Subhash Palekar, natural farming proponent, claimed that natural farming is a panacea to the ills plaguing farmers. Participating in an interaction programme here, Mr. Palekar emphasised the need for popularising "Jeevamrutha," a mixture of cow dung, cow urine, jaggery, flour, soil and water, prepared without any expenditure.
He said chemical farming, which involves spraying of pesticides and use of fertilizers, is not only financially burdening the farmers, but also wreaking havoc on the soil, ruining the health of the people and wasting water.
Natural farming, which envisages zero-budget agriculture practices, is a better option than even organic farming, he said.
Several farmers, who have taken up natural farming, are doing well in contrast to those depending on fertilizers. He attributed the increasing number of suicides by farmers to their dependency on fertilizers, which take away a huge portion of their earnings, rendering them indebted to moneylenders.
Mr. Palekar said to prepare natural fertilizer for one acre, a farmer has to mix 10 kg of cow dung, 5 to 10 litres of cow urine, 2 kg of jaggery, 2 kg of flour of green gram, black gram or cow pea with a handful of soil and 200 litres of water. "Let the concoction ferment for two days. Stir it twice a day for two days before using it," he said. "Jeevamrutha should be administered at least once a month or a maximum of thrice a month for good results. The agricultural land should be mulched with dried grass, rotting leaves and twigs, he said. "If fertilizers destroy earthworms and other beneficial organisms in the soil, each gram of cow dung has more than 500 crores of beneficial micro-organisms that make the soil more fertile," he added.
The dung generated by one cow is sufficient to produce "Jeevamrutha" for 30 acres. The natural fertilizer can be used for any crop, he said.
He said talks were held with government officials and experts from universities of agricultural Sciences on Tuesday on promoting natural farming in the State. The Government has agreed to bear the expenditure on workshops organised by him, he said.
Mr. Palekar described the proposed Seed Act to be introduced by the Union Government as "dangerous" to farmers. He appealed to the Union Government not to follow the WTO guidelines blindly as they will harm the interests of farmers. Genetically engineered seeds, which will become common after the Seed Act is implemented, are a threat to the people's health, he said.
The yield-centered orientation to agriculture has met with dissent in different parts of the country over the last three decades. One of the highly creative and robust voice of dissent belongs to Subhash Palekar, a philosopher of agriculture from Maharashtra, India. Accessible only in Marathi for a long time, his thoughts on agriculture have recently become available in a two-volume book in English, The Philosophy of Spiritual Farming: Zero Budget of Natural Farming.
Palekar’s ideas on natural farming evolved from his research done in Maharashtra between 1988 and 1996.Using eclectic textual evidence from the Vedas, historical and literary works, he claims to have rediscovered principles of natural farming that existed a few thousand years ago. Natural farming, for Palekar, is a “spiritual penance (sadhana)” incorporating the ascetic practices of self-purification and self-mastery. He believes in a method of cultivation which makes the already existing nutrients in the soil, such as phosphate, potash, zinc and calcium available in absorbable form by the plants. This is made possible by the millions of micro-organisms present in Jeevamruta (Nectar of Life), a solution Palekar obtained from a mixture of water, dung and urine of indigenous cattle, jaggery and besan flour. Seed and plant diseases are treated with the help of cheap easily available materials like buttermilk, black pepper, neem and tobacco.
Jeevamruta is not a fertiliser; it only activates the soil ingredients necessary for a plant’s healthy growth. Since it is to be mixed with the water normally given to plants (or just sprinkled across the field, in the case of dry land cultivation), it involves a lot less labour than that required for putting fertilisers and pesticides. Palekar also offers detailed prescriptions for mulching, soil aeration and pest control, suggesting alongside the modifications required in their application across different crops and soil conditions.
The valuable knowledge present in traditional farming, he angrily reminds us, has not found research attention at the agricultural universities. Besides enabling the growth of safe, healthy produce, Palekar’s model eliminates the cost of fertilisers, pesticides and seeds and greatly reduces the incentive to borrow, one of the chief causes for farmer suicides in the country. Hence its evocative title, Zero-Budget Natural Farming.
Palekar distinguishes his model from organic farming, usually seen as the alternative to chemical farming. While vermicompost, biodynamic and other kinds of organic farming avoid the use of artificial chemical inputs they still violate the principles of natural farming since their methods do not enable processes of self-replenishment found in nature. Now an industry with massive commercial interests, the techniques of organic farming are also proving to be unaffordable for individual farmers.
After meeting with considerable success in Maharashtra, Palekar has aroused much curiosity among farmers in Karnataka. The levels of excitement caused by his ideas have not been seen since Masanobu Fukuoka’s cult book on natural farming,One Straw Revolution, became available in Kannada in 1988. Many politically committed groups have extended a spirited reception to his ideas. Swami Anand, a Mysore-based farmer-activist, has helped co-ordinate over 70 heavily attended workshops and demonstrations of Palekar’s agricultural methods across the state in the last three years. (More than 900 such workshops have been organised in Maharashtra).
Palekar was present for many of these events, lecturing in Hindi, with a Kannada translator by his side, on the evils of the agrochemical industry and the importance of reviving the land through natural farming. Over 50,000 farmers are now practicing his method on their fields in Karnataka. Anand’s book on Palekar’s philosophy of natural farming, written in Kannada, has sold more than 40,000 copies. So far, he has conducted hundreds of workshops to teach farmers of different states.
Palekar wants agriculture to remain a livelihood option in rural India. He wishes to renew faith in natural farming and its ecological sanity at a time when talk of economic growth rates, IT, biotechnology, India’s imminent super-power status and the like threatens to colonise our imagination of the future. Palekar’s proposal for living with the soil is, without doubt, a refreshing episode in contemporary Indian politics.
ARSIKERE (HASSAN DISTRICT): Blaming the green revolution for the present plight of farmers in the country, Subhash Palekar, who is propagating zero-budget natural farming, has called upon farmers to opt for natural farming to become self-dependent.
Mr. Palekar was inaugurating a three-day workshop on "Philosophy and technology of zero-budget natural farming" organised by the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) and "Hasiru Sene" here on Monday.
Mr. Palekar said green revolution has resulted in the exploitation of farmers by forcing them to opt for hybrid varieties, use chemical fertilizers and spraying pesticides. The multinational companies are able to exploit farmers because they are still hesitant to opt for alternative methods of farming. It is time farmers opted for natural
farming, because it was now proved that green revolution is detrimental to them. Rejecting chemical fertilizers, hybrid varieties of seeds and pesticides and using cow-dung and "ganjala" (urine of cattle) and spraying of neem oil, will not only help farmers to increase the fertility of soil, but also helps them get good yield. Farmers can fight MNCs only by rejecting their products, he noted. "It is important to exploit the agriculture land through natural course, not through artificial methods," he said.
Mr. Palekar said developed countries, especially the U.S., are exploiting farmers of the Third World.
Akhila Bharatha Kisan Union president Yudhaveer Singh and Arikesh Mallik of Haryana underlined the need to practise zero-budget natural farming.