by Saha Astitva volunteer Deepa Kamath.
I still remember the day when I heard Clea talk at an event by Earthoholics. When she asked the crowd if they had heard the word ‘Permaculture’, only a few hands went up. She then began explaining the why, what and how of it and I was left in awe of a system as intelligent as Permaculture and in retrospect I’m surprised that not many people knew about it or were implementing it. For me, she had painted a magical landscape and I had to put my foot into it. Little did I know that that very magical landscape would appear more real and attainable, after Clea had demystified my understanding of it with science.
The workshop ran for three weeks with six participants at Foyts Farm in Goa. The group was extremely diverse in their age, needs, backgrounds and experience. We were split into 3 pairs and each pair was given a plot of degraded land to hand-in-hand implement our theoretical learning. The course structure of the workshop was flexible and depended upon our grasp on a taught concept before moving onto the next. Clea had also kept a collection of permaculture and soil related books, videos and documentaries for us to refer to.
Clea’s aim for us was that at the end of the workshop we would be well equipped to restore any type of soil. For this, she took us step by step through the physical, chemical and biological properties of soil such as its structure, types, formation, organisms, nutrient cycles, carbon, pH and water in soil. Alongside we were learning her technique to build soil, more importantly the strategy behind every step in the technique. All set under the roof of Permaculture principles and scientific reasoning. And at the end of the workshop, the interconnectedness of the soil ecosystem within itself and with the other elements of the Earth’s ecosystem was all brought together and the importance of these interconnections became very apparent. It is impossible to revert back to my simplistic way of looking at soil.
We also made a trip to the forest, made compost, amrut pani and attempted biochar successfully. As for our plot which was in a degraded (acidic pH, hard, dry, dead) state before we worked on it, has already started yielding (pH 6.5, friable, moist, alive)!
After the course Dean and Deepa returned to Saha Astitva and undertook a soil building demonstration implementing the techniques they had learned. Within a few weeks, the pH had dropped form 8 to 6.5 and a rich soil ready to support agriculture created.
Clea will be running another soil building course in September. Details of the course can be viewed here.