Site visits and Surveys

These notes form a part of sanjeev shankar's research, which is summarised in his research report

* Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam

Established in 1663, the hortus is one of the oldest botanic gardens in the world with more than 6000 plants from all over. What started out as a medicinal herb garden, the hortus grows only pure plant species, as they are found in nature. It is also the first botanic garden in the Netherlands to display the molecular systemics of plants to everyone and continues to organize various cultural, educational and botanical activities through out the year.1)

* Current Status of Organic farming in India

Organic farming is gathering momentum all over the globe and is currently practiced in more than 100 countries. Although the term 'organic farming' is getting popularity in recent times, it was initiated 10000 years back when ancient farmers started cultivation depending on natural sources only. There is brief mention of several organic inputs in India's ancient literatures like Rigveda, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Kautilya Arthasashthra etc. In fact, organic agriculture has its roots in traditional agricultural practices that evolved in countless villages and farming communities over the millennium.

The term “organic” is best thought of as referring not to the type of inputs used, but to the concept of the farm as an organism, a system in which all the components - the soil minerals, organic matter, microorganisms, insects, plants, animal and humans - interact to create coherent, self-regulating and stable whole. Reliance on external inputs, whether chemical or organic, is reduced asfar as possible. Organic farming is thus a holistic production system. The main principles of organic farming are:

  • To work as much as possible within a closed system, and draw upon local resources.
  • To maintain the long-term fertility of soils.
  • To avoid all forms of pollution that may result from agricultural techniques.
  • To produce foodstuffs of high nutritional quality and sufficient quantity.
  • To reduce the use of fossil energy in agricultural practice to a minimum.
  • To give livestock conditions of life that confirm to their physiological need.
  • To make it possible for agricultural producers to earn a living through their work and develop their potentialities as human being.

The four pillars of organic farming are: Organic standards, Certification/Regulatory mechanism, technology packages and market network. Indian Agriculture is traditionally organic and farmers were following organic cultivation till the middle of the last century (1950). The Green Revolution, ushered in India during the 1960's is often seen as the cornerstone of India's agricultural achievement,transforming the country from the stage of food deficiency to self-sufficiency. During the period, the production of food grains has increased four fold, from 50.82 mt in 1950-51 to 212.05 mt on 2003-04. But indiscriminate and excessive use of chemicals during this period has put forth a question mark on sustainability of agriculture in the long run calling attention for sustainable production which will address soil health, human health and environmental health and eco-friendly agriculture. Organic farming appears to be one of the options for sustainability. Starting of organic agriculture in India in 1900 by Sir Albert Howard, a British agronomist in North India, Development of Indore Method of aerobic compost (Howard, 1929), Bangalore method of anaerobic compost (Archarya, 1934), NADEP Compost (ND Pandari Panda,Yeotmal, 1980)initiated organic agriculture in India.

The year 2000 was a very important year for India from organic point of view. The major happenings during this year were:

  • The Planning Commission constituted (2000) a steering group on agriculture who identified organic farming as National challenge and suggested it should be taken in the form of a project as major thrust area for 10th-plan. The group recommended organic farming in North Eastern Region, rain fed areas and in the areas where the consumption of agro chemicals is low or negligible.
  • The National Agricultural Policy(2000) recommended promotion of traditional knowledge of agriculture relating to organic farming and its scientific upgradation.
  • The Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (DAC), Ministry of Agriculture constituted (2000) a Taskforce on organic farming.
  • The Ministry of Commerce launched the National Organic Programme in April 2000 and Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) is implementing the National Programme for Organic Production(NPOP).

