Aranya Agricultural Alternatives
Narsanna & Padma Koppula
November 3 - 22, 2017
Polam & Aranya Farms, Medak District, Telangana, India
Robyn Francis, Rico Zook, Clea Chandmal, Govinda Sharma, Gopi Sankarasubramani, Narsanna Koppula, Starhawk, Jude Hobbs, Hui-i Chiang and local guest presenters
This Permaculture Design Certificate Course (PDC) was part of the 13th International Permaculture Convergence (IPC) in November 2017 and was hosted by Aranya Agricultural Alternatives. Happening in the year of the 30th anniversary of the first ever PDC in India that was conducted by Bill Mollison and Robyn Francis in 1987 at the University of Hyderabad, this course was a first of its kind, introducing a new, expanded course format over 20 days with a total of over 100 hours of curriculum and hands-on work. It brought together 87 students with facilitators and practitioners from India and all over the world.
Learning Permaculture Design in the year of the 30th anniversary of the first PDC held in India: A report by participant and freshly graduated permaculture designer Beatrice Tomassi.
The 13th International Permaculture Convergence IPC India 2017, hosted by Aranya Agricultural Alternatives, is taking place at a young permaculture site which is Polam Farm, rising as an educative and demonstrative space for sustainable practices amongst fields of bt cotton monoculture, in the state of Telangana. The preparation and design for the event has been under the guidance of Narsanna Koppula, who has worked with permaculture at Aranya farm for about 20 years.
Prior to the IPC, an extended Permaculture Design Course was organised at Polam Farm, from 3rd to 22nd November 2017, which took a total of two years of planning. The traditional 72 hours curriculum usually happening over two weeks was expanded so as to include 25 additional hours of advanced training in one of four optional streams, which are social permaculture, urban permaculture, water and earthworks, and agriculture.
The social stream focused on the permaculture ethic of People Care and the integration of social design and practice into permaculture systems, through inclusive and creative facilitation.
The urban stream guided the application of permaculture principles in strategies and techniques to bring resiliency into the urban setting, on multiple scales.
Water and earthwork explored the interaction of the landscape and water and their support to regenerative systems, through conceptual, technical and practical components.
Agriculture addressed the initiation and management of a productive permaculture agriculture system, by selecting tools and techniques to create site specific designs.
A team of nine professors was organised so to have balance in gender and culture: five have come from Asia and four from the west. The lead instructor was Robyn Francis, the core instructors were Rico Zook, Clea Chandmal, Govinda Sharma and Narsanna Koppula, and the streams instructors were Hui-i Chiang, Jude Hobbs, Starhawk and Gopi Sankarasubramani.
Important nodes of the course’s structure were the teacher’s assistants, who acted as a contact point between teachers, organisers, staff and participants. Eight of them had attended the Permaculture Teacher Training that took place just before the PDC, which was the first PTT organised in India. This served as a great opportunity for them to directly apply what was learned during the course, and for us participants to receive a more integrated support.
The idea behind the course’s design was to offer “not your usual PDC” and advanced streams to a large group of 87 students coming from 24 different countries. Upon registration, participants had the option of paying a ‘support rate’ to allow more local participants to join the course at a significantly reduced rate. All profits from the course have been donated to the IPC India event.
Within the design of the course, different approaches including practice, theory, kinesthetics were adopted, and all has been founded on enjoyment of observation and interaction. In this way it has been possible to maintain flexibility and incorporate feedback systems such as the ‘affinity groups’, which could gather information about the interaction of the course with people and environment. In comparison to traditional education, hierarchical systems are not found and the teaching is perceived as a facilitation of one’s learning process, encouraging the expansion of one’s horizons.
On the 3rd of November most participants arrived on Polam Farm from Hyderabad, the largest urban centre located a couple of hours away from the farm. The clogged streets downtown awaken the desire for quiet and silence, which can be found at Polam. At the farm participants are warmly welcomed by the organising team, in the afternoon attend an introductory meeting and in the evening an orientation session, which sets the scene in permaculture referencing figures such as Bill Mollison, Masanobu Fukuoka and Dr. Venkat, who was one of the first big practitioners of permaculture in India.
