C-SOF, A New Get-Away cum learning centre amidst the Greeneries

For farmers in India and across the world, agriculture must provide livelihood security and income generation. Since 65% of India’s population live in villages, the same agriculture must also contribute towards the development of rural community.

Hence, agriculture must be sustainable, add skills to the farmers, improve their livelihoods; and contribute substantially to the overall development of rural communities, villages and thereby the entire country. Moreover, in India, nearly 53% of the population is dependent on agricultureand contribute only 13.7% to the country’s GDP (contrast that with USA, where only 2% of population depends on agriculture but contributes 1.2% of the GDP), we need to find ways and means to add value to the agri-based activities, and make them economically viable and rewarding.

Based on these thoughts and drawing from its decade-long experience in rural projects across India, International Competence Centre for Organic Agriculture (ICCOA) developed a concept and termed it as 'Sustainable Bio-villages'.

Sustainable Bio-village adopts organic farming and then integrates various farming systems, rural livelihood options, and innovations.

ICCOA initiated the pilot projects in three different regions viz;

a. North east region: Nagaland state (village Molvom, Dimapur district)
b. Kerala (Panathady village, Kasargode district).
c. Tamil nadu (village Kolatti, Krishnagiri district)

On the lines of Biovillage concept, ICCOA is developing a farm-centre. We refer to it as theCentre for Sustainable and Organic Farming (C-SOF) or ‘Jaivik Vigyan Kendra (JVK)’. The aim is to create a farm for providing hands-on training to farmers, demonstration and exposure visit for officials and entrepreneurs on sustainable and organic farming.

In the last five years, the farm-center is slowly becoming a bustling place where one can see crops such as tomato, cabbage, bittergourd, okra, and coriander; papaya, mango, guava, custard apple, jackfruit, Imli/tamarind; and also paddy, millets and fodder. It is a model for organic cultivation with multiple farming systems, agro forestry, dairy, poultry, composting, farm inputs, bio-fertilisers, recycling waste and water and soil conservation measures.

The land was taken in 2015 atDenkanikottai in Tamil Nadu, and the infrastructure for training centre and accommodations are being developed since 2019. By 2021, according to Mr. Manoj Kumar Menon, the Executive Director of ICCOA, JVK will become functional and can impart training and courses on sustainable and organic farming.

The farm buildings construction are done using eco-friendlymaterials, e.g. all bricks are made on-site using soil from the farm itself. These are Soil Compressed Block that’s uses only a small fraction of cement as a binding matter.

Meanwhile, the Centre recently opened its doors for visitors who want to see, learn and practice organic farming.

Poultry Farming with a Difference

Animal husbandry is an integral part of Organic Farming, for reasons, such as economics as well as for maintaining soil fertility.

Rearing of animals including cattle, sheep/goat, and poultry birds make for ‘mixed farming’, which is specially recommended for Organic Farming system.

In 2020. ICCOA launched its own organic certifiedeggs from its farm. We started with two sheds housing 2000 poultry birds, of two varieties, namely—Gramapriya and IndBro. Internationally accepted organic standards of poultry production is maintained, including organic feed, free ranging, layer space per bird, healthcare and nutrition, safety, etc.

The birds wastes and litter bed of coir pith become compost manure and is used for enhancing soil fertility in the farm.

Come to this get-away cum learning Biovillage centre:

Its not just this 10.50 acres of ICCOA farm. ICCOA has also developed a farmers group, starting with 50 farmers around nearby villages, to train and develop an organic conversion and certification program. Its free for the farmers and they are now certified organic as the program started in 2015 and completed four years in 2019.

We are developing markets for these farmers produces and wish to make the entire village cluster fully organic and thus a biovillage. We need more support from govt and others to expand these programs.

ICCOA has also plans for farm-visitors who wish to take up organic farming as a hobby or as a practise. Visitors can adopt a plot of land for growing crops or can lease a land for organic cultivation and support a farmer and his/her family.

And, if a company wishes to contribute towards the development of the village/society, as a part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) mandate, then C-SOF provides an array of opportunities to fulfil your social responsibilities. For example, sponsor a farmers’ training programme or provide a space for farmer markets, or contribute towards the development of the farmers hostel and training centre.

Thus, for all those who are interested in embarking on an organic journey, then C-SOF/JVK is the right place to be in.