Vast stretches of India and its farmers continue to be organic by default. Organic fertilizer and natural pest control are the only tools available to most of these farmers, who have always lacked the financial resources to explore chemical solutions. Further, a significant number of them have chosen to farm organically, as their forefathers have done for thousands of years. This has been a concious decision after seeing the impact of the use of chemicals in agriculture. Recently, even though chmicals have been used extensively through out India, eastern and north eastern parts of India still continue to use older traditional methods.2)

Global statistics do not reflect this fact about India! As per the study (2004) of the Foundation Ecology and Agriculture (known as SOEL), the global organic area is 24 million ha. The major part of this area is located in Australia (about 10 million hectares), Argentina (almost 3million hectares. Australia /Oceania holds 42% of the world's organic land, followed by Latin America (24.2%) and Europe (23%). In Africa, more than 3,20,000 hectares and 71,000 farms are managed organically, representing about 0.04% of agricultural land. The total organic agricultural area in Asia is now about 8,80,000 hectares, corresponding to 0.07% ofthe agricultural area. The number of organic farm is more than 61,000. In 2004, India's share was only 0.001 per cent of the global organic market of $31 billion. Certification is the weakest link here. Currently the export of organic products is allowed only if “the produce is packed under a valid organic certification issued by a certifying agency accredited by a designated agency.” in October 2003, the Indian Central Government set up a National Institute of Organic Farming in Ghaziabad. The purpose of this institute is to formulate rules, regulations and certification of organic farm products in conformity with international standards. The major organic products sold in the global markets include dried fruits and nuts, cocoa, spices, herbs, oil crops, and derived products. Non-food items include cotton, cut flowers, livestock and potted plants.

The fees for registering a farm as 'organic' and getting international certification is extremely high for small farmers. Further the process is time consuming. Under the government policy in 2005, it took four years for a farm to be certified as organic. The cost of preparing the report was a flat fee of Rs. 5000, and the certificate itself costs another Rs. 5000. While these costs are bearable for the new industrial organic greenhouses, they are equal to or more than an entire year's income for the average small farmer, if the costs of travel and inspection are included. For those farmers who want to make a switch to organic farming, the intermittent 3 year transition period, during which the crops may be less plentiful than with conventional fertilizers and pesticides, and yet the higher price for organic products won't yet be possible because the cetification takes will take time. This is also a deterrent. Further, almost all bank loans are for pure crop farmers, that is, monoculturalists. While many of these big-business farmers use harmful chemicals and processes, small farmers fertilizing their soil with recycled organic wastes are usually ineligible for insurance, much less state subsidies.

For detailed and comparative analysis please click on the document below:

* Case Study Delhi

Some pointers related to organic farming in Delhi:

  • As India struggles to deal with stagnation in its crucial agricultural sector, small-scale organic farming initiatives near the capital are providing clues on how to reap healthy profits from the land.
  • Around New Delhi, free-range and organic goods from newcomers to farming are showing that money can be made by growing specialty products that consumers are willing to pay more for. High-value crops which include fruits, vegetables, milk, poultry products and fish are the focus and not cereals. A French Farm in Gurgaon, a suburb of New Delhi known mainly for its call centres, raises thousands of free-range Peking and Muscovy ducks on feed that is free of pesticide and antibiotics. A lot of these products are sold to five star hotels and not the common man on the streets.
  • A more recent start-up, Heritage Health Food, delivers boxed organic food grown on 80 acres of leased land. The two-year-old firm makes 200 to 300 deliveries a week, priced at between 200 and 400 rupees (five to 10 dollars) depending on weight, and is still to become common with the middle class household.
  • “Organic exports are growing by 100 percent a year,” according to S. Dave,from the agricultural export council APEDA.

“Many people are still going in for traditional farming, which is mostly organic. Four million hectares (9.8 million acres) of land are now devoted to certified organic farming for export, including of mangoes, spices and nuts.” The Indian Council of Agricultural Research has developed standards for organic exports, and mandatory domestic standards are in the works. This will make it easier and cheaper for farmers to get the kind of accreditation that is recognised abroad.

