Chemical farming which includes the use of artificial fertilizers, pesticides and tractors causes destruction of large amounts of organic matter (i.e. the decaying or decomposed remains of roots and other plants and animals) in soil. No matter how good and fertile the land is, it becomes unproductive in a few years. That is, the number of living organisms it contains gets decreased. Earthworms, termites, ants and other animals, various types of fungi and other microbes that convert dead organisms and plant matter into humus by decaying, start disappearing. Soil loses its porosity. It’s colour fades and becomes much paler than it’s original colour. Such soil becomes as hard and strong as concrete. It is also hard even when it is dry and therefore roots do not grow deep into it. This soil cannot absorb water. Therefore, it can not nurture the crops well.
But actually that soil is friable. As soon as it comes in contact with water, it loses its hardness and it starts eroding. Rain or irrigation water cannot seep into such soil & hence production decreases. It needs to be irrigated frequently. As roots do not penetrate long and deep, desirable yield is not obtained unless fertilizers are applied. Production cost keeps on increasing and yield starts going down. All this ultimately results into soil infertility and thereby the farmer becomes indebted.
When the U.S. Department of Agriculture realised this, they studied what happens in natural farming practices. The soil in natural farming appears porous and live. It absorbs water and this absorbed water helps in slowly irrigating the crops for a longer time. It can absorb organic matter. It helps the roots of the crops to grow and to go deep and far. The interaction between different organisms creates a conducive environment for the growth of plants. Hence U.S. Department of Agriculture has undertaken a special program since 2011. They are reforming farmers by touring villages and organizing demonstrations.
Our ancestors used to practice such nature friendly farming. We have almost forgotten that on Rishi Panchami day, while cooking, we were not consuming crops that were grown using labour of the oxen, not to mention tractor. When will we be wise? When will we utilize the wisdom of our own ancestors? And that too for the safety of the future of our descendants? Or will we wait for some American to claim a patent for it?
Soil is not just a powder of stones/ rocks. Rocks are weathered for years by the action of Sun and rain, and by the interactions between plants, animals, termites, earthworms, ants, beetles and various types of fungi. What all these organisms need is favourable conditions. This favourable condition provides them with all food, water, humidity etc. It is also useful in reducing the toxicity of toxic substances. Modern humans started using insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc. in farming. All these pesticides are toxic. These toxins also killed useful soil organisms by poisoning them.
Dr. Jagadish Chandra Bose experimentally proved that plants also have life, they have emotions, they also suffer from toxic substances. However, until then, all western scientists considered plants to be inanimate and lack emotions. Till recently, western science did not understand the importance of considering soil as living. But the soil is full of life and it is today suffering from toxins.
Starvation / Malnutrition of Soil Microbes
In modern agricultural practices, micro-organisms in soil are getting malnourished and starved. The modern farmer keeps the farm very clean. Western scientists and Indian scientists who have been educated in that culture, have inculcated cleanliness of the farm in the farmers’ minds. While cleaning the field in this manner, a care is taken to not leave any traces of the previous crop in the soil. These parts are destroyed by burning. In fact, all these parts serve as food for soil microbes. On not getting their food these microbes starve.
Cow Dung manure, green manure, sheep dung pellets and other organic manures are not used in the farm in the required quantity. Therefore, these microbes remain hungry and nutrient deficient. Soil /Lands become severely degraded. And in extreme cases, it may prove fatal too.
The solution to this has been actually followed by Suresh Desai, Karuna and Vasant Futane, Sawe Guruji, Rajendra Bhat, Mohan Shankar Deshpande, Subhash Palekar and many other farmers who practice farming systems using natural, organic, spiritual, chemical-free, covered, permaculture to treat the aforementioned illnesses. A mulching cover of green or dried leaf litter over the soil provides the soil microbes with required nutrition. Madhavi Sawant of Dhankawadi has created a wonder by developing a beautiful terrace garden with just a 3 inch thick mulching layer of coconut husk and dried jackfruit leaves. Such farms and gardens require very little irrigation.
What can ordinary farmers, citizens, environmental scientists, environmental technicians, environmental regulators and local self-governing bodies do in the current global warming scenario?
They should literally imitate the above mentioned farmers. By doing so, their production cost will be greatly reduced. Their water requirement will be also be much less and helping to reduce or completely cease use of synthetic chemicals in farming. All food grains, pulses and if possible oilseeds required to fulfill one’s own family’s needs should be grown in one’s own farm. One should understand the hollowness of the pomp of the city life and should avoid imitating cities or imitating the lifestyles of relatives dwelling in city. One must have an attitude of being the king as well as the servant of one’s own farm land. In next few years, they will see the benefits of being The King Farmer.
Citizens should befriend farmers and give fair prices to their farm produce. They should make environment friendly changes in their own lifestyle. Cities are totally parasitic. Cities neither produce food grains, vegetables nor milk. The sedentary lifestyle and wrong eating habits of the cities cause bad health and money cannot buy good health. They should avoid the waste of resources such as water, food, paper, energy through small daily acts.
Entrepreneurs and Industrialists
They too should realise their responsibility and stop adding hazardous toxic substances into the atmosphere, water, foodstuffs and other products. They should follow the right advice of environmental scientists, climate technicians and climate regulators and minimize the carbon footprints of their products.
