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Permaculture Design Elements for Drylands



"Without agriculture, there will be immediate mass starvation, but with agriculture, there will be a continual eroding away of the productive basis of human livelihood."

-Wes Jackson


The above quote points out an agricultural system unconcerned with environmental health ignoring its very foundations. In permaculture, the focus is not only on ensuring food security, but also on ensuring diversity of food, seed security, nurturing of the ecosystem, and more importantly, protecting the health of communities.


Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for about 58% of India's population. About 61% of farmers depend on rainfed agriculture. Rainfed agriculture is crucial to the country’s economy and food security. India’s rainfed regions are characterized by complex climatic challenges, manifested as water scarcity for rainfed crop production or crops breaking in the monsoon due to water stress. This is mostly impacting the livelihoods of small and marginal farmers. This blog provides permaculture-based solutions to create resilient farms meeting human & earth needs.





SOIL CONTOURING & WATER HARVESTING

The cheapest way to store water is in the soil. Contours give more stability to the land and prevent soil erosion. Water harvesting structures build on contours collect rainwater in the depressions and soak it in, recharging the groundwater & reducing the need for irrigation.


DEEP MULCHING / COVER CROPS

A thick layer of mulch (undecomposed organic material) slows down the evaporation from the soil, keeping the plants cool in dryland conditions. It also prevents soil erosion, and weed growth & protects the soil structure. Cover crops are living mulch to the soil. They can be productive species.


SHELTERBELTS

The large native timber trees protect the field from strong southwest winds. Short hedge crops are hardy natives that act as live fences protecting the site from fire & browsing animals.

The various colors & smells of the plants attract beneficial insects that help in pest management & pollinators like bees, butterflies, and birds. The bird droppings are excellent fertilizers for crops. They also include supportive plants like leguminous (chop & drop) species. The productive species also provides a source of income.


MAXIMISING GROWING SPACE & USING EDGES

Creative land designs help save a lot of space. Have minimal pathways and maximum growing space. Planting patterns also saves space.


EDGES & MARGINS

Edges and margins - the intersection of two environments and where diverse species habitat. Creative designs help increase edges. Adding colors & smells to the edges will keep away harmful insects or pests and give a good yield.


INTERCROPPING/COMPANION PLANTING/BIO-PEST MANAGEMENT

Commercially important diverse crops can be planted together in the same space. The plants growing together can either have symbiotic relationships (benefiting each other) or be neutral (causing no harm to either) or may assist either o


f them (controlling pests/attracting pollinators/fertilizing soil). Multilayered planting also diversifies crop production.


INTERCHANGEABLE RAISED & SUNKEN BEDS

Depending on the weather conditions and requirements, the beds can be modified to raised or sunken beds. This helps in crop diversification & intensification.


ANIMAL TRACTOR SYSTEM

Animal tractors like chicken tractors can be moved along the field safely assisting in pest control & their excreta benefiting plant growth.


COMPOSTING

Composting pits/piles can be set in the farm to help decompose the farm waste. In dry seasons, the trenches/swales can also act as composting pits.






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