  • In New Delhi, the Navdanya outlets started by environmentalist Vandana Shiva source organic oils and lentils from small farmers. Through their direct market initiative, they also bring different varieties of rice, wheat, flour, dals, rajma, spices, edible oils, breakfast cereals, natural sweeteners, millets, cookies, jams, pickles, squashes, culinary herbs etc. Recently they have partnered with Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) to avail an existing network of HPCL centres which double up as organic outlets.3)
  • One of the country's best known brands, FabIndia, which began four decades ago selling clothes that drew on craft traditions, has recently branched into organic spices, teas and granola. Introduced in 2004 under the brandname of Fabindia Organics, FabIndia has successfully diversified and positioned its organic range. While it is becoming a source of huge profits for the group, it is also creating an interest and strong market for trsitional agricultural techniques.4)
  • Elsewhere in India, more than 5,000 farmers in 250 villages of Surat in Gujarat have switched over to organic farming, according to agro-expert Chandrakanth Mandavia of the Abhyuthan Gram Vikas Mandal, a Surat-based organisation. The most common crops are mushrooms and mangoes.

In Delhi, apart from the ridge forest which is the capital's green lung, substantial green stretches are seen in schools, universities, military campuses, religious institutions and parks. Certain religious institutions like ISKCON(International society for Krishna conciousness) lay special emphasis on organic farming and have a very successful model to train people in bio-dynamic farming in their national centre in Mysore, near Bangalore. This is part of the Bio-Dynamic association of India(BDAI).

Home gardens are commonly seen in New Delhi with the role of the local 'maali'(gardener) crucial in maintaining the gardens. Some of the most common plants grown in Delhi include green chilis, tomatoes, beans, papaya, grapes, jamun(or jamblang), cucumber, bananas, guavas, money plants, marigold(used for offering prayers) and mangoes. A lot of these edibles are consumed within the household or within the local communities. There is hardly any attempt to process, package or value add the produce as one sees them being sold at reasonable prices on the streets. It is not uncommon to see vendors selling seasonal produce from nearby villages too. Organic gardens are not common within the city realms. With the emphasis on rural agriculture in India, the positive contribution that production within the cities can make has hardly been acknowledged.

For more details about organic farming around Delhi, please click on the links below:

Extract from Peri-urban agriculture in India by D S Bhupal, Dr. Fiona Marshall, Dolf te Lintelo
  • The rural-peri-urban-urban continuum itself is dynamic in nature and the changes are more marked around cities that are rapidly urbanizing or growing both economically and spatially.
  • Rural agriculture remains the focus in India.
  • A neglect of this issue by the international and national research communities. Indeed, in India, government policies, scientific research communities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have shown little recognition of urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA).
  • Urban food security is becoming a matter of increasing concern and urban poverty is reflected in the nutritional status of people.
  • The main urban agricultural area in the core area of the city of Delhi is the floodplain along the Yamuna River. The area beyond the urban conglomeration of “Greater Delhi” is still predominantly agricultural and within the wider Delhi NCT (located to the north, northwest and west between the centre of Delhi and the towns situated on its peripheries) lie important but diminishing agricultural areas. The satellite image also clearly depicts the wide extent of agricultural land use in and especially around the city: 44 percent of the land area shown is used for crop production, fallow land, plantation or grassland while 17 percent consists of built-up areas.
  • Urbanization and industrialization affect agriculture in the peri-urban areas, as population pressure from the city results in changes in land use , from agricultural to urban land use, be it for housing, commercial, industrial or other purposes. Where the land use remains agricultural, cultivation practices change. Access to urban ready markets for agricultural produce and for seasonal labour open up the possibility of cultivating on a commercial basis high-value, highly perishable crops such as leafy vegetables, replacing storable crops such as cereals and pulses. Industries and their derivative trade and commerce offer new labour opportunities for cultivators and agricultural labourers, resulting in changing occupational structures.
  • The role of agriculture as a livelihood strategy for the poor in peri-urban areas: access to land and water is the prime condition for urban peri agriculture
  • Wheat, rice and great and spiked millet are cultivated on most of the agricultural land. Vegetable cultivation is also popular.
  • The number of days of involvement in agriculture as reported by labourers surveyed ranged from 100 to 270 days per year. On average, agricultural labourers were involved for 48 days in zaid/summer (May-June), 55 days in kharif/wet (July-October) and 52 days in rabi/winter season (October-April).
  • Agriculture has an important function in providing employment for poor people in the fringe areas of Delhi. The agricultural activities have a fairly rural character, with dominant roles for cereal (such as wheat, millet and paddy) and fodder crops. Typical cropping systems are millet-wheat; millet-mustard; and paddy-wheat in the kharif and rabi seasons. These cropping systems depend on widely available irrigation facilities - in 1995-96, 89 percent of the land of Delhi NCT was irrigated (Government of NCT of Delhi, 1997). However, farmers opined that frequent interruptions in the electricity supply limited their access to irrigation, particularly for the poorer ones who cannot afford diesel generator sets for pumping.
  • The trend in cropping patterns around Delhi is for traditional multicropping systems of local cereal crops, pulses and oilseeds being replaced by high-input high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice after the green revolution. One striking feature of the agricultural systems is that farmers are producing a large amount of green fodder crops such as berseem. These crops demand relatively little attention, allowing farmers to focus their efforts on cultivating other produce. Generally, fodder is grown for cattle feed, and a significant share is used for buffaloes and cows in dairy production.

