The world today is faced with the pressing need to preserve the available natural resources and put in place a system for sustainable growth and development. Even as we tackle issues such as land degradation, loss of bio-diversity and erosion of natural resources, we run the risk of losing out on traditional methods of agriculture and farming, which have respect for nature at their core, as we race to adopt modern technology.
The Swami Dayananda Educational Trust has created in Manjakkudi a sustainable natural ecosystem wherein each element reinforces and supports the other. Through the Swami Dayananda Farms, we have helped revive traditional agricultural methods and given farmers a regular means of livelihood – added reason to carry on their traditional occupation.
By establishing the Swami Dayananda Goshala, we have helped create a platform for breeding of indigenous cows and the sustenance of a thriving dairy industry. Moreover, the crops on the farm are nourished by the products and by-products from the goshala – a far better alternative to chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Dayavanam and Herb Garden are pockets of greenery that help to reverse the effect of our carbon footprint. The Herb Garden, a half-acre space dedicated to rearing plants of medicinal value, is a space where we rear herbs used in home remedies and ayurvedic preparations – an active means of preserving precious knowledge for posterity.
Around 50 acres of land have been developed by SDET for the conservation and cultivation of heritage rice varieties and propagation of organic farming practices. Around seeds of 270 varieties of heritage rice from across 14 states in India, and from Bangladesh and Mynamar have been carefully sourced, conserved and grown in the Swami Dayananda Farms. These include Ajara Ghansal(Maharashtra), Gobinda Bhog (West Bengal), Karuppu Kavuni (Tamil Nadu), Kon Joha (Assam), Mansur (Bihar), Sukhadas (Uttar Pradesh), Laicha (Madhya Pradesh) Samunchini (Chhatisgarh)and Bakul Phool (Orissa).
The seeds are grown through line farming or growbags, and around 10 acres of land has been earmarked exclusively for seed conservation efforts. The entire process – sowing, harvesting, threshing and removal or husk – is done by hand to ensure that the seeds are protected and importantly, don’t get mixed up. A portion of these seeds are shared with farmers, so that they can create an ongoing cycle of sowing and harvesting. This will help keep up the cycle of seed conservation andcontinued propagation of these heritage varieties. The remaining land is used to grow organic rice varieties for retail at our immersion centre in Chennai called Spirit of the Earth. Given that local farmers are growing heritage rice varieties from Tamil Nadu, Swami Dayananda Farms concentrates more on cultivating heritage rice varieties from other states of India.
Located in the village Manjakkudi in Tamil Nadu, Dayavanam is a forest garden created by Swami Dayananda Educational Trust. Spread over five acres, it consists of 23 varieties of fruit and nut trees, an array of flowering plants, shrubs, herbs, vines and perennial vegetables. Over 80% of the plants in this forest garden are edible, or useful in many other ways.
Carefully designed, the trees are planted in such a way that the plants benefit each other as they would in a natural woodland. The canopy layer of trees protect shade loving plants, and lower growing plants and nitrogen fixing plants also find a place at Dayavanam. The forest atmosphere attracts, birds, insects and microorganisms which thrive in this garden. Cared for by the garden team of the Trust, Dayavanam is a soulful three dimensional forest garden, where one learns the importance of sustainability and discovers a rich oasis of bio diversity.
The Herb Garden, a half-acre space dedicated to rearing plants of medicinal value, is located next to the Dayavanam. There are currently 1030 herbal plants grown here from 39 varieties of medicinal plants, and they are typically used for home remedies and ayurvedic medicines. It is imperative that we preserve this knowledge for posterity. The local community continues to buy the herbs to treat common ailments such as cold and fever. The varieties of herbs grown here include Brahmi, Semparathi, Notchi, Amman Pacharisi, Vellai Karisalankanni, Kuppaimeni, Vellarukku, Naaiveli, Omavalli, Thulasi and Vembu among others.