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The School of Biodynamic Farming: Retaining youth in farming sector

Finding agriculture unremunerative, a number of youth are seeking livelihood opportunities outside agriculture. To address this issue, The School of Biodynamic Farming has initiated a two-year course for training rural youth in making agriculture sustainable as well as profitable.

The practice school

The practice school

Indian agriculture has been continuously facing serious problems, majority of which are manmade. Coupled with adoption of inappropriate technologies and methods, farming has ceased to be a remunerative livelihood. With continuous degradation in living standards of the rural population, most of the village people have started moving towards urban areas.A latest census indicates that Tamil Nadu is one of the worst hit states where in more than 50% of the total population is living in the urban areas. So, where are we going? Are we going to shift IT companies and manufacturing sector units to Kovilpatti and Usilampatties? Then who will feed the entire state? These are alarming questions which need to be addressed.

What we urgently need is a motivated and trained young team from villages to take up the new challenges of undertaking agriculture as their profession. But we need to train them not only in sustainable agriculture but also in modern technologies to enable them to carryout farming as an economically viable enterprise. In this effort, we from Inba Seva Sangam, a Gandhian principled organization from Karur district of Tamil Nadu started a school to teach biodynamic agriculture to poor rural students to become trained agriculturists in coming years. These students are expected to not only take up organic or biodynamic agriculture as their livelihood, but also be the part of the “Healing the Earth Campaign” team.

The School of Biodynamic Farming was started on 11 July 2012 at Vinobajipuram, in Karur District of Tamil Nadu. The course is a two-year residential diploma program offered free, supported by Inba Seva Sangam. Presently, the first batch of 7 students (called as BD 7) is in the second year of their course. All these seven students are from nearby villages and basically belong to farming community and are from very poor family background. This first batch will graduate from the school in June 2014.

The school premises
The school premises

The students are being trained in all the components of Biodynamic Agriculture through ‘learning by doing’ methods. The focus is more on practicals rather than theory alone. The curriculum is divided into three – technical skill training; soft skill training and practice school.In the technical skill training, students learn about agroforestry, watershed management, irrigation management, farm equipment maintenance, biodynamic farming, soil fertility aspects, agronomy, horticulture, seed technology, certification and marketing. Communication skills, life coping skills, basic computer application, arts and culture are the subjects that students learn under soft skill development.

At the end of every term (6 terms of 3 months each), students will attend a 3-4 week practical training at renowned organic or biodynamic farms. During these practical school days, focus is on all major biodynamic practices such as preparation and application of biodynamic preparations, biodynamic compost and biodynamic liquid manure. Students will also get trained in the use and maintenance of the farm equipments such as tillers, weeders, sprayers and shredders. The present batch of students have visited organic and biodynamic farms, such as, Vindara Farms Auroville, Kurinji Biodynamic farm and Waldorf School Kodaikkanal. They have also been trained on the Alternate Analytical Testing of Micronutrients for Soil Analysis organized by MCRC, Chennai. They have also participated in the biodynamic trainings at Shenbaganur, organized by Biodynamic Association of India.

During the second year, these students will have some basic exposure in certification and marketing which will help them to manage their own farms in future.

Our plan is to generate more than 1000 youngsters, both male and female, in the next ten years, who will be the messiahs in our mission of “Healing the Earth Campaign”. The aim of this programme is training the youngsters not only in farming technologies but also shaping them to be disciplined and lead a dedicated life style. We strongly believe that collective initiatives like this will bring some positive changes in the society.

D Thangapandian is a member of the academic committee of The School of Biodynamic Farming and The Lead Worker of Farm India – www.farmindia.org

For more information, contact Mr.Jayakaran, Director, The School of Biodynamic Farming, Vinobajipuram, Karur District, Tamil Nadu. http://www.inbasevasangam.org