Dairying: Also in urban Delhi, dairy farming takes place on public land, whether built up or not. Buffaloes can be found in densely populated areas, especially in the so-called urban villages but also in slums. In some of the Yamuna riverfront slums, dairy farms with 40-50 buffaloes can be found. Consequently, dairy production is often more visible than vegetable cultivation or other land-intensive agricultural activities in urban Delhi. Nevertheless, milk and its by-products are characteristically produced in peri-urban and rural areas, while the products are mainly consumed in urban areas. A spectacular early morning sight is offered by the daily “milk trains” entering the city with full milk churns attached to both sides of the train.

Vegetables: Vegetables grown in and around Delhi include cauliflower, cabbage, carrot, spinach, mustard (leaves), okra and tomato. In addition, a range of culinary herbs such as fenugreek and coriander are cultivated. The increase in the share of land use for vegetables is partly explained by proximity to the markets. Vegetables, flowers and dairy products are typically high-value and highly perishable products, which need to be produced where there is easy access to export, domestic and local markets. The move towards high-profit crops is a result of economies of scale: farmers aim to maximize their income from relatively small landholdings using their other plentiful resource: labour. Hence, whole families are engaged in intensive but small-scale horticulture. The relatively short growing periods combined with high inputs of irrigation water, pesticides, fertilizers and labour mean that it is possible to produce 3-4 vegetable crop harvests per year from a given plot of land. Nevertheless, farmers are generally keen to spread their risk through diversification of crops, and will not opt solely for high-profit vegetable crop cultivation, as vegetables are vulnerable to pest attacks, extreme weather and uncertain access to irrigation.

Contribution to the city's food economy: Agriculture around cities may improve the access of poor urban consumers to cheap and healthy food. This assessment of the extent to which food commodities produced in UPA areas contribute to fulfilling annual or seasonal demand in Delhi shows that there are large variations among different crops. For instance, the bulk of city dwellers' staple food requirements cannot be met by the UPA areas. In contrast, a majority (in terms of both volume and number) of selected vegetables in the major wholesale markets were found to originate from the UPA areas. The availability of such locally produced fruits and vegetables can contribute to solving highly prevalent urban nutritional problems stemming from insufficient intake of vitamins and minerals.

