Design Intervention Through Permaculture and Social Change: Case Studies from Selected Indian Farming Sectors06/2020
More than 270,000 Indian cotton farmers have committed suicide since 1995, and India’s agricultural sector, which directly or indirectly employs more than 70 million Indians, faces severe crises in terms of air, water, and soil degradation, pervasive chemical-led farming, debts, and lack of a profitable and sustainable livelihood system. In addition, India is losing traditional knowledge of farming and other craftsmanship, which was more nature- and community-friendly. This has led to a loss of community identity, severe malnutrition, and loss of livelihood, leading to displacement of indigenous people. Despite governmental support, the situation has not changed significantly.
In this paper, we analyzed design and social interventions in the Indian farming sector via permaculture, which mimics relationships found in natural ecology. This design approach has a very successful history of solving the food crisis in different ecosystems across the world. Our study looks at Indian designers engaged in farming cotton and food crops in an attempt to contribute to design literature through the application of permaculture.
We measure successes in terms of three ethical parameters: care for the earth, care for the
people, and return of surplus to the ecosystem. Our observational variables are design and social interventions in three Odisha communities, through interviews with designers, experts, and farmers.
We applied conceptual and relational content analysis to understand commonalities among
the selected design processes and social interventions that led to better livelihoods and income for the farmers. The findings may help replicate, modify and build other thriving farming communities in India and other countries, and also invite further research in permaculture design to address social issues and influence design research and education.