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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Permaculture: Innovative agriculture at AOL Bengaluru

Unknown to many, Art of Living's Global HQ in Bengaluru also has a dedicated area growing useful vegetables and fruits using creative farming techniques.

Next to the Goshala, AOL has a small area dedicated to agriculture. Innovative-ly named Permaculture (derived from Permanent agriculture), this is a live example how useful agriculture products can be grown in an otherwise barren land.

The terrain here is hilly- with lots of incline. Rain water doesn’t hold. It slides away. So to counter this, area is converted into a sort of step irrigation. Drenches are carved out at regular intervals, which hold and sink water, increasing ground water level. The land in between two such micro canals is leveled, fertile and used for growing vegetables.

Because of above specified technique that enriches ground water, the need to water the plants is bare minimum. This saves cost and effort. Naveen explained us that few other plants, which we might remove as weeds is also allowed to grow around the main plant, as they can be later chopped and serve as manure. Food for cows in Goshala also comes from AOL's agriculture campus mainly.

Kitchen waste from Ashram’s main kitchen lands here at the farm, which is used as compost and manure. AOL’s farmland is currently in its early stages. Couple of years down the line, the farm is likely to have lots of trees and greenery.
Naveen showed us lots of Papaya trees in the campus. Their roots are unable to go downward due to hard rocks, so they grow parallel to ground. Lots of trees have been planted at the far end boundaries of the farm- they should be gaining size in few years time.
At the centre of AOL’s Permaculture is its headquarters- a circular hut made of mud and other natural materials. Visitors to Ashram get to sit in here and listen to Mr Naveen explaining the importance of agriculture and how today’s urban population is totally unware of the importance of agriculture and challenges faced by farmers.
Corporate Employees occasionally visit the farm as part of their CSR initiatives. Still the farmland needs many more hands to tend to the plants as well as the land. Machines are used bare minimum in the farm and most of the work is done with hand.

As we were about complete the tour of AOL's farmland, we spotted some fire in neighboring farm- set purposefully to burn some waste, but the fire was too close to the border and there was a risk that it may spread. So we had to pour mud on it and douse it off.

In summary, serious farmers should visit AOL's Permaculture campus once- there're several innovative practices and practical tips and one can take home. If everyone can grow at least just a little food, their cash outgo (spent on purchases of vegetables) is saved a bit and they can have healthy home made vegetables.

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