Within the context of producing food for the
experimental, international township of Auroville,
the stewards of Annapurna aim to discover, develop,
demonstrate and document methods of food production
that are organic, regenerative, healthy and
humane. We emphasize the utilization of traditional
techniques and the conservation of indigenous
Annapurna Farm; a Brief History
Pond Capacity Doubles
Student Guest House
Rice Acreage Increases
Bharat Nivas P.O.
Tamil Nadu 605 101
Annapurna Farm; a Brief History
Annapurna was purchased for Auroville
in the mid-1960s. The land was farmed conventionally until
the mid-1970s, at which point it was abandoned. In 1986 it
was resettled by Aurovilian Geert Tomassen (Tomas) from Holland.
With support from well-wishers, he has spent the last 15 years
gradually reclaiming the farm's 135 degraded acres; planting
thorn fencing, bunding the fields, establishing infrastructure,
and experimenting with different crops.
Today, approximately 25 acres are under crop/green manure
rotation, 20 acres are under
mixed forest, 25 are under plantation forest, and 12 acres
remain unreclaimed. The remaining land produces fodder, is
grazed, or is under infrastructure. In 1989, Tomas was joined
by Andre Mom. In 1995, Tomas and Andre were joined by Brooks
Anderson who had been assigned to serve in Auroville as an
agricultural mission volunteer by the Presbyterian Church
(USA). These three Aurovilians presently co-manage the farm
with the help of 19 employees from neighboring villages.
Pond Capacity Doubles
In the summer of 1999, Annapurna's
largest rainwater catchment pond was enlarged from 4,000 cubic
metres to 7,800 m3. The work was done by Auroville's Water
Harvest, a service that repairs and upgrades hydrological
infrastructure in the surrounding bioregion.
The existing pond had been excavated by hand, a process that
progressed gradually over the previous 10 years. In less than
5 days, the Water Harvest crew nearly doubled the capacity
of the pond with one of the two new earth excavators which
were recently donated to Water Harvest by the TATA corporation.
Soil from the pond was used to create
a road around the farm's perimeter. This road serves as a
bund which directs runoff toward catchments.
The work was completed at a cost of $3,300 (US), and was made
possible by the support that Annapurna receives from the Aurovilian
The pond's greater capacity enabled us to grow more crops
in the post monsoon season, and raise fish for the first time
this year. We are presently seeking funds to enlarge the pond
again in the summer of 2001.
Student Guest House Nears Completion
We have nearly completed the construction
of a two room guest house for students who want to study or
participate in the work at Annapurna. This project is made
possible by a $3,300 grant from the Foundation for World Education.
Over the years, many students have
come to Annapurna, but they never were given proper accommodation.
The new guest house has a single room and a double room. It
is electrified by solar power, and
there is an attached toilet.
The building has been designed to provide students with a
degree of comfort and facilities that enable them to make
the most of their time at the farm.
Students who are seriously interested
in the work at Annapurna are welcome, but because the farm's
finances are limited, students should find sponsorship for
Students who are interested in visiting the farm are invited
to write to us.
On-farm Ecological Accounting Research
Practically every marketed activity or product that
uses environmental resources is underpriced.
In the summer of 1999, Brooks started
an on-farm ecological accounting research project to monitor
and analyze biological, chemical, financial, energetic and
physical relationships, storages and flows on the farm.
Brooks started the study with a literature review. He received
help collecting materials from many people, notably David
Pimentel at Cornell University, Marty Bender at the Land Institute,
Colin Laird at Healthy Mountain Communities, Susan Subak at
the NRDC, and Norman Myers at Oxford University. The first
two years of the study are funded by the
Foundation for World Education.
The literature review was developed
into a paper discussing various approaches to agricultural
ecological accounting. Brooks presented this paper at the
first meeting of the Indian Society for Ecological Economics
in Bangalore, in December, and at the International Crops
Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in
Hyderabad, in February.
Next steps in the project include recording data, creating
an ecological accounting reference guide, and building a computer
database to store and monitor ecological data.
