Soil and water conservation
The Nagarkoodal Watershed region is hilly with slopes of around 12 -30 degree gradients. The soils are very poor and there is hardly any organic matter. Moreover the rains come in sudden flashes and tend to wash away the top soil at an alarming rate. On our land of 12 acres, in many regions there is no soil depth to dig trenches and make bunds as is the normal practice for soil and water conservation. So we used the stones lying on the surface to make crescent bunds and stone soil retention bunds.
Eco Restoration and Afforestation
After around an year of the soil conservation work , around 6inches of soil had collected in the deepest part of the crescent and we planted trees like hardwickia binate, rosewood, teak, red sanders, pogamia, tamrind, vilvam, wood apple, indian cork tree, arjunaterminalia, kaduka, terminaliachebula, terminaliabelerica, etc and a lot of the local species like neem, albeziaamara, albezialebbek, yedathatri and many others came on their own to populate the recovering slope.
Organic Farming of millets and vegetables on mulch beds
Millets like foxtail millet, finger millet, little millet, sorghum, pearl millet and pulses like horse gram, pigeon pea, green gram, black gram are the traditional rain fed crops of this region. We also grow vegetables on mulch beds.
In dry region, water is even more precious and efforts have to be made for optimum utilization. We have drip irrigation for the orchard and coconut trees in our farm areas.
The dung from the animals is fed to the earth worms in a tank and converted to high quality vermi-compost for the vegetable plot as bio-fertilizer.
We try to decrease the dependency on centralized electricity. We use harness solar energy. It is used for computers and motors for pumping water. We also have solar water heater.
Smokeless cooking stoves and hot water boilers
For our students, we cook food using smokeless cooking stoves. It has various advantages like precooking, very little time to cook, saves lot of fuel and health of women is not affected by smoke. We have solar water heater for just 100 liters and it is not sufficient for hostel students. So we built up a smokeless hot water boiler.
Bio Gas plant
The dung from the cattle is mixed with water and fed into the two meter cube plant. It provides gas to the house of Meenakshi and Umesh, who live with their three children Kaya, mahua and arjuna on the same campus as the school.
Earth construction with Laurie baker’s Technologies
All the buildings constructed on the campus are made with mud mortar using stones or bricks.
There is a brick and mud dome, some thatch roofs and some recycled tetra pack roofing material called tuff roof.
The roofs are of filler slab and some walls are constructed using rat trap bond
Rain water harvesting in all buildings
Most of the water that falls on the land is harvested into percolation tanks that help recharge the wells. All the buildings have an arrangement to collect the rainwater into pits. One huge pit that collects the roof water of the dome and the LKG UKG building is yet to be lined due to lack of funds for the same but the water is collected and percolates into the land.
Water is a major problem in this region. This being the case, wasting water to flush toilets is a crime. This being the line of thought we decided to build composting toilets where the night soil is covered with soil or with coconut husk till the pit is filled. Then the pit is covered and left to decompose for a period of six months. In the meantime the adjacent pit is used. After 6 months, we remove the wonderful compost and apply it on our fields. It improves yields and provides a completely non polluting sustainable solution to the problem of sanitation in this region. Some of the village people, who work with us are now convinced and would like to have a similar set up next to their house. We plan to put up composting toilets on a demonstration basis in two villages this year.
Wild boar proof fencing
Wild boar is a threat to farming in this region. Every now and then, it damages the crops. So to protect the crops without causing much harm to wild boar, solar fencing is laid around the cropped lands.