India or Kerala, the principles do have a few followers. I feel it is high time Permaculture was popularized in a big way. If, for instance, we wish to build a house, it makes us think about the environment as well, about whether we should put up a concrete structure, whether it is Nature-friendly and so on. That is the reason why I wish to introduce Permaculture to you. In a sense, it encompasses the Miyawaki Model of Afforestation. Permaculture is generally practised in large tracts of land which are usually barren. After 10 or 12 years of continuous intervention, it becomes a huge agro-farm. Unlike the usual farms, which have separate sections earmarked for different crops, Permaculture farms promote an intermixture of crops grown in multiple layers.
For example, papaya is cultivated in a relatively higher ground because it needs more sunlight; colocasia is planted at a slightly lower one; Bird’s Eye chilly on the sides; ginger and turmeric still lower and so on. What we usually see in our ginger farms is this – insects that feed on ginger survive through several generations because their lifespan is short. We may use pesticides but the insects mutate and survive.
As Permaculture advocates mixing of many varieties of plants, like the Miyawaki model, not all plants get destroyed. If you watch Permaculture videos, you will see that this type of farming is also known to cause water springs to appear naturally in regions that have remained dry for long, and change the landscape radically. These videos offer beautiful sights of certain dedicated Nature-lovers reversing chronic damage inflicted on our environment, and reviving the earth. However, such a lifestyle is not easy to imitate. That is because Permaculture farmers do not do anything else. They are former IT professionals or rich people, most in Europe, who had left their lucrative jobs to dedicate themselves fulltime to such a farming method. In India, there haven’t been too many takers yet. But it is a farming technique that is suited to our land. Rubber plantations that have been abandoned may perhaps be converted into Permaculture farms in the near future, using organic pesticides to produce organic food.
But this begs the question: should pests, also an aspect of Nature, be eliminated at all? Are they exclusively destructive? Or, do they have their uses? We don’t know. They have been on the planet since time immemorial and began to be seen as troublesome only after we adopted certain unique farming techniques. For instance, when we grow only paddy, pests that feed on it reach there automatically. We begin to use pesticides but after sometime, the gene pattern of the pests alters. After all, these insects have a lifespan of merely six, twelve or fifteen weeks. So in a year’s time, eight or ten generations will take birth and die. And, in the process, the newer generation will be resistant to our pesticides. It is to avoid such a problem that people turn to Permaculture, where different plant species are allowed to grow in a single region. The pests of one crop will prey on those of another, and thus allow the Permaculture farmer to get a fairly good harvest. This is a healthy, environment-friendly approach that we need to adopt.
Watch these videos and, if possible, try it out. Incidentally, let me answer a query sent by one viewer as to why I don’t focus on the camera in front of me. Most of the crowd foresting videos that you watch are shot at my Puliyarakonam Miyawaki plot, and the surrounding sights of a darting squirrel, a swooping bird or a flitting butterfly are just too magnificent to miss!