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Auroville Articles: Ecological Agriculture

Growing healthy produce for the community while maintaining the ecological balance of its environment. has always been the ideal of Auroville. Despite challenging conditions, Auroville experiments with ecological agriculture that favours natural inputs and genetic diversity.

The Pioneering Years
Early settlers in Auroville had to work extensively to stem erosion and reclaim the land before agriculture could be undertaken. Slowly, viable pesticide-free farmlands were created which demonstrated various aspects of organic tropical food production.

Present Trends
Auroville has 14 farms comprising about 400 acres under ecological agriculture. 35 Aurovilians who employ about 200 workers from the neighbouring villages manage the farms, coordinated by the Auroville Farm Group.

Agricultural experiments in Auroville include many different methods, such as biodynamics, permaculture, earth bodies, vermiculture, inter-planting and cover cropping with nitrogen fixing leguminous plants (both indigenous and exotic), use of Effective Micro-organisms etc. These are combined with technologies for eco-friendly use of water and electricity, involving windmills, solar panels, rainwater harvesting and drip/sprinkler systems.

Ongoing studies include: mixed systems farming and agro ecosystems, green manures and the use of intercropping in agriculture, natural biodiversity and use of 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, mulc farming and ecological accounting. Auroville is currently self-sufficient in milk and some seasonal fruits. It produces about 2% of its total rice and grain requirements and 50% of its total fruit and vegetable needs.

The Auroville Farm Group coordinates plans for the development of Auroville farms and facilitates the distribution of farm produce. It documents and disseminates information in the community about agricultural ventures, and helps in the placement of volunteers in Auroville farms.

Other activities in ecological agriculture include:

• Annapurna Farm experiments with traditional dry land farming, has a seed-bank of non-hybridised local seeds, and maintains a network with other organisations on a national level whose activities are focused on the preservation of agricultural biodiversity and preservation of local heritage.

• Auroville's food processing units play an important ancillary role by developing a variety of food products made with local produce.

• Auroannam sources and markets organically certified produce in India. Other units specialize in marketing organic coffee and tea.

• Auroville's chemical testing laboratory has facilities for testing soil and water.

Future Directions
Ecological agriculture in Auroville faces challenges from many directions.

The Master Plan of the Auroville Township, envisaged for a population of 50,000 inhabitants, includes a Green Belt of 3,650 acres comprising farms and forests. It is planned to locate farms primarily in the western hemisphere of the Green Belt, due to the better quality of land in that area. Since Auroville still has to acquire 58% of the designated Green Belt area, there is a pressing need to buy enough prime agricultural land to achieve self sufficiency in organic food production.

Restoration of degraded land still continues to be one of the biggest challenges to farming. Financial and human resources are badly needed to improve the efficiency of the farms and make ecological agriculture viable.

Other immediate needs include better coordination of the produce, improving the processing and marketing of organic food, upgrading the facilities of the chemical laboratory, and establishing centres for dissemination of agricultural knowledge.




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