BIJA VIDYAPEETH (SCHOOL OF THE SEED) INDIA
Bija Vidyapeeth is Dr Vandana Shiva’s Earth University in the Himalayan foothills. Dr Shiva is an eco-feminist, physicist, activist for the rights of the earth and farmers in India, and permaculture supporter.
People go to Bija Vidyapeeth to learn from nature, from organic farmers and from visionary thinkers like Dr Shiva and Satish Kumar, about how to become farmers of the future, activists for the planet and savers of seed.
The centre is located on the Navdanya Biodiversity Conservation Farm, a sanctuary for birds, insects and soil microorganisms – which has saved more than 1500 varieties of seeds and trees. The farm has created an environment where students are able to: explore deeply the key issues around organic farming, food sovereignty and seed sovereignty; and gain practical skills to support changing practices in how we interact with seed, soil and society.
Bija Vidyapeeth’s website states that the learning centre: ‘draws inspiration from Rabindranath Tagore, who created Shanti Niketan, a university based on living in and learning from nature’, and is associated with Schumacher College in England. It is part of a growing network of independent centres for positive change. Bija Vidyapeeth runs a series of programs, internships, courses, festivals and events throughout the year. It is also possible to visit as a volunteer.
Vandana Shiva. (photo by Morag Gamble)
GREEN SCHOOL VILLAGE, BULGARIA
Green School Village offers programs in permaculture, sustainable community, natural building and personal development. It provides the opportunity for young people from around Europe to get involved in exchange programs, informal education and research projects with a focus on creating positive, alternative models for the future.
The Green School Village project has restored a traditional 19th century house, and opened it as an education centre in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains, near Bulgaria’s boundaries with Greece and Turkey. The centre provides opportunities for learning in a natural environment, and learning how to live sustainably. It is also: developing an investment project for the reconstruction of the former school in the local village; and working on the development of integrated ecocentres and demonstration sites in Bulgaria, to promote alternative models of sustainable development as a solution to the ecological and financial crisis.
Green School Village is a non-profit organisation, established for public benefit, and driven by an interdisciplinary team with varied educational and professional backgrounds – including architects, urbanists, lawyers, marketing and cultural studies experts. It welcomes people to get involved.
PROJECT BONA FIDE OMETEPE ISLAND, NICARAGUA
Project Bona Fide is an internationally recognised ten and a half hectare permaculture demonstration and education farm situated on the stunning volcanic Ometepe Island on Lake Nicaragua. Its focus is support for community selfreliance and regenerative living.
The project researches and develops agro-ecological systems, and cultivates a diversity of resilient food plants to support greater food security in Nicaragua. It demonstrates permaculture strategies, off-grid living, natural building, and the use of biochar and appropriate technology. It includes a seedbank, extensive nursery, bamboo plantings, forestry plot, diverse orchard, medicinal gardens, terraced vegetable gardens, composting toilets, buildings using local materials, renewable energy systems and water harvesting.
Beyond the farm, Project Bona Fide supports a community seed exchange program, reforestation projects and a children’s nutritional kitchen. It is about to launch an initiative to grow and produce natural medicines for the island’s free integrative health clinic. The farm offers educational programs and accepts volunteers.
SOLITUDE FARM, INDIA
Solitude Farm is the centre for permaculture and natural farming at Auroville – an emerging international township of 2400 people in southern India, near Puducherry. Auroville has been researching sustainable living and the future cultural, environmental, social and spiritual needs of humankind since 1968.
The two and a half hectare farm was started in 1996 by a group of young Aurovillians who had the vision of creating a self-sustainable farming community. They were inspired by permaculture and the ideas of Masanobu Fukuoka. The farm grows indigenous millets and rice, oilseeds, grams and pulses, and a diversity of vegetables and fruit.
This community, with sustainable farming at its core, embraces music and the arts and runs an organic restaurant: up to ninety per cent of the food served is produced on the farm, and harvested daily. The restaurant also serves food from other Auroavillian farms; surplus produce goes to Auroville shops and the central solar kitchen – the community dining hall which serves 1000 meals each lunchtime.
Solitude Farm is home to six permanent residents and a healthy population of volunteers who are welcomed to experience life in the community. It also offers internships and workshops.