New Indian ‘eco’ college will challenge the wealthy North’s profit ideal, and offer the Southern view of development and living
A new international college based in the foothills of the Himalayas will teach students from around the world the principles of sustainable living as opposed to globalisation’s monoculture mindset, it says.
The Bija Vidyapeeth, located on a farm in the newly formed Himalayan state of Uttaranchal, “brings alive the diversity of plant life essential to survival in the region”, says Maya Jani, Director of the college, and has conserved over 300 varieties of rice, as well as diverse varieties of pulses, millet, amaranth – a food plant with a wide variety of uses, including medicinal – and vegetables. The courses include travel around the country, and meetings with a variety of experts in sustainable living.
The courses are 21 days long, and are:
There will also be two five-day courses per year on sustainable food systems. Students will study low external input, low-cost, high output and high income agriculture, as well as organic farming, seed conservation and alternative models of direct producer-consumer linkages which enable producers to get a fair price for their products whilst at the same time assure consumers safe food at reasonable prices.
“India is today the only Third World country that is ‘highly developed’ in the Western sense in terms of science and technology, while at the same time, for the majority of the people, local biodiversity and indigenous knowledge form the basis of survival,” Maya Jani, Director of the college, told edie. However, says Jani, “the immense biodiversity and the deep indigenous wisdom of the people is today facing numerous threats”. These threats include the western notion on intellectual property rights, where large companies attempt to patent plant species, such as the case of the US company RiceTec which wishes to patent a variety of Basmati rise, what Jani describes as biopiracy. There are also threats to knowledge and biodiversity from untested technologies such as genetic engineering, and from the monoculture mindset.
Interest has already been shown in the courses on offer, from prospective students around the world, in Asia, Europe, North and South America, and Australia, with occupations ranging from judges to farmers to students, architects and scientists. Courses cost US$1000 (£750) for the 21 day programmes, which includes accommodation, tuition, course material, and field trips. Registration and advance deposits need to be made at least six weeks prior to the start of the course. However, there are a limited number of bursaries and scholarships available for all courses.
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