Influential natural farming advocate Subhash Palekar recently approved the use of Genetically Modified crops in his well-known “Zero Budget Natural Farming-ZBNF” method. In an equally startling interview, he described organic farming as “worse than the atom bomb.” Here, two veteran practitioners respond to Palekar, while reviewing the history of the Organic/Natural Farming movement in India.
From Trophic Tales: The focus on the welfare of individual domesticated animals might be an extension of the modernist tendency to simplify and discriminate. The morality of living, eating, and dying is more complex than two-word slogans can prescribe. If we care about animals —wild or domesticated— we’ve to think in terms of entire ecosystems.
David R. Montgomery writes: Conventional wisdom says that fertile soil is not renewable. That’s not really true. Fertility can be improved quickly through cover cropping and returning organic matter to the land. Soil-building is about getting the biology, mineral availability, and organic-matter balance right, rolling with the wheel of life instead of pushing against it.
It’s been five years since the passing of G. Nammalvar, the icon of sustainable farming who died on December 30, 2013, while leading a campaign against the plan to extract methane gas in Cauvery delta. An agriculture scientist, he left his job and travelled across Tamil Nadu spreading the message of organic farming using story-telling.
August 16th marks ten years since the passing of the legendary Japanese farmer and author Masanobu Fukuoka, who initiated the natural farming movement. Here’s a documentary on his life and work, along with notes by Larry Korn, Fukuoka’s American student and the translator of his book, ‘One Straw Revolution,’ considered the ‘bible’ of natural farming.
Grown over a million acres of farmland, the HMT rice variety – developed by Dadaji Ramaji Khobragade, a small cultivator and self-trained plant breeder – brought a measure of prosperity to several hundred thousand farmers in Maharashtra and neighbouring states. Bharat Mansata pays tribute to the legendary farmer and seed saver who died on Sunday
Billions in Change, the brainchild of Indian-American entrepreneur Manoj Bhargava, shows how simple but life-changing inventions provide clean water, electricity, and improve rural lives. The innovations include a RainMaker device that can turn dirty water clean, a low-cost, portable solar-based power generator and a ‘cost-free fertilizer’ that is made by gathering whatever is laying around.
From Down to Earth: These locally led green start-ups across Africa are not just promising but also innovative in their approach. From providing clean energy to ensuring safe sanitation and reducing carbon emission to improving public health, the activities of these start-ups in Africa are guided by a common objective: sustainable management of natural resources.
From Down to Earth Magazine: What does it take to design a permaculture kitchen garden? In this video, permaculture practitioners Rosie and Peter Fernandes, based in Assagaon, Goa, recount their experience of growing a food forest designed to meet their cooking needs round the year. They are now taking their model to the wider community.
From Modern Farmer: On the horizon of agriculture’s future, a 40,000-strong army is marching towards a shimmering goal. They see the potential for a global food system where pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers are but relics of a faded age. A peek into a treasure trove of latest research released by The American Society of Microbiologists.
From The Wire: Spurred by his firsthand observation of the havoc wrought by chemical fertilisers and pesticides, Subhash Palekar developed his own alternative method of farming, dubbed ‘Zero Budget Natural Farming’. The widely influential Padma Shri awardee tells Manas Roshan about his methods and the agrarian crisis, also expressing his controversial views on cow slaughter.
From The Hindu: An afforestation initiative led by naturalists and locals, with support from forest and revenue department officials, has resulted in the Arunachala hill in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, shedding its barren, brown visage. Lalitha Sridhar reports on the decade-plus-long turnaround of a damaged fragile, semi-arid ecosystem by successfully harnessing scientific expertise and local knowledge.
From Vikalp Sangam: Located in the village Vinchurni, in Maharashtra’s Satara district, the 100-acre Maganlal Gandhi Smrutivan was originally a rocky grassland, that has since been transformed into a fertile estate that now teems with various interdependent lives. Behind this makeover is the 89-year-old former ‘Bhoodan’ activist Babulal Gandhi, aka Babu Kaka, and his family.
Ajit Ranade writes: Mahatma Gandhi famously said that the world has enough for everybody’s need, but not for everybody’s greed. U. Subbaraju, a person who actually lived this principle in his own quiet life, who always carried a gentle smile and a helping hand, passed away earlier this month. He was just 50 years old.
This is a weekend Orientation Camp organised by the Ecologise Network. It is a part of a programme through which those living in cities can explore living in an ecologically more sensitive and sustainable manner. The camp also aims to expose participants to the current world crisis of global warming, resource depletion and growing inequality.
From Robinson Love Plants: Regular soil building and correct use of soil amendments will give us nutrient rich soils which help vastly improve food security for future generations, while water wastage can be combated by installing an effective rain barrel system. These methods are time-consuming but relatively inexpensive, and yield many passive benefits over time.
TheNewsMinute reports: About a half-hour distance from the Tiruvannamalai government bus depot lies the Marudam Farm School in Kanathampoondi… It was in 2009 that the idea for the farm school was born when Govinda and his wife Leela came here for an afforestation project. It was then the couple dreamt of building a sustainable community.
Safe Harvest is a conglomeration of eight civil society organisations that have been working towards and promoting non-pesticide management (NPM) practices among some of India’s poorest and most disenfranchised communities. Today, they work with a farmer base of close to 50,000 across 11 states, many of whom have seen a 20% rise in their income.
Pablo Tittonell is professor ‘Farming Systems Ecology’ at Wageningen University and one of the worlds most well known experts in the field of agriculture and ecology. In this TED Talk, he advocates intensification of agriculture by making optimal use of natural processes and the landscape to meet the worlds constantly growing demand for food.
There’s no such thing as ‘healthy food’ if it’s not produced by sustainable farming systems on living soils, Patrick Holden told the recent ‘Food: The Forgotten Medicine’ conference. But after 70 years of industrial farming, there’s a huge job to be done to restore depleted soils and the impoverished genetic diversity of seeds and crops.