Rice Acreage Increases
Much of Annapurna's land is underutilized
because we lack the funds needed to create infrastructure
to irrigate such land, and to store the crops. In 1998, Paul
and Laura, the executives of Maroma, a company in Auroville,
recognized that Annapurna had great potential to satisfy Auroville's
demand for organically-grown food. They offered to sponsor
development that would increase food production at Annapurna.
In 1999, thanks to Maroma's annual contributions of $7,500,
Annapurna doubled its area under rice to 5 acres. To maintain
the fertility of the land, we are preparing a large area
for an experimental green-manure/rice
Annapurna's deep black vertisol is
ideal for rice cultivation. However, rice production at Annapurna
is limited by the decreasing availability of groundwater.
As in much of India, groundwater in our area is overextracted
by farmers who are given free electricity by the state. Ironically,
many farmers pump precious groundwater with this free electricity
to produce non-nutritive or non-edible cash crops, such as
sugar cane and firewood. Consequently, we rely primarily upon
the captured rainwater in our pond to irrigate our rice crop.
Godown Undergoing Major Expansion
With the help of a grant of $11,000
from Gateway Trust and our ongoing support from the Maroma
company, Annapurna's multipurpose godown is finally undergoing
a long awaited major expansion. The godown was started in
1992 after the farm received a substantial gift from a friend
in California. In 1998, the structure was slightly enlarged
to create an office and additional grain storage space.
The present expansion will create
secure storage space for material, vehicles, implements,
equipment, supplies, seeds,
grains and cowfood, processing area, a workshop, and rooms
for the employees to bathe and change their clothes. The threshing
floor has also been enlarged.
This development brings the farm's
infrastructure into greater balance with its landbase. Once
construction is finished, the greatest constraint to putting
more of Annapurna's land under production will be the availability
of irrigation water.
Annapurna Employees Enrolled in Pension Fund
This fall, thanks to support received
from the congregation of the First Presbyterian Church of
New Haven, USA, the Jadetree Two foundation, and Daniel Kanter,
a Unitarian minister in Boston, USA, we were able to enroll
most of Annapurna's employees in a pension fund.
The fund will provide employees with
a modest income after they retire, at a time when many of
them will have no other source of financial security.
The farm employs more women than men.
Several of these women are single mothers and are of the untouchable
caste category. This makes them the poorest and most vulnerable
of the poor. For such people particularly, the pension fund
will make life after retirement a bit less difficult.
We are all very grateful to the donors
who have made this possible.
The year 2000 started sadly with the
death of Eleanor, a devoted supporter since 1992. Eleanor
organized the first harvest celebration at the farm in 1988,
and she visited each year to see changes.
Our other primary individual funder,
Luciano, is retiring this year from his job at the Venice
airport. Although he will continue to spend 4 months working
with us each year, as he has since 1995, he will no longer
be able to fund us as substantially as he has for the past
The remarkable generosity of these
two individuals sponsored much of the farm's development
as well as its recurring expenses
for several years.
At present, much of our work is made
possible by grants from the Maroma company, Gateway Trust,
and the Foundation for World Education, and donations from
a few individuals. However, the farm badly needs sponsors
who can help to meet our considerable recurring expenses,
particularly the employees wages, and road and fence maintenance.
Please contact us if you would like more information about
ways that you can support the work at Annapurna. All contributions
are deeply appreciated.
Kitchen Expansion Completed
In the summer of 1999 the mud walled
community kitchen was demolished to make room for a larger,
more permanent structure. The original kitchen, which was
constructed in 1991 with a grant from the Threshold foundation,
could no longer accommodate the farm's growing community and
was in need of major repairs.
Construction of the new building
has taken 16 months. The new kitchen provides us with a decent
facility for receiving visitors, and it allows the farm's
residential community to grow.
The kitchen plays a vital function in our collective economy
at the farm, providing
shared space for common
meals, reading, relaxing, meetings
Like the old kitchen, cooking in the
new building is fueled primarily by methane from our biomass
digester, and the electricity is from solar power. The grains
and milk that we consume are produced on the farm.
The kitchen and the guest house make
it much easier for Annapurna to accommodate visitors who would
like to work on the farm for a while. The farm needs more
residents. If you are considering staying at Annapurna, please
let us know so that we can send you more information.