by Marcellina Dwi Kencana Putri – Mantasa, 8 September 2015

Getting lost in small street in Mussoorrie.The first week of Agroecology and Organic Farming course in Bija Vidyapeeth has come to an end, since tomorrow we will having excursion and visit Masoouri and today we will finish the series of Agroecology class with different lectures and activities.

We were surprised to have fruit on our plate for today’s breakfast. One of our local favorites, jackfruit, served with apple, banana, and we also had this cereal made from millets mix with almond and milk. Farmer’s Breakfast was a good kick start for today’s activities.

Our morning ritual opened by a quote from “The Little Prince” book, my all time favorite book, followed by a song and dance moves from Lea who she adopted from Permaculture Course by Robyn Francis in Melbourne.

We divided into three groups to do morning work and each group work in three different fields. Kitchen, A-Z Garden and Rice Field. I did Kitchen on my first day and it reminds me of Piket, Class Clean Up when we still in elementary school, and surprisingly, those tradition was Gandhi teaching in India. While yesterday, I did weeding in rice field and although I had so much fun, I found out the cut from rice grass later on all over my hand. So I felt grateful to work in the A-Z Garden today, digging some garden bed, piled up some stone and collected leaves for making compost. This reminded me of Garden Day at IDEP, where we open our garden for public who wants to learn about Permaculture and do hands on practice gardening. Usually, children from school, families, or our regular Garden Day visitor will help us do seed saving, making garden bed, move seedling to garden bed, or harvesting veggies or fruit from the garden.

Importance of Pollinators bookThe Agroecology class was given by Dr. Vir Singh, whose a Professor in one of the first University in India who promote Green Revolution. In spite of all the pressured, he continue teaching about this ecological approach in Agriculture. He shared about “Thoughts on Agroecology and Philosophy of Food” which mostly based on philosophy of turning energy in the universe, into a form of food. Through the process of Light (Sun) in creating living organism (plants) through natural process (photosynthesis) and become the source of energy (food) for human being.

He also explained everything we need to know about Agroecology, from Function, Structure, and Principles. The terms of Agroecology is new for me and for some other participants. Agroecology can be define as a food production system using ecological approach, while the implementation using agro ecosystem that involving cultivated and uncultivated (forest, grassland) land by keeping the biodiversity, cycle of nutrients and treat soil as a living system rather than a substance. Through this approach, we seek for better food system which doesn’t damage and put pressure on the environment.

He linked the creation of living thing through LETH (Light Evolution Time Human) formula and emphasized the scientific reason behind this creation of human, animal and plant and interaction between each other.

We took a break and had a lunch full of nutritious veggies from Bija Vidyapeeth’s garden. Since we had different diet back in Indonesia, most of us had this belly issue and we felt gas inside and it makes us want to fart quite often! After making small research and questioned about this to other participants, it actually happened to our India friend as well, so all we need to do is just embrace it :p

My favorite part of our lunch meal is the dessert, after asking Kartikey, we found out that the dessert made from milk fat, butter, cinnamon and millets, which make it so tasty is actually the 50% fat in that dishes. What a guilty pleasure!

Class started again at 3 and we had a class on “Pollinators”, very important component when you talking about ecology based agriculture because pollinators do all your work to spreading new seeds, reproduction, etc. Most pollinators are insects, but there are also birds, bat, and other animal that help the pollination process. One thing we should know that one pollinators doesn’t do all the crops. Pollinators only pollinate for certain factors, such as color, scent, nectar & pollen, etc.

When we talk about pollinator, bees will become the most popular pollinators, not only because they produce honey that people see as an added value, but also because bees can be a very good example on how real pollinators work. Bees is the best navigator, and they also had this hair all over their abdomen and leg to help the polen (male) stick to it’s body, so when the bees fly and stop at certain flower, the polen will successfully landing on the female part of other plants.

Other fact that make bee become more popular is because they get threatened by the using of chemical pesticides, mobile tower radiation and other natural degradation which make number of bee is keep decreasing even until today. This could make a situation called “Cascading Effect”. It happen when certain plant vanish and this pollinators who only pollinate this plant will losing their source of food, and it’s continue until the top of food pyramids and lead into extinction.

Apart from that, we can help preserve this pollinators by grow native plants to keep the biodiversity of pollinators, hang hummingbird feeder or make a butterfly garden. It is also important to grow pollinator’s food in your garden so they won’t attack your cultivated crops while they still helping you to do the natural reproduction work. Preeti, one of the volunteer who taught about bees as a pollinator, also take us to the garden and showed us how the millets flower reproduce by open their petals and let the wind or natural pollinators took of the polen.

Chai tea is being made!

The class finished early and we got Chai Tea with some condiment to filled our tummy before the dinner. We had this jam session by Robi and Shanni, Dr. Av Singh’s daughter, who sing beautifully with her mandolin.

The Indonesian member also had a meeting and discussion about the last two days activities and how they felt about our farmer’s challenge and how to come up with solution for them. We hope that after finish this course and got back home, we can start to do some ‘grass roots’ and small scale solutions for each farmer all over Indonesia.