Imagine transforming barren and empty landscapes into abundant food forests, layered with mangoes, legumes, garlic, herbs and corn.
SwaYYam in South India is doing just this by using agroforestry and alley cropping to revitalise soils, produce an abundance of crops and educate local farmers.
Agroforestry and alley cropping allow multiple crops to be stacked in one space, with tree crops providing shelter for low-lying plants and holding water in the soil with their roots.
Fast growing biomass plants are used as groundcover and then as a mulch to feed the soil. Nitrogen-fixers make nitrogen available in the soil for other plants and a range of crops are grown for year-round food.
Swales and ploughing on the contour work with the land's orientation to maximise water capture.
Deep irrigation and pitcher irrigation take water deep to the roots of trees, especially young sapling plantings.
SwaYYAm and their educational centre, Open Shell Farm, enables local farmers to learn regenerative farming methods, helping them create their own sustainable incomes through healthy soils and bountiful harvests.
SwaYYAm is a recipient of the Permaculture Magazine Prize: https://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/2020-permaculture-magazine-prize
Malvikaa from SwaYYam shares the story of the project and some of their techniques in PM108: https://www.permaculture.co.uk/issue/summer-2021
For more on SwaYYam visit: https://swayyam.org