Affinity group meetings took place every morning until 9am, when everyone gathers for check-ins and announcements. The selection of material provided is a built up reservoir of resources from each teacher’s experience: classes go far beyond the explanation of particular systems, they are interactive and touch upon knowledge about fundamental life processes at work in the world as we observe it and interact with it. The teacher team has demonstrated enthusiasm, charisma and experience, in the teaching of information dense material, as well as in passing on knowledge about life itself, thus having a deep and meaningful impact on our perception, lifting us up and rising together.
We are learning that permaculture leads beyond sustainability: it is about finding our true selves and restore the balance and harmony in between ourselves, with eyes wide open, because true regeneration originates from relationships. Permaculture invites us all to explore the creative processes of designing functional systems while restoring the Earth.
Time during breaks and meals is always an opportunity for walks, conversations and exchanges: this enables us to be increasingly aware of the space and energies around, as we shift from group to group throughout the day. Having the PDC just before the IPC means that a lot of movement happens at the farm, a dynamic flow of people in and out make many more exchanges possible, with workers from nearby villages and volunteers from around the globe contributing to the event.
In the evenings activities such as power talks, presentations or movie nights are organised, a beautiful moment to share experiences and discover what everyone is passionate about and their desires to contribute.
Free days are an occasion to explore the farm and get involved with the work of volunteers, or perhaps have a chai in the nearby village of Jogipet. After separating into streams, a day trip to Aranya Farm was organised, guided by Narsanna and Padma Koppula. They have dedicated much of their action towards the integration of the community and building of social connections, through dispersal of seeds and campaigns against the government selling land to large developers, one of their slogans being “land to the landless”. They consider themselves as custodians of the land, but involve the local community in any planning or decision making process, in the gradual development of the land and its systems.
During the last days of the course participants were busy working within their chosen design teams on the final design presentations, which consisted in stream specific real-life designs on Polam Farm. They were concluded on the last day of class and then followed by the closing ceremony at the outdoor classroom, when certificates were handed out by the teachers. The place was pervaded by gratefulness and joy, for having shared such a profound experience.
This PDC has been empowering and uplifting, thank you to every single one, for the fantastic contribution you have made to nature.“Permaculture wanders in the valleys between the mountains of the disciplines where nobody else is at home.” (Bill Mollison)
Skills & Knowledge:
In addition to covering the international 72-hour PDC core curriculum, as agreed upon by permaculture associations in different parts of the world, participants get to spend an additional 15 to 20 hours to focus on one of the four thematic streams. The focus on a thematic stream allows you to deepen your understanding of a particular area of applied permaculture that interests you. Click on the name of the thematic stream of your choice for more details.
Upon registration, you will be asked to rate your preference of stream topics. While we will try to accommodate everyone's preferences as best as we can, we cannot guarantee that you will get into your first choice of stream.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Agriculture stream & Earthworks & Water stream are both full at this time. You can still indicate them as your preference and you will be put on a wait list.
The course venue is Polam farm, a large farm in rural Telangana that is currently being developed into a permaculture farm. This gives participants an opportunity to work on a real-life design and implement some design elements right away during the course. Practical sessions and demonstrations give participants a chance for hands-on learning. The farm setting offers an ideal playground for this. Participants will get an opportunity to work on hands-on projects that will benefit the farm.
The course will include a visit to Aranya farm, a 15-year-old permaculture farm with a broad scope to learn from existing structures and practices. It also provides an opportunity to practically implement earthworks and other permaculture practices in the surrounding community farm lands. For instance, as part of each PDC course hosted by Aranya Agricultural Alternatives, one acre of farmland is developed as our contribution to the community. At the same time it provides a learning opportunity for the course participants.
In smaller groups, participants will work on a stream-specific design project of a real-life permaculture design. Each design team will present their work at the end of the course. The finished designs will be left with the farm or other clients as resources. In the past, PDC host sites have implemented many aspects of the designs and sometimes even full designs.
This PDC course will be taught by a team of experienced permaculture instructors and practitioners from all around the world.