Assessing constraints to production: UPA is subject to a wide range of constraints to production. Some, for example pest attacks, adverse weather conditions and timely access to inputs such as seeds and pesticides, are common to all agricultural areas, but there are also issues that are specific to this environment. An important emerging constraint is the effect of environmental pollution of the air, soil and water, which potentially compromises the quantity, quality and safety of food produced in UPA areas. In view of the general lack of awareness about the significance of UPA, creating effective linkages with research and policy communities is of prime importance. Firstly, this requires the identification of key stakeholders from government, private sector and non-governmental organizations. Secondly, in-depth analysis of the existing legal-administrative, policy and commercial environment of incentives and disincentives for UPA farmers needs to be done. The policy environment in general is marked by a common dichotomy between urban and rural development administration and policies, leaving little scope for acknowledgement of the specific characteristics and needs of agriculture in the urban and peri-urban areas. Agricultural policies are primarily designed for rural areas, and are therefore not always compatible with the needs of UPA farmers. To bridge this gap, opportunities for linking up with activities and programmes need to be identified.

Chandni Chowk, Delhi

Also known as the 'moonlight junction', Chandni Chowk is a dense and chaotic urban setting, designed in the 15th century by the mughal emperor Shah Jahan. The place has been a dynamic and thriving epicentre of whole sale trade in north India for 600 years and continues to seamlessly absorb the changes over time. In his search for 'green' spots in this place, the researcher witnessed how religion plays a crucial role in creating a narrative which brings much needed spiritual base for having an inclusive approach in wake of growing pressure from real estate groups. My visit to a 15th century traditional haveli saw a huge 'peepal' tree. The tree has remained in place for over 300 years with changes in built form happening all around it. As Sanjeev walked through the labyrinthine streets to see more informal courtyards and smaller, personal touches of green: marigold flowers in front of the temple, the small 'jamun' tree in the court yard, 'tulsi', 'kadi patta' and money plants, he sees how even in an extremely dense settlement like this, people find ways to establish their links with nature. A visit to one of the oldest jain temples gives a new insight into how most religions have had a sustainable approach to life. A priest informs Sanjeev, 'jain monks are like grazing cattle;they never take too much from one place or person. They take small amounts and then move onto the next spot.'

TERI_Tata Energy Research Institute, Forestry department, New Delhi and FRLHT (Foundation of Revitalisation of local health traditions),Bangalore

Community outreach program of HHG(home herbal gardens)5) in Delhi using the following plants:

  • Holy basil (English), Rama tulsi (Hindi). The plant is used in the treatment of cough, cold, bronchitis, diarrhea and dysentery.
  • Stevia (English). The processed leaves yield a natural sweetener which is a substitute for table sugar, safe for diabetics, as it does not affect

blood sugar levels.

  • King of biters (English), Kalmegh (Hindi). The plant is used for treating dysentery, cholera, diabetes, influenza, bronchitis, piles, gonorrhoea, and snake venom poisoning.
  • Asparagus (English), Shatavari (Hindi). The plant part is used for treating nervous disorders, tumours, scalding of urine, throat infections, tuberculosis and bronchitis.
  • Tinospora Gulancha (English), Giloy (Hindi). The plant is used in the treatment of fever, jaundice, thirst, loss of appetite, urinary diseases, and skin ailments.
  • Aloe (English), Gwar Patha (Hindi). The plant part is used to heal wounds, ulcers, and burns. It is also used to treat liver and spleen ailments.
  • Winter Cherry (English), Ashwagandha (Hindi). The plant part is used in Ayurvedic medicines to treat ulcers, fever, cough, rheumatism, leucoderma and to restore memory loss.
  • Lemon grass (English), Gandhatrina (Hindi). The herb is a stimulant (increases physical or nervous activity), diaphoretic (increases perspiration), and anti-spasmodic (reduce spasm).
  • Mint (English), Pudina (Hindi). The infusion of leaves is used in the treatment of rheumatism. Oil from the plant; know as Japanese Mint Oil is used to cure fever.
  • Vasaka (English), Adusa (Hindi). Used for treating bronchitis, asthma, and dental ailments.6)

This outreach program in urban realms would also lend to revitalising traditional Indian medicinal plant knowledge and create independent seed banks. For more details click on the following articles:

