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Ecological Agriculture

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AvToday article, Nov. '03

A MANUAL

RAISED BEDS
A form of permaculture for the dry and wet tropics
& LEISA
Low external input sustainable agriculture

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The Auroville Farm Group serves the Auroville community by growing healthy produce in direct response to its needs - involving and informing the community residents in the process. The AVFG wants to help to improve on food quality and increase the production of healthy food, while sustaining the environment by farming ecologically.

Auroville Farm Group

The Auroville Farm Group (AVFG) coordinates the planning of fourteen Auroville (AV) farms that aim at producing natural and healthy food. As of today, the farms cover some 400 acres of cultivated land, managed by 35 Auroville residents. The farms employ about 200 full-time workers from surrounding villages.
All farmers work with some combination of orchards, crop fields, vegetable gardens and/or dairy. They study the relationship between traditional farming and modern agriculture, using eco-friendly technologies such as: windmills (water), solar energy, drip irrigation, micro sprinklers and methane gas collectors.
Each farmer can work in his own field of interest, taking into consideration the quality of the soil, the availability of water, and the investment potential. The AVFG coordinates their productions to meet the Auroville requirements.
Some farmers work on related interests, such as: seed banks, providing education to local and foreign students, or introducing vegetables and fruits from other tropical countries; some do food processing.

 

Short AVFG history and future

The aim to grow food for AV was initially based on acquiring large landholding and making big investments. But over the years the quality of some of the purchased land proved poor - if not poisoned by previous spraying - and needed long term rehabilitation. There also has been (and still is) much intrusion by outsiders with herds of cows or goats, breaking fences and damaging whole crops.
Though over time the AVFG farms have received moderate funds, it is hard to compete with subsidised farming in India . Besides, there is the risk of crop failures. The growing season from December to March is short and both summer and the monsoon seasons can be severe and unpredictable.
In later years, it was found that few coming to Auroville were either knowledgeable or interested in running farms. Though the present farms are well equipped by now, more farmers and funds are needed in the future, to take care of available land.
A recent report on the AVFG shows that at this moment in time the AVFG has to work on unifying the efforts of the farmers, to channel productions, work on food processing, marketing and distribution.
Final investments will be needed to set agriculture in Auroville on its own feet, with the packaging and distribution of produce that are qualified organic, in accordance with Indian National standards. Meanwhile, a lot has been learned by the pioneering ‘down to earth' farmers that is well worth sharing with students and experts. Much, also, asks to be set up with the help of experts and advanced students. This makes the start of the second, unifying, phase of farming in Auroville a practical and unique experience for students and voluntary workers.

See also: History of Auroville farms

Distribution and marketing

The AVFG has an office and distribution centre called Foodlink. The products are sold through a number of Auroville shops and (in the future) also beyond AV. Rice and vegetables are provided for meals in the communal Solar Kitchen and for distribution among schools. Fruits and grains are preserved and packed at two Auroville food-processing units and at some of the farms, which produce a range of jams, pickles and chutneys.
The AVFG secretariat gathers statistics on the basis of monthly production. A recent report on the AVFG (2004) shows that distribution and central management of farming in Auroville will need funding and support, so that the individual effort of the farmers may bear fruit. At present, for instance, parts of surplus harvests are lost, due to lack of a common storage and marketing outlets.

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The Auroville Farm Group Assessment
Final report October 2004

Zipped Word Documents 1.19 Mb

 

Research and outreach

Agricultural experiments within the AVFG include many different methods, such as bio dynamics and permaculture. These are combined with technologies for eco-friendly use of water and electricity. Ongoing studies are: mixed systems and agro-ecosystem farming, green manures and intercropping, natural biodiversity and microclimates, agro-forestry, collection of seeds of traditional varieties, water harvesting, organic pest control, hygienic animal husbandry, solar & wind power, energy saving tools for tillage, and mulch farming.
The AVFG maintains close ties with the Auroville Forest Group. Together they promote sustainable cultivation, which increases the diversity of crops and plantations. By creating micro-climatic regions, biodiversity is served by planning indigenous flora and creating reservations for wildlife.

 

Education – study and work opportunities

‘Auroville Farm Group' - farms have, as such, no prescribed ongoing courses available. Students and volunteers are invited to participate in the work, thus helping farmers to find time for sharing their knowledge. On the farms, the student is asked to work for a certain amount of hours per day. Some farmers ask commitment in the duration of stay.
Over the last five years it proved financially impossible to systematically supply students and volunteers with free food and accommodation; but for serious students various means of study and accommodation can be made available.
There is much work to be done to organise the farmers around a future central management and distribution centre.
The AVFG fundraisers and researchers are ready to explore this move from care for the land to care for collection and distribution. Student and expert helpers, as well as funds, will be needed so that what has been built up may grow into an enterprise that does justice to Mother's ideas for the AV community and to that community in its unfolding.

For more information about learning opportunities in the AVFG:
Contact: David Storey: dave@auroville.org.in after reading the job page.

See also: Study/work opportunities

See also: Farm accommodations

 

If you have only a few days to visit:
Contact: farmgroup@auroville.org.in ;
Tel: daily/morning: 2 622107 (Office, at: Solar Kitchen).

For non-farm guesthouse bookings,
contact: guestservice@auroville.org.in (2622704).

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