HYDERABAD: A silent agricultural revolution has been in the making for the past three decades, after Bill Mollison, who is revered as the ‘father of permaculture’ started propagating his model of ‘permanent agriculture’. Carrying the torch further in Telangana is a couple who dedicated their lives to the cause of nature’s regeneration, the results of which can be spotted in the red soils of Bidekanne village, located just 10 km away from Zaheerabad.
It was a chance encounter with Bill Mollison in 1986 that changed the lives of P Narsanna and his wife Padma, who were so impressed with the idea of permaculture that they made it their way of life. “We, as human beings, return only 10 per cent of the energy that we consume from nature, back to it. Environmental, economic, cultural and all other forms of pollution have resulted in the deterioration of health and well-being of people, to a dangerous level. For an entire generation of Indians, who were born during the green revolution, the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and insecticides became an integral part of their farm practices. Their predecessors, who practised traditional methods, are no more and the younger generations are the only hope left,” Narsanna told Express, explaining why he advocates permaculture.
The forest that the couple regenerated in an 11-acre land bears witness to their success story. What was marked-off as an ‘uncultivable land’ by villagers, has been transformed by the couple as a paradise for nature lovers, within a few years. Based on the methods of permaculture, they started using perennial varieties and shunned farm machinery or any equipment that consume energy, keeping it all rainfed, without using chemical fertilisers, pesticides, or even traps.
By optimising the use of light and space, the couple started adopting different cropping patterns, growing various crops and different varieties of a single crop, bringing a synergy between fruit-bearing trees, creepers, vegetables, medicinal and aromatic plants. Weeding out any plant is prohibited, as they believe that this decomposition only enriches the soil.
It won’t be an exaggeration to mention here that the results have been astounding. Last winter, Indian honey bees laid about 30 beehives in a stretch of trees here. Even red sanders, which were not planted by them, have come up in the regenerated forest as if the pollinators were returning the couple a favour. The forest now has food in abundance, with around 300 species growing in it.
The duo has also been organising a permaculture designer course for 13 days at their farm, named ‘Aranya Agriculture Alternatives’, and a two-day introductory course, which is not only attended by professionals across the country, but also from foreign countries.
The couple has worked with like-minded people for decades to empower the marginalised communities in Zaheerabad. Sharing seeds to promote bio-diversity, setting up solar lighting systems in Agency areas, creation of orchards in degraded lands, implementation of the system of rice intensification, natural ecological farming, national environmental campaigns and implementing permaculture projects in tribal areas are some of the fields they have been working on for the past three decades. Inspired by the couple, their daughter Sneha has also dedicated her life to permaculture.
300 species of plants and trees dot the forest patch spread over 11 acres in Bidekanne village, located jaust 10 km away from Zaheerabad. The entire land that was marked off as ‘uncultivable’ by villagers, was transformed by P Narsanna and Padma, a couple that dedicated their entire life to permaculture.