In addition to the instructors listed below, guest presenters (to be announced soon) will bring an exciting variety of backgrounds, skills, experiences and perspectives to the course. We are currently still looking for an Urban Stream instructor from India, preferably a woman. If you have strong experience in urban sustainability and are interested in this opportunity, please write to Nina on ipcpdc2017 [at] gmail [dot] com.
Lead Instructor, PDC Core Curriculum & Social Permaculture Stream
Robyn Francis is an award-winning international permaculture pioneer, designer, educator, presenter, innovator and founder of Permaculture College Australia.
Robyn has worked in Permaculture since 1983 throughout Australia and overseas in diverse cultures and climates, rural and urban. As the founding director of Permaculture International Ltd (PIL) in 1987, designer and creator of Djanbung Gardens, Australia's leading permaculture centre, and a key instigator of the nationally accredited vocational qualifications in permaculture in Australia, she is committed to improving the quality of permaculture training.
Robyn is a passionate facilitator and educator, dedicated to empowering people to be effective agents of change through her PDCs and professional development for permaculture teachers, designers, and community activists. She has taught over 140 PDCs and over a hundred advanced courses, including the first PDC in India with Bill Mollison in 1987. Her students include some of permaculture's leading teachers and activists.
PDC Core Curriculum & Earthworks and Water Stream
Narsanna Koppula is a permaculture pioneer in India. A lover of nature and environment, he was among the first Indians trained by Bill Mollison in the 1980s. With his mentor, Late Dr. Venkat, who has been his constant source of inspiration, they created the first permaculture farms in India and formed Permaculture Farmers Group across the country.
He founded Aranya Agricultural Alternatives with his wife, Padma, in 1999 with the aim to advocate permaculture principles and practices in India as well as all over the world.
They continuously work with farmers in the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh with the goal to empower rural communities through the teaching of natural resource management and permaculture design. A highly energetic teacher on the field, Narsanna has a wealth of knowledge on traditional Indian agricultural practices and he is extremely passionate about disseminating this knowledge to his students and farmers.
PDC Core Curriculum & Earthworks and Water Stream
For the past 20 years, Rico has been a Permaculture designer, consultant and educator. He has worked with private individuals, farmers, villagers and local organizations in India, Cambodia, northern New Mexico, the middle-east and other parts of the world. His work focuses on assisting all levels of the global community to create culturally and environmentally appropriate life systems that are resilient and regenerative. He has also worked with local and indigenous cultures to help preserve traditional knowledge and technologies while adapting to, and becoming active members of, our rapidly globalizing world. With work in different climates and cultures, Rico has established himself as one of the new leaders and innovators in permaculture worldwide. This is further supported by his work with global permaculture organizations organizing the International Permaculture Convergence.
PDC Core Curriculum & Agriculture Stream
Clea Chandmal studied biological sciences at University of Cambridge, UK. She did her PDC with Bill Mollison, Geoff Lawton and Greg Knibbs in Melbourne in 2008. She currently consults and runs a farm in Goa, implementing good permaculture practices to dramatic effect. She has given a TED-x Talk entitled "Permaculture - From Farm to Forest."
PDC Core Curriculum & Agriculture Stream
Govinda Sharma has been practising and teaching permaculture since 1992 and has facilitated over 43 PDCs and 575 other short courses in various aspects of Permaculture in Nepal and abroad, and his trainings have included participants from almost 76 countries. He has a Masters Degree in Ecological Agriculture and has worked with farmers all over Nepal and in countries like Austria, Japan, Malawi, India, Qatar and France. He is the Managing Director of Organic Certification Nepal (OCN) and founder of HASERA Organic Farm, a Research and Training Centre dedicated to the promotion of Sustainable Agriculture, Sustainable Development, and Permaculture. He has written or edited 13 important books and proceedings in the field of permaculture.
