Aranya Agricultural Alternatives is hosting the 13th International Permaculture Convergence (IPC) in Hyderabad, India, from November 25 to December 2, 2017. The conference takes place every two years, gathering international permaculturists from around the world to share knowledge and expertise and discuss the future of the permaculture movement. The event will include a two-day IPC conference in Hyderabad with numerous speakers from across the world including Dr. Vandana Shiva, environmental activist, author, and founder of Navdanya; Robyn Francis, Permaculture Designer and Educator, President of Permaculture College Australia; and Narsanna Koppula, co-founder of Aranya Agricultural Alternatives. This will be followed by a five-day convergence with workshops, practical and hands-on training, and learning and sharing new permaculture experiments and experiences.
In its The State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) report, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) explained the need to transform the existing agricultural system in the context of climate change, addressing the issues of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), food security, livelihood, rural development, nutrition, health, and economic viability, along with preservation of natural resources and environmental conservation. The report suggested inclusive and sustainable agricultural practices such as diversified cropping systems including agroforestry and integrated soil management system, as well as sustainable water, fisheries, and forest management practices.
The theme of this year’s IPC, “Towards Healthy Society,” identifies these sustainability problems. The organizers hope to address them through sub-themes such as women as agents of change to grassroots action, sustainable water management, preserving traditional farming practices, and climate change adaptation.
John Nzira and Margarethe Holzer, IPCC Co-ordinators from South Africa and Austria explained that permaculture focuses on sustainable and inclusive practices such as closed loop, low external inputs, use of perennials and trees, polyculture, working with nature, regenerative agriculture, and today’s modern agriculture can borrow the principles of Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share of Permaculture. Bill Mollison defined permaculture as “conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diverse stability, and resilience of the natural ecosystem.”
Padma and Narsanna Koppula, co-founders of Aranya added, “When one talks about permaculture, its role is not just restricted to farmlands. It goes beyond the realms of farming and extends to the philosophy of living, of creating systems where healthy societies thrive. The society in this context includes all the elements of nature as parts of the whole sum. It’s for this reason that the subthemes traverse from grassroots to societal to environmental levels.”
Aranya, an environmental and developmental organization involved with international permaculture community for more than 30 years, is bringing IPC back to South Asia for the first time in 16 years. Friends of the International Permaculture Convergence (FIPC) and International Permaculture Convergence Council (IPCC) support this event financially, focusing on overseeing the scholarship funding and selection of participants traveling from around the world and choosing the succeeding IPC convener. Koppula, explains, “Aranya sees IPC as an occasion to bring international knowledge to India and showcase some of the incredible projects happening here. India has a rich heritage of traditional practices which need to be revitalized and brought to the fore.”
The SOFA report also encouraged the policies to focus on building the capacity of small-scale family farms in developing countries to adopt climate change adaptation strategies, and address gender discrimination issues affecting women who account for nearly 43 percent of the agriculture labor force in developing countries. According to a study by FAO researchers Sarah K. Lowder, Jakob Skoet, and Terri Raney, the focus on small-scale farmers and family farms is imperative since 74 percent of 570 million small-scale farms worldwide are in Asia, with 24 percent of them represented in India.
“Indian farmers and people interested in getting into farming need to be encouraged to have a holistic and integrated view of Mother Nature on their land,” Koppula continued. Aranya for the past years has been revitalizing and revamping permaculture in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, focusing on seed banks, live farm development, awareness campaigns and academic courses, advocating rainwater harvesting, ethical land-use, and food security. This has led them to spearhead the crowdfunding project for IPC with the goal of sponsoring at least 40 farmers from across India and giving them the opportunity to interact with international practitioners and feel supported in their endeavor to a sustainable agriculture and livelihood.
Permaculture is “now being taken seriously by governments, the Commonwealth, and a host of U.N. and other agencies. For example, John Nzira is a representative of U.N. Agroecology desk in Southern and Eastern Africa,” Holzer stated. Holzer and Nzira call it an “exciting” time and explain that permaculture movement has seen tremendous growth in both global north and south, there is a growing consensus of advantages of permaculture design systems and agroecological practices over industrial agriculture and the need for ecological and holistic solutions.