Mar 21

Staple Crops and Climate

One of the interesting things I noted on our recent trip to India was the change in staple crops as we travelled from the tropical South to the arid North West

In the South, there were seemingly endless field fields of rice, sweetcorn, banana and coconut.

lunch-at-the-beach-loresRicefield through a dirty window

As we moved Northward into drier territory the rice gradually gave way to wheat crops and the banana and sweetcorn gave way to patches of beans and lentils.

Eventually the the fields became predominately wheat and mustard until finally, as we entered the deserts, even the wheat disappeared (unless there was irrigation) and mustard became almost the sole crop. Where the weather was mild in the Northwest the major crop was potatoes and we saw hundreds of large trucks, camel and ox carts and all manner of vehicles transporting thousands of bags of potatoes to the many warehouses for distribution.

With modern transport, much of this produce can be sent around the country and indeed, around the world, and the diets throughout the country have merged substantially although there are still significant regional differences in cuisine.

With irrigation the ability to grow other staple crops such as rice in a wheat growing area or wheat where only mustard will grow normally makes a huge difference to the range and quantity of food available to the community.

The difference in food production with the availability of water was bought into sharp focus in Rajasthan where deserts are turned into fields of vivid green wheat, as this picture shows.

water changes everything
What happens though if the irrigation fails or the climate changes or the transport infrastructure fails.? What happens to those large swathes of crops and the communities that depend on them?


This is real concern to many communities around the world as we lose our regional ability to feed ourselves and increasingly rely on external factors such as effective and cheap transport, access to clean water for irrigation and dependence on a stable climate.

Many groups around the world are tackling these issues in a number of ways and there are many solutions being investigated and trialled and developed. Much of the more interesting and seemingly credible ideas center around local resilience through the use of permaculture and organic growing principles. These include

  • careful local resource management such local water catchment, storage and use
  • getting the most from each resource, the classic permaculture idea of multiple uses (eg chickens that supply meat and eggs and also manure, devour harmful insects and dig and condition the soil for vegetable growing)
  • increasing biodiversity and hence resilience to change, particularly sudden and dramatic changes
  • selecting crops, plant and animals most suited to local conditions
  • Constantly evaluating the effectiveness of the planned environment and making changes accordingly

Hopefully, as more and more communities become aware of the risks involved in outsourcing their core needs such as food and water, local resilience in resources will become more widespread.

We can all increase our local resilience and reliance on external inputs. How resilient are you?



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Mar 08

More of the Good Earth in India

In the second interview from Darjeeling, I talk with the host of a home-stay about his experiences with the the program on a tea plantation that has embraced permaculture principles and biodynamic techniques as part of their push to improve the conditions in the local community.

The March 2015 edition of The Good Earth podcast is available on the website


Click on the link and turn up the sound for a taste of Darjeeling

Remember you can find all the previous podcasts at


For more information on the tea plantation, visit


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Feb 18

The Good Earth in India

I was lucky enough to record a few interviews while in Darjeeling with some local people on a tea plantation that has embraced permaculture principles and biodynamic techniques as part of their push to improve the conditions in the local community.

The February 2015 edition of The Good Earth podcast is available on the website


Click on the link, turn up the sound for a taste of Darjeeling

Remember you can find all the previous podcasts at


For more information on the tea plantation, visit


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Feb 07

The First Few Days in India

It has been a bit of a whirlwind trip so far but we are settling down a bit now. I have been keeping a bit of a diary via FB and have not had a chance to sit down and update the blog. So here is the next in the series  about the the travels in India.

We arrived in Chennai and met our driver for the the first section of the tour through Tamil Nadu along the south coast. This part of India is tropical and very different for the North of the country. It is very tropical and the culture and language are different. There are a number of very famous temples and holy icons in this region along with some of the largest wind-farms in the world.

Unfortunately we (the driver) got lost and it took three hours to find our hotel! This meant that we only had a chance to see the snake park. Still it was quite interesting.