* Case Study South India

Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary

Spread over 55 acres, the Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary is a garden of wild plant species grown at the edge of a large rainforest reserve in the Western Ghat Mountains of Kerala, India. It is dedicated to conservation and education. Founded in 1981, the Sanctuary restores endangered species and habitats in a highly fragmented landscape, where only a fraction of original forest remains and much of the native flora has been tragically and sometimes deliberately extracted or “cleaned up” for human use. While witnessing the exuberant growth of anthuriums and begonias around us, we discuss the impact of the growing popularity of ayurveda and organic teas on the forests and how their price does not reflect the real price we all are paying in the long run. I am told the amount of bio mass which goes into their production is shockingly high. Of course there are issues of the rise and fall of tea and coffee prices and how economics and ecology have become interlinked. We move on and see the epiphytic orchids in the orchidarium conserved in the most impressive manner. I am told that out of 300000 known plants about 30000 are orchids. The sanctuary itself is a repository of over 2000 plant species which is about one-third of the entire regions flora. These have been rescued from degraded and destroyed environments. While we are told about a pit viper which is often seen coiled up among the plants, another viper quietly waits next to the pond, attracted by the numerous frogs that breed there. Conservation in this district of Wayanad, where the original settlers were small migrant farmers with immediate survival needs, is an exceptionally challenging job. Fighting for the last bits of rain forests is not a choice, but a crucial need and responsibility here. The care and patience with which these plants have been brought back to life, I feel there is no other way to protect them. Such single minded focus is what makes this place special.

The Sanctuary is run by a small group of resident gardeners, naturalists and educators, and supported by a wide circle of well-wishers. Together it offers an approach that is connected to the climate, landscape, ecosystems, plants, animals and people of the region. In Suprabha’s own words, “The focus here is to find creative, localized and effective ways to restore natural places. Termed as ecosystem gardening, this involves working closely with plants and their environments: tending, cultivating, growing, reseeding, intervening, as much as leaving wild spaces alone. There is clear evidence that the forests will return if we give them a chance.” I notice that a large part of the land area is left alone to harness natural restorative powers. In other parts native species are given quick access by pulling out exotic plants. Then there are very small areas where the intervention happens in great detail, where every plant is known and tended carefully and systematically. I witness this with two resident gardeners who are preparing specific solutions for orchids. I see the soil being heated at one end on a customised wire mesh tray to rid it of fungi and numerous casts being prepared to act as tiles or barks for the stag horn ferns which are quiet striking in their form and survival methods. From using the right type of organic manure, to growing a specific plant in the most appropriate location in the entire site to the use of locally available products, I realize that this place has developed answers and solutions over an incredible 25 year period. It has not been easy. During this period, the residents have discovered ways to grow these tender specimens to achieve self-regulation, a time when the plants propagate themselves in complex milieus that resemble their original habitats. It does seem self-sustaining now. Improvisation and recycling has been a crucial key to keep the overheads minimum. It’s heartening to know from Suprabha that, “over time, the distinction between healing areas and the natural forest has diminished. Both, species diversity and forest structure have made a marvellous comeback in areas that had been completely devastated.” This is indeed felt in the surroundings. Over the years as the micro habitats have become more established, everyone has noticed an increase in local fauna_ from butterflies, small mammals and amphibians to birds and snakes. This has been a wonderful bonus for the sanctuary. Apart from conservation and education the work at the sanctuary includes: developing horticultural and conservation skills in local young women; habitat restoration and forest recovery; research in biodiversity, forest ecology, plant taxonomy; and sustainable agriculture and integrated land use to grow the forest farm.

The sanctuary brings back memories of remote tribes in north east India and the way they allow their work and rituals to become a seamless extension of their life. However, here, the difference lies in a strong sense of independence and pride in the work. Everyone can speak in English and that is a great equaliser. I see joy, love, and complete immersion in everyone’s eyes.

The results in Gurukula are due to a clear understanding and acceptance of the complexity of the problem and of the diversity of techniques required, including detailed long-term observation, scientific knowledge, sound horticultural practice, rigorous experimentation and excellent team work. I am told that over the years a broad knowledge base of 120 plant families covering ecology, biogeography, taxonomy, plant pathology and horticulture has been developed and this has inspired not just the local and national communities but also many international organizations.

