Permaculture: Boon for bio-diversity
By Kaustubh Rishi
Bio-Diversity refers to the variety of life on Earth at all its levels, from genes to ecosystems,
insects to large mammals, and can encompass the evolutionary, ecological, and cultural
processes that sustain life. Scientists have estimated that there are close to 8.7 million species of flora and fauna that call this blue planet home. Out of these 8.7 million, only around 1.2 million species have been identified, documented, and described so far, most of which are insects.
The Living Planet Report 2020, published by WWF after two years, has revealed a global
species loss of 68 percent in less than 50 years, this unimaginable decline in species has never
been witnessed before. Converting land for agriculture has caused 70 percent of
global biodiversity loss and half of all loss in tree cover.
In the present day we are losing this rich biodiversity day-by-day and the biggest reason for that is unsustainable farming practices such as clearing forests and tree covers from the land, annual tilling of farmlands killing millions of micro-organisms living in the topsoil, exposing the soil to the bright sun thereby increasing the carbon emission, by letting ground retained carbon released into the atmosphere and excessive use of pesticides and insecticides.
These unsustainable farming methods are killing most of the smaller and micro life forms from
the earth. The effects of these unsustainable practices are already visible as we see many of the insects, birds and native tree species already gone or on the verge of extinction.
To set the record right, four species of fauna and 18 species of flora have already gone extinct in India in the last few centuries and hence a lot of other dependent life forms have also gone along with these species. The impact of such farming practices is irreversible.
The impact is not only devastating for bio-diversity; these farming practices are killing humans
at an unimaginable scale. Latest studies have already proven how harmful is the use of
chemicals for the human body and is responsible for many fatal diseases such as cancer and
Parkinson’s disease. Pesticides have been implicated in human studies of leukaemia, lymphoma, and cancers of the brain, breasts, prostrate, testis, and ovaries. Reproductive harm
from pesticides includes birth defects, stillbirth, spontaneous abortion, sterility, and infertility.
Now the latest cancer report released by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and
National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research (NCDIR), Bengaluru confirms the
sharp increase in India's cancer cases in the last few years, estimating that it could
further increase by 12% in the next five years. A lot is happening in our bodies by the
consumption of chemically grown foods.
Chemical fertilizers are also killing our river systems and the millions of life forms dependent
With that said, we can say that the biggest enemy of life on earth today is unsustainable farming practices. Not only from the bio-diversity point of view but also from the economic situation of farmers who are spending a lot on initial land preparation, chemical fertilizers and genetically modified seeds and still not able to get good yield because of changing rain and weather patterns, degraded soil quality and water scarcity. The suicide of farmers in dry states of India is living proof of this. A daily average of 28 farmers are committing suicide in India because of these unsustainable farming practices.
Permaculture is the solution:
Do we have an alternative for current day’s farming practices that are economically viable and
sustainable and can save us, humans, our bio-diversity, ecosystems, and environment?
Yes, there is a method already being adopted by many farmers worldwide, the only way to
reverse this negative impact on our biodiversity is the adoption of Permaculture and make our
farms friendlier for local insects, plants, mammalian, and avifauna populations.
For those who are unaware of what Permaculture is, it is an innovative framework for
land management and farming practices that teaches how to live with nature and imitate
nature in your farm, garden, backyard and in your lifestyle. Permaculture is using nature
for farming and not fighting against it.
Permaculture is permanent agriculture and unlike the traditional method of sowing and reaping
annual or season crops, Permaculture focuses on making farms a perennial source of food,
making them more sustainable and independent of human intervention as much as possible,
thereby reducing the efforts and cost of farming and since it follows natural ways of growing
food, the food grown in these farms are abundant, natural and 100% chemical-free. The concept of growing local food and consumption is known for thousands of years to early Indian scholars and saints. The use of food items for fighting diseases is not new to us.
Founded in 2014, The drawdown project estimates that the increase in regenerative agriculture
or Permaculture worldwide from the current 108 million acres to 1 billion acres by 2050 could
result in a total reduction of 23.2 Gigatons of carbon dioxide, from both sequestration and
reduced emissions. This is equivalent to 65 percent of the world’s carbon emissions in 2015.
Permaculture is not new to us at all, it is one of the oldest methods of farming and Mother
Nature has created examples of abundant forests which are rich in bio-diversity and each
individual organism has its role and importance in this fragile ecosystem, balance, be it top of
the food chain predators or the waste decomposers at the bottom layer of it. Nature has already proven the fact that Natural ways of growing food are the only way for reversing climate change and restoring the biodiversity and ecological balance of this planet.
Indian total farmland is close to 400 million acres, even if half of this is converted into
Permaculture farms, we can reduce close to 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent
to 16% of annual global carbon emission. And almost 2.5 times of India’s annual carbon
emission. Wonderful, isn’t it? We can be a negative carbon country in just 20 years.
Permaculture has another bright and very important effect that is reversing the habitat loss for
many lesser wild species especially birds and invertebrates. When speaking to a Malwa-based
farmer who has adopted Permaculture, a few years ago, had said he has documented more than 75 species of birds and several new insect species in just 3 years in his farm which were not present there earlier. Similar statistics tell us that across the world local biodiversity is thriving in those farms that have adopted natural farming methods.
We can solve major problems of today’s world by adopting Permaculture practices.
Food security by growing abundant and 100% chemical-free – naturally grown food for the population
Reducing farmers input cost by annual investments in tilling, sowing and chemical or organic manure cycles
Improved income for farmers and rural population, hence reducing migration from rural areas and reducing overburdened urban population
Keeping harmful pests and insects such as viruses locust and mosquitoes away by choosing local plants and trees and through intercropping of interdependent plants which will not only protect each other but also will help other plants around to grow better
Optimal utilization of natural resources such as sunlight, wind, and water by management of land and designed plantation
Improvement in microclimates and air quality of the neighbourhood
Reduce dependency and impact of seasons and natural calamities such as non-seasonal rains and variations in temperatures
Permaculture adoption can contribute to overall climate change reversal by reducing the carbon footprint and sequestration of carbon from the environment
Most importantly Permaculture adoption can create a healthy environment for local wildlife and biodiversity to flourish
Isn’t it amazing how a simple change in our agriculture practice can change the whole
ecosystem and create more biodiversity around us?
How you can contribute:
If you are a farmer, you can reach out to Permaculture communities and know more how you
can adopt Permaculture on your farm while not compromising on yield or income from your
farm and make your lifestyle more sustainable. If you are a consumer, you can start consuming
food from Permaculture gardens and make this farming method more sustainable and in return
eat local, healthy, and chemical-free food.
You can also plant a small Permaculture garden in your backyard or convert your ornamental
garden into a natural Permaculture garden by using mulch, planting local species of flora, and
keeping the soil covered. You can also restore the water table of your area with a suitable water harvesting method depending on your geography and locality.
The writer is a senior IT professional and is a Permaculture evangelist and practitioner,
based in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. Can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for more
information about permaculture and its positive effects on humans.