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Navdanya’s A-Z of Organic Agriculture and Agroecology Course 2013

Posted by on Nov 1, 2013 in India, Regions | Comments Off on Navdanya’s A-Z of Organic Agriculture and Agroecology Course 2013

By: Chris Kennedy

In what has become an annual rite of passage, over 40 farmers, activists and engaged citizens from all over the world gathered at Navdanya’s farm in India for a month long course on “The A-Z’s of Organic Agriculture and Agroecology”.

We were blessed to be able to share our passion for the living soil, assist teaching and participate for the entire month. With over 20 eminent guests leading lectures and hands on activities each day for a month, we will not be able to describe all the learning that took place, but wanted to share a few of the highlights.

a-z group

Each of the four weeks was focused on a ‘living topic’; systems, soil, food and seed. After two introductory sessions given by Dr. Vandana Shiva, living systems week began. With the perfect combination of extensive experience and down to earth style, Dr. Avinash Singh provided the foundation for the course, working through the concepts of organic farming, agroecology and agronomy.

The living soil week provided Marilyn and me an opportunity to ‘inoculate’ the world with a new group of passionate, educated microbe farmers. Book-ended in the week by Sri Hari Raj Singh and Dr. A.B. Panigrahi who discussed basic soil make-up and climate resiliency, we led sessions on the life in the soil, composting and how to rebuild damaged soils. Our soil trainings culminated in a ‘microbial scavenger hunt’, where course participants utilized Navdanya’s Living Soil Lab microscopes to collect and identify the different soil microbes found on the farm.

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During living food week Dr. Anna Powar enlightened the course with her views on diet, nutrition and food and how they effect our own living system. Smt. Kusum Mishra and the Navdanya chefs led several cooking classes. We gave an impromptu lesson on urban gardening to help provide strategies for the city dwellers to grow living food of their own.

The last week of living seed was taught by Dr. Salvatore Ceccarelli, the world’s leading participatory plant breeder. He shared his amazing work in the Middle East and taught us all how to collect, save, and even selectively breed our own living seed varieties.

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To culminate the course, Dr. Vandana Shiva gave 3 days of talks on her work, the state of the seed sovereignty movement and a call to action for each of us. She described the movement’s ‘mycorrhyzal’ structure and how each of us, though living in different countries, are connected for the common cause of the rights of the seed and mother earth. On the last day, Dr. Shiva introduced a surprise speaker, Dr. Saamdu Chetri, the Director of Gross National Happiness from Bhutan. In his Buddhist monk’s robes, Dr. Chetri described the work and vision of his country to account for the wealth inherent in nature and in each citizen’s well-being. The course concluded with Dr. Chetri leading the group in a brief meditation.

The course was filled with an abundance of inspirational speakers and relevant lessons. However, I think the most powerful product was the community formed and connections made between each of the course participants. From over 11 countries, the people who attended brought their own amazing story, energy and passion. Each of us departed the campus full of fresh ideas and knowledge related to farming and full of new friends from around the world, all on the same path toward creating a better world.

Chris Kennedy is a Co-founder of The Hummingbird Project. When he is not doing sustainability projects in India, East Africa and the USA, he can be found playing music at The Cove in Cleveland, OH.

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