A working model to get farmers involved in restoration agroforestry.
As I was traveling in India I met many farmers who could only continue farming by digging new bore wells every 2 years or switching over to dry land farming. Some had switched to dry land farming and were not getting enough rain for their crops. New bore wells cost thousands of dollars and so not doable by subsistence farmers. This problem extends across many states in India.
The problem stems from several things (among many others I am sure):
1) Cutting down the trees for thousands of years to cook their food,
2) Dams that were built that divert the ground water,
3) The green revolution where thousands and thousands of acres of agroforestry were taken out to make way for monoculture, hybrid plants fed by chemicals which take 3 – 4 times the amount of water used for open pollinated, poly-cultured, organically grown plants.
Permaculture water solutions combined with agroforestry was the perfect solution. I had seen in a U-tube about Don Tipping's farm in Williams, Oregon, that when he built his ponds, the wells of his neighbors filled up. And the question then became how to get the farmers to adopt what worked. The answer seemed simple. It is to make it financially worthwhile for them to plant the trees and replenish the water, thereby skipping the stage which required big money to reverse desertification.
The farmers like our ideas, inter-planting the existing trees with medicinal herbs, vegetables, and fruits, planting diversified new trees on key lines along with open water sources etc. They want a demonstration. The chemical establishment still holds sway telling them that any auxiliary crops will take away from the main crop and moreover will steal their expensive chemical fertilizer from their crops.
We are cataloging the many agroforestry demonstrations already available here in India in Tamil Nadu and Kerala and making posters of them for our presentations. Also setting up community meetings with the farmers that need these methods, (although most of these farmers who are doing the intercropping are now using chemical) and the farmers who are already utilizing them, which we want to be organic. There is a long history here of diversified tree plantings mixed with herbs, spices, vegetables and fruits. Unfortunately the magnificent food forests that remain are being undermined by the chemical industries need to find markets for their products. In the long term the chemicals will kill the soil, the goose that lays the golden egg.
How do we find the villagers who want to work with us? We based our model on Navdanya (Vandanna Shiva’s organization): We are doing presentations in the surrounding villages looking especially for subsistence farmers who are willing to convert to permaculture and natural farming practices combined with agroforestry. We are also contacting government offices, NGO’s and local networks for contacts with subsistence farmers.
We will provide information and consultations about their crop and water needs and we will buy their produce from them at a higher price as incentive. This is a great opportunity to do restorative agroforestry.
For these Indian farmers the rubber is meeting the road. They are not in the theoretical phase where if they do nothing, they will continue to have food.
We are looking for funds to continue the work.
To see more about our project please go to our crowd funding site:
I'm in for a bit. But I think I can offer more in-kind than cash.
I'd like to offer illustration services for posters, if you are not able to find local artists.
(I would need to be trained on photos of the relevant trees, as I am not familiar with the local ecology.
If you are able to use local artists, I would like to offer one or two design critique sessions - like an editor for graphic information.
I learned a lot from working in science education. Some of my skills include:
Layout - how to make a poster that conveys complex information effectively, while also being attractive to people who don't already care.
Line-art illustrations. This style can make poster art that is easy to read both in color, and as a cheaper, copier-friendly handout for courses or small-scale flyers.)
Landscape and architectural diagrams. (I suspect you will be doing more hands-on demonstrations than instructional handouts, but if you want instructional diagrams I can help with that too.)
I will not be upset if some of my suggestions are over-ruled in favor of local aesthetic tastes, or for other reasons.
Please contact me by e-mail or PM to arrange the specifics.
Charlotte, I am an editor. I have a permaculture design certificate. I taught English and Speech for a number of years, did technical and marketing writing, and have held two senior writer and editor positions most recently. I've done some editing for Rado's pizza ovens website (Australia). I write for our local ecovillage website (below). Contact me about how I can help (purple mooseage).