For complete article about the Sanctuary, please click on the document below:

Rainforest Retreat

The Rainforest Retreat7) is an eco-lodge located on an Organic Spice Plantation (MOJO Plantation) nestled in the heart of the Western Ghats (in Kodagu district of southern Karnataka). Founded by Dr. Sujata, a botanist and Anurag Goel, a molecular biologist turned organic farmer, their business model is based on sharing the nuances of organic farming with the visitors apart from selling locally grown cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla, pepper and coffee. Their methods are based on the following prnciples aimed at working toward generating a sustainable agri-ecosystem in the fragile environment:

  • Maintaining the forest canopy to conserve the top soil and replenish it with compost.
  • Recycling all forms of materials generated on the farm
  • Creating conditions favoring the survival of other components of the farm-field(agri-) ecosystem, like the predatory and microbial populations of the soil.
  • Emphasizing on multiple-cropping systems
  • Integrated pest management using medicinal plants with insect repellant properties.
  • Identifying and usng non-toxic(plant) sustitutes for chemically synthesized fertilizers and pesticides only under conditions of extreme necessity.

The retreat has a striking method of composting weeds, particularly the foliage of leguminous plants, plants with insect repellant properties, organic farm wastes, cattle and poultry manure, and oil cakes. With the addition of a mixture of natural isolates of good bacteria(EM, Effective Microorganisms) that break down organic matter both anaerobically and aerobically, rapid solubilizing of phosphates, nitrates and other nutrients into compost occurs. The time taken for making this excellent quality compost(bokashi), with this method has reduced to 6-8 weeks as against 4-6 months before. This technology was originally developed by Professor Teruo Higa of Japan to complement natural farming techniques.

Under the push for integrated pest management to counter stemborers and other lepidopteran pests, the retreat uses a decoction made out of plants from surrounding areas often identified as 'weeds'. These include pongamia, annona, lantana, nicotiana, capsicum, ocimum and few others. Further, these plant extracts are not toxic or repellant to spider populations and by introducing native strains of a soil-borne fungus, trichoderma sp. through compost over the years, there has been significant reduction in the damage caused by the pathogen phytophthora sp. to cardamom, ginger and pepper.

Beaulah Farm

Tucked away in a picturesque pocket of the Nilgiris in South India, Beulah Farm provides the chance visitor a rare personal treat in the state of Tamil Nadu. The place which was founded by Eapen Jacob, does not fall within the usual tourist circuit. One may stumble upon it in the course of meandering walks one usually takes in the hills. Around the cottage, what looks like a wild tangle of a garden, each shrub, plant and bush makes up the herb garden which has been lovingly nurtured and tended to by Eapen, who plays music to his plants every day! From the three different kinds of basil and four different kinds of mint, the rosemary, thyme, sage and parsley. Passion fruits, Malta oranges, lemons make the fruit orchard, along with the strawberry patch. All of these go into making wines, liqueurs, tart marmalades, rhubarb jam and preserves made in a unique way in Sandalwood barrels on the farm. 23 different varieties of Rose wine (including a green and a black rose), guava squash, mint liqueur and a horse radish wine are some of his most popular products, all made in an organic way perfected over the last 25 years. In Jacob's own words, 'Not a grain of yeast or any chemical has gone into the brewing of the wines. We even make our own fertilizers and a gaggle of geese act as his pest control measure.' The liquid organic manure made from sheep and fowl droppings is high in nitrogen and perfect for all the farm produce except for strawberries as it results in extensive leaf growth.