Earthworks and Water Stream
Gopi Sankara is a farmer and trustee at Navadarshanam. Over the last 25 years, Navadarshanam has been experimenting and demonstrating sustainable alternatives in energy, buildings, water, farming and rural livelihood within a broader frame of ecological and spiritual regeneration. Navadarshanam also supports a food co-operative with predominantly women members operated by the villagers of Ganganahalli with dual aims of providing sustainably grown, healthier traditional food options for urban consumers and supporting rural livelihoods and rural producers of food. An aerospace engineer from IIT, Gopi was a technologist based in California for over 20 years. While living in California, he left the technology industry to explore his life-long passion of growing food and leading a simple life. He worked on farms in the US and formally studied permaculture and sustainable farming practices.
Social Permaculture Stream
Starhawk is the author or co-author of thirteen books on earth-based spirituality and activism, including the classics The Spiral Dance, her visionary novel The Fifth Sacred Thing and its long-awaited sequel, City of Refuge. Her 2011 book, The Empowerment Manual: A Guide for Collaborative Groups focuses on patterns of organizing and power that create healthy, nurturing organizations. Starhawk directs Earth Activist Trainings, teaching permaculture design grounded in spirit and with a focus on organizing, activism, and Social Permaculture. She has twenty years of experience teaching and practising permaculture in the US and internationally, and developing a regenerative, carbon-sequestering model on her own ranch in Northern California.
Roshan P Rai was supposed to be part of the teaching team as part of the “Social permaculture" stream. Unfortunately, due to the conditions in Darjeeling beyond his control, he has to stay there in order to fulfill his responsibilities to his NGO and the community and won’t be able to join the course. We thank you for your understanding and send him our support.
Social Permaculture Stream
Roshan P. Rai is a development practitioner with DLR Prerna, a Darjeeling-based NGO since 1996. He works on issues of environment and social equity in the Darjeeling Himalaya. Partnering with marginal communities, models have been initiated resulting in seminal experiences like Darjeeling’s first small farmer organic and fair-trade collective Mineral Springs Sanjukta Vikash Sanstha. With special interest on participatory governance, his intervention has revolved around inclusions in fair-trade movements in tea, conservation efforts, small farmer collectives, traditional community based organisations and NGOs. He works on waste with Zero Waste Himalaya. In recent years he has been focusing on local food cultures, water and communities, and climate change. Roshan engages at a landscape and policy level through his writings, educational institutions and platforms like Integrated Himalayan Initiative, India.
Urban Permaculture Stream
Jude Hobbs is a permaculture educator, designer, and land consultant. Drawing upon over 30 years’ experience in utilizing whole-system design techniques, she provides environmentally sound solutions in urban and rural settings, which promotes sustainable actions.
Through her business, Agro-Ecology Northwest, Jude specializes in designing urban and farm management practices that optimize water storage systems, soil enhancement techniques, biodiversity, resource conservation and income diversification. As an educator, she brings her passion for permaculture to her courses by developing curricula that encompass diverse learning styles and methods that are inspiring and rich in information. Jude’s intention is to empower people to creatively change their everyday patterns so as to care for the earth and each other.
As a co-founder of the Permaculture Institute of North America (PINA) she actively supports the next generation of permaculture trainers through continuing education and professional development.
Jude co-tends Wilson Creek Gardens a 7-acre permaculture demonstration site in Cottage Grove, Oregon where there are abundant micro-climates from which to learn.
Urban Permaculture Stream
Hui-i Chiang is a leading environmental education and permaculture pioneer in Taiwan. She is the founder of Earth Passengers, which has organized Taiwan’s first environmental education leadership trainings and permaculture courses. During the past two decades, she has focused on energy education, redesigning cities for resilience and food production, and developing appropriate technology. She is active in East Asia environmental networks and has been a consultant for community development, train-the-trainers initiatives, school garden projects and rural revitalization projects in Taiwan and China. Together with her colleagues, Hui-i is now developing a permaculture learning center on the east coast of Taiwan and is currently organizing community projects including a seed library, a local market, a local skill-sharing project, and a women farmers’ cooperative.
She regularly teaches permaculture workshops and PDCs in Taiwan and China. Hui-i is the co-author of “Design for Life,” (向大自然學設計) the first permaculture book in the Chinese-speaking world, based on local permaculture practices and experiences.