Back to nature for sustainable eco-friendly farming

India’s wealth of medicinal plant species are being used in traditional Indian health systems like Ayurveda, Sidhha, Unani and Sowarigpa for millennia. It is therefore imperative to recognize the economic importance of medicinal plants and commit to utilizing this resource wisely for a better future.

    The problem is that 70 % of plant collections involve destructive harvesting because roots, barks, stems and whole plants which are being used. To overcome the problems of overexploitation of natural resources and to meet the increasing demand of herbal products, the emphasis should be on encouraging commercial cultivation of the potential species.

    Besides, there is an acute need for training of youth and farmers to increase their interest in growing medicinal plants and herbs in an organic way and increase their usage in everyday living.

    To make best use of the potentials and to work on the problems, the Salesians of Don Bosco in Chennai and Bangalore have created an inclusive supra-regional programme. It aims to highlight the importance of conservation, propagation, cultivation, maintenance and sustainable commercial use of organic medicinal trees, especially Moringa and others and set it as a model for students and local communities to be replicated in their areas.

    A delegation from Austria

    A delegation from Upper Austria consisting of Her Excellency Mrs. Brigitte Oeppiner-Walchshofer, Ambassador of Austria for India and Nepal, Dr. Joseph Pühringer, former Major of Upper Austria, Mr. Johannes Nußbaumer, Secretary of the Major, Mr. Hubert Huber, Head of Developmental and Agriculture Department as well as Hildegard Pesendorfer, Jugend Eine Welt Delegate from Upper Austria and Hannah Siebertz, International Projects Asia, visited several projects in Delhi, Hyderabad, Vizag and Chennai.

    One such project was the Agricultural Project in Sagayathottam, which is a joint programme to be implemented in two locations: Sagayathottam (Chennai Province) & Hassan (Bangalore Province). The two development offices SURABI & BREADS will be engaged in monitoring, reporting and evaluating the programme and it will be funded by Jugend Eine Welt, Austria. Both Provinces will take the lead to ‘export’ the idea to other locations and later, to other countries.

    The two major activities

    To create an inclusive and accessible herbal farm: The farm will be organically developed. Drip Irrigation will be introduced in growing these herbal trees as part of water conservation.  The institution will develop access and linkage to market these organic products with the private sectors and other institutions in Chennai. To set up seed banks to offer a better way of storing the genetic diversity of many medicinal plants.

    To provide Training on Conservation, Propagation, Cultivation, Maintenance and Sustainable commercial use of Medicinal trees: A training hall would be constructed with state-of-the-art facility to enable the Don Bosco Agricultural College to expand and reach out to other farmers, youth and women in the nearby villages. Training to students, farmers, youth and women would be given on herbal farming, organic farming, water management and climate change. There will be exposure visits by Don Bosco Communities, farmers clubs, youth centers, private NGO’s and Self Help Groups. There will be knowledge sharing between Sagayathottam and Hassan on methods of farming and expertise assistance will also be shared.  

    During the tour through the land of Sagayathottam the delegation learned a lot about different crops and the potentials and challenges which this project face. The ambassador of Austria for India and Nepal highlighted the importance of the agriculture not only in India but in the whole world. “Without farmers there is no nutrition and they are the backbone of our society,” he noted.

    The former Major of Upper Austria, Dr. Josef Puehringer appreciated the work of the Salesians Don Bosco and Jugend Eine Welt and promised to support projects in India. He was very impressed by the great work of Don Bosco in India for more than 1 Million children. “This is a gift of god,” he exclaimed.


     The Back to Nature programme being implemented at Sagayathottam will directly benefit  1100 school students, 50 semi orphan boys, 450 youth from the college ( about 40% are young women), 25 staff members, 300 farmers from nearby communities and 2000 students / SHG members / youth.

    Further, it would indirectly benefit the people who consume the products. This Programme would also combat the impact of climate change which in fact has a greater impact on the entire society.