Krac-Á-Dawna Organic Farm

Founded by Juli and Vivek Cariappa, KRAC-A-DAWNA is an evolving farm nestled deep within rural Karnataka. It is an important member of the OFAI(Organic Farmers association of India) and has for long searched for practical solutions to daily problems. From home-schooling to manure-teas and bio-gas there are no fixed rules here. Ths is an interesting example in self-learning and re-learning about believing in one's instincts and defying a modern developmental process that relies too heavily on mass production and a rigid definition of “civilization”. Self-reliance figures prominently in the farms thinking and its founders take a stand on issues ranging from genetically modified seeds to alternative markets, from child education to small- farm organic certification. Nothing leaves the farm in raw form and from natural dyes and cotton to wild honey, cinnamon, pepper and sesame butter, the farm produce has become an important revenue source. Lately, the farm has started developing its expertise in Bio-dynamic farming and trains registered farmers in the same.

Project Deep Fields

An interesting proposal in the 'Green Cities and Open Ideas' category by Krishna Balakrishna from UC Berkeley and Ganesh Mohan, IIT Chennai. The study proposes to create a Deep Fields Organic Farmers Co-operative which connects the problem of improper garbage disposal in Indian cities to providing an impetus for organic farming in urban edges. The project stems from a desire to initiate a program that is financially viable, ecologically sustainable, and socially conscious. Further, the ideas proposed are a complete cycle of events rather than discrete units of action.

In brief the proposal consists of the following steps: 1. Utilize urban organic waste for generating compost. 2. Promote organic farming of fruits and vegetables using this compost, in villages near urban centers 3. Set up a viable model of distributing the produce to small scale retail units in the cities. 4. Set up a points system by which the citizens who contribute organic waste get discounts on their shopping at these small scale retail units. 5. Urban waste that is generated enters the above described cycle once again.

The complete report can be seen here:

"RUrbanism": The Goa 2100 Project

“RUrbanism” is the sustainable integration of rural and urban communities. It is a sophisticated new set of design principles and practices governing land use, energy, transportation, governance, and all aspects of economic, ecological, and social development for a major city. The term “RUrbanism” was introduced by the designers of “Goa 2100,” a critical breakthrough planning project for the capital city of Panjim, in the Indian state of Goa. Goa 2100 won a Special Jury Prize in the International Sustainable Urban Systems Design competition (Tokyo, 2003). The project is a model of RUrbanism in practice, and it introduces a wide array of new design concepts and analytical tools to support sustainability planning and a transition to sustainability.8)

The project started with Comprehensive Data-Gathering and Benchmarking and invents a great deal of new methodology. The empirical study of built form and settlement structure enabled the group to create new quantitative models, including a “Resource Security Index” for water and energy needs. When it came to the buildings themselves, the group used the design principles of Christopher Alexander (A Pattern Language) and extended them using integrated life-cycle analysis and other methods. A new set of principles for sustainable infrastructure design was developed for the static (long-lasting) and dynamic (fast-changing) elements of the city. The analysis of the entire “temporal economy” of the city and region led to a key discovery: that time should be considered as an additional resource when considering the financing of a transition. Using a time use budget, attention is brought to the fact that how people spend their time is a key element of both their quality of life, and the sustainability of a society. The Goa 2100 model appears to be the first sustainability analysis of the time-use of an entire city.

This extensive exercise in quantitative analysis and modeling was the foundation for a reimagining of the city of Panjim, following the newly framed principles of “RUrbanism.” These were defined by the design team in terms of three overall goals; seven “organizing principles for sustainability”; five “strategies for land-use management”; six “tactics to manage physical stocks and flows”; and a set of descriptions for the urban form that they grouped under the heading, “A Dynamic Fractal Morphology.” RUrbanism involves transforming the city into a symbiotic partner with both nature and rural culture — and a net producer of resources and value, rather than a parasitic consumer.9)

International Plants Expo, Dubai

Held from March 04-06, 2008 IPM DUBAI10) was a focussed trade exhibition for the green industries in the middle east and the Indian Subcontinent. One of the products, nature pot by NAPAC, a Zurich based company specialising in the development and manufacturing of products made of raw materials from renewable resources: is suitable for outdoor and indoor plant cultivation. A smart kit which comes with seeds and organic fertiliser, it rates highly on bio-innovation.11)

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