ChennaiWe passed this scene several times in our attempts to locate the hotel. Finally the driver fired up the GPS on his smart phone and we were there in 15 minutes.

Alligators snake-park


Yes, those Alligators above are real.



Fortunately, the Cobra on the left is not.



The next day we were on the road again to spend a day at Mahabalipuram, the site of several attractions including the Shore Temple one of the oldest temples in the area (partly destroyed by a Tsunami and no longer in use), the Vahara Caves and Arjuna’s penance.

leaving chennai

Leaving Chennai.

beach at shore temple 01There was also a popular beach near the Shore Temple.

beach at shore temple 02




Rows and Rows of trinket shops leading to the beach

human powered rides

All the rides are human powered either by just spinning by hand or using bicycle attachments.


krishna butterball

Krishna’s Butterball – apparently Krishna liked butterballs but spat this one out and, over the years, it turned to stone. It’s been balancing on the side of the hill ever since. It survived the attempts to move it and several natural disasters but it looks like it should just roll down and flatten everything in it’s path.


krishna mandapams

Arjuna’s Penance – a huge structure carved from a single rock.

shore temple 01 shore temple 02

Two pictures of the Shore Temple



Looking out from a Restaurant at Mahabalipuram near the beach.

While walking up the road back to our hotel we passed a young woman talking on the phone. As we passed her we heard her say, in a pronounced English accent, “There are SO many white people here”.

I’m sure the irony would be lost on her 🙂

The next day we visited Ekambareswarar_Temple located in Kanchipurammon our way to our next stopover at Pondicherry

mick-in-temple-lores-01 Terri in-Temple-lores-01

Next stop – Pondicherry




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Jan 17

A Frustrating Beginning

Well our first full day in India was an interesting if frustrating experience.

We had an amusing, if somewhat wearing slog, through the domestic check-in followed by a one and a half hour wait on the plane waiting to take-off in the fog. A common occurrence in Delhi this time of year.

It is fascinating watching and being part of the endless checking and double checking that seem to dominate every part of life here and the airport provided some wonderful examples.

Example 1. Security Screening

Security screening and the airport is pretty standard except that after you clear the automatic scanner there is a guard who then rescans you by hand with the wand and pats you down. It seems kind of pointless to have the automatic scanner there in the first place. They also issue you with a tag for you hand luggage signifying that it has gone through the x-ray scanner.

Example 2. Checking your ID/boarding pass

How many times do you think you can be checked for ID and/or boarding pass? Don’t answer.

  1. Guard checks ID and boarding pass at the entrance tot he terminal. This includes a form of photo ID
  2. Person at the baggage check-in queue checks the boarding pass
  3. Person at the desk check the boarding pass
  4. Guard at the entrance to the gate lounges check the pass
  5. Guard at the queue for security checks the boarding pass before directing you to the appropriate line
  6. Guard at the end of the queue checks again
  7. X-Ray operator checks to make sure you still have the pass
  8. guard who scans you (remember him ) checks and stamps the pass
  9. second guard then take the boarding pass and copies the information
  10. airline gate  staff check the boarding pass as you go through the gate
  11. security guard half way along the boarding ramp checks your pass and the tag on you hand luggage
  12. finally the cabin crew at the door to the plane check the pass and direct you to you seat.

Whew! what a journey!

The flight to Chennai itself was uneventful but the drive to the hotel was chaos as the driver got lost and we took over three hours to find the hotel. After numerous wrong directions from the tour company office and well meaning bystanders he finally did what he should have done at the start, and fired up the GPS on his phone, and we were there 15 minutes later! The only advantage was that we got a very extensive view of the city and surrounds although it did mean we missed out on many of the planned sightseeing stops.

The hotel is basic but clean and the staff are friendly. We had a very nice take away meal from one of the local restaurants and we are looking forward to tomorrow. 🙂


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