They should give information about global warming in the simplest way. Instead of extolling only the standards given by American USEPA, one should think how to get the best out of the current situation. One should think and research about how to face the present problems in a simple and economic way. Be an example to others by teaching them through one’s own behaviour.
They should be ready to use simple and effective technology. They should not adopt only expensive, imported technology as best but should also use appropriate and opportune technology. However, it should be used for mitigating pollution rather than only for hoarding wealth and becoming rich.
Our farmers need nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other plant nutrients for their fields. Wet waste contains all these nutrients. Regulators should make technicians, scientists, entrepreneurs, industrialists and even common citizens look at wet waste as an opportunity rather than as a problem. Many have done such projects and information about them should be spread far and wide.
Farmers as Friends
Befriending farmers, befriending nature and forests means “Friendship With Farmer” and “Friendship With Forests”. To make friends with farmers means an amity between rural India and the cities.
Urban or suburban citizens like us always throw away many useless things as waste. Our houses or homes do not have frontages or backyards. That waste has to go somewhere. We make a collective democratic effort to arrange to locate that place called “somewhere” to be as far away from our habitation as possible. Since this is far away from us, we are not affected by that waste, yet the waste continues to lie on a place called “dumping ground”. It gets burnt, it rots in the rain, it is blown by the wind. Our waste causes a lot of trouble to people staying close-by. Similarly, it pollutes groundwater sources and makes them toxic. The air also becomes toxic leading to spread of diseases. And finally this waste starts becoming a nuisance directly or indirectly to those city dwellers too who produced it in the first place.
If such waste is properly segregated instead of throwing away carelessly, the nuisance arising out of it can be minimised. On the contrary, it can be utilised to create resources. Wet waste should be separated and collected aside and then spread in farmers’ fields or on rocky, pebbly ground and it should be decomposed using different bacterial cultures or by natural processes and thereby organic carbon can be enhanced naturally.
However, only biodegradable substances which can decompose naturally should be collected together in wet waste. For example, things like remnants of cut and cleaned vegetables, coconut shells, paper, fish scales, fish bones, bones, etc. which decompose naturally should be included. Things such as bottles, metal sheets, glass, plastics, sanitary napkins should not be included in wet waste.
Things segregated as above should be taken to the field of the befriended farmer. It would be the farmer’s job to decompose those things using appropriate process and to turn it into compost and grow vegetables on it. The vegetables grown in the befriended farmer’s field would be organic and it would be the city dwellers benefit to get such organic vegetables which would be free from any chemical pesticides.
Availability of chemical-free foodstuffs and progress of the farmer are the ideas underlying the concept of “Friendship with Farmers”.
After proper segregation of wet waste, it can be utilised for increasing forest cover. If the segregated wet waste is properly spread over the forest floor, it helps in increasing the organic carbon content of the soil. In addition, it covers the forest floor thereby preventing the ground from getting heated. Natural fertilizer is available wherever there is a cover of wet waste. If this is done, it will save the space required for wet waste decomposition and additionally the desolate forest lands will also get a new life. It will help to solve the problem of wet waste. Also, more new plants and trees will grow there after the onset of monsoon.
If cities and villages (or urban and rural areas) stop fighting with each other over the issue of “dumping ground” and thereby stop threatening the ambient environment and forests, instead try to solve the issue through such amicable coordination with each other, it will be collectively beneficial to cities, villages, farms and forests.
Friendship with Sewage Effluents
The farmers’ requirement of essential plant nutrients can be fulfilled in yet another way. The domestic sewage effluents resulting from human use are rich in such nutrients. If it is spread over fallow land or farm land at the rate of 1–2 litres per square metre, it can provide organic carbon and other nutrients to the soil. It will not produce any offensive odour or pollution and the desolate land will also get a new lease of life. The problems arising due to use of chemical fertilisers would be reduced by not using them. And importantly, it will prevent the pollution of the water of streams and rivers. This will easily create forests, groves and jungles.
Local Self-governing Bodies
Self-governing bodies such as the gram panchayats in villages and nagar panchayats in cities, town councils or municipalities should always bear in mind that only food is required for staying alive and if that food is clean and pure then it is healthy. Therefore, our laws should be framed in such a way that they are eco-friendly. Law breakers should be heavily penalized and law upholders should be rewarded. We should honestly shoulder our responsibilities realizing that only we are the saviours of our cities, towns and villages. We should keep a check over futile expenditure of public money and resources of future generations on installation of false, expensive machinery which does not last for more than a few months.
The same technology that cools offices and homes is itself taking the world towards global warming. University of Minnesota has conducted extensive research and has created a small but very effective eye-opening documentary on this subject titled “The Cruel Irony of Air-conditioning” which is available on Youtube.
The same America which once introduced chemical and mechanised farming to the world is now explaining its ill effects to their farmers. They are improving. When will we improve?
I am aware that only fraction of our population can actually contribute by changing their lifestyles. But all others, including us, should at least be aware of this and instead of only feeling guilty, do something about before it’s too late.
(with Technical Inputs from Dr. Ajit Gokhale, Natural Solutions)
If any one of you in interested in getting associated with such campaign, you may contact Dr. Ajit Gokhale.