The Wisdom of Natural Farming

Bhushan and Laxman visit Bhaskar Save in January 2013, just before Bhaskar’s 91st birthday. They are Warli adiviasis.  Bhaskarbai learned much from the Warlis due to their synergy in nature.  Even today these boys know the forest inside out, every edible berry and root.  They carry an air of freedom that most of us aspire to!
by Sri Bhaskar Save…
The below material is given by Bhaskar Save and features in the book ‘The Vision of Natural Farming’ by Bharat Mansata (Earthcare Books).
The four principles of natural farming
  1. All living creatures have an equal right to live.  to respect such a right, farming must be non-violent.
  2. Everything in Nature is useful and serves a purpose in the web of life
  3. Farming is a dharma, a sacred path of serving Nature and fellow creatures; it must not be a ‘dhandha’ or money-oriented business.  Short-sighted greed to earn more – ignoring Nature’s laws – is the root of the ever mounting problems we face.
  4. Perennial fertility regenerate.  It observes that we humans only have a right to the fruits and seeds of the crops we grow.  These constitute 5% – 15% of the plants biomass yield.  The balance 85-95% of the biomass, the crop residue, must go back to the soil to renew it’s fertility, either directly as mulch, or as the manure of the farm animals.  If it is religiously followed, nothing is needed from outside, the fertility of the land will not decline.
  • Even a so-called ‘expert’ following the basic principles of natural farming, requires experience of the local conditions and plant varieties.
The Five Concerns of Farming
Bhaskar Save summarizes the key practical aspects of his approach to natural farming with reference to the five major areas of activity that are commonly a pre-occupation of farmers all over the world.
(i)           Tillage
  Tillage in the case of tree-crops is only permissible as a one-time intervention to loosen the soil before planting the saplings or seeds. Post planting, the work of maintaining the porosity and aeration of the soil should be left entirely to the organisms and plant roots in the earth.
(ii)         Fertility Inputs
  The recycling of all crop residues and biomass on the farm is an imperative for ensuring its continued fertility. Where farm-derived biomass is scarce, initial external provision of organic inputs is helpful. However, no chemical fertilizer whatsoever should be used.
(iii)     Weeding
  Weeding too should be avoided. It is only if the weeds tend to overgrow     the crops, blocking off sunlight, that they may be controlled by cutting and mulching, rather than by uprooting for ‘clean cultivation’ [24]. Herbicides, of course, should never be used.
(iv)        Irrigation
  Irrigation should be conservative, no more than what is required for maintaining the dampness of the soil. Complete vegetative cover – preferably multi-storied – and mulching greatly reduce water needs.
(v)          Crop Protection
  Crop protection may be left entirely to natural processes and the biological control of naturally occurring predators. Poly-cultures of healthy, organically grown crops have a high resistance to pest attack. Any damage is usually minimal, and self-limiting. At most, some non-chemical measures like the use of neem, diluted desi cow urine, etc may be resorted to. But this too is ultimately unnecessary. [See the chapter, ‘Insects, Not Pests’]
  • By thus returning to nature many of the tasks that were originally hers to look after, a weighty burden slips off the back of the half-broken, modern day farmer. And the land begins to regenerate once more.
  • Indeed, Nature has been most generous in providing both phenomenal diversity and productivity, as witnessed in the luxuriance of a tropical forest. Unfortunately, modern agriculture is entirely money-oriented, and deeply          rooted in violence. It is intolerant and hostile to all life forms and plants other than the cash crop monocultures it seeks to breed for a slice of market profit.
  • Wendell Berry, a perceptive thinker and organic farmer, writes: “When we change the way we grow our food, we change our food, our values, our society.  … Natural farming is about healing our relationships.”
  • Bhaskar Save adds: “Non-violence, the essential mark of cultural and spiritual evolution, is only possible through natural farming.”
The six key factors (paribals) of Nature.
  • Only Nature is truly creative and self-regenerating – through synergy with the fresh daily inflow of the sun’s energy.
  • “There is on earth, a constant inter-play of the six paribals (key factors) of Nature, interacting with sunlight.
  • Three are: air, water and soil. Working in tandem with these, are the three orders of life:  vanaspati srushti, the world of plants; jeev srushti, the realm of insects and micro-organisms; and prani srushti, the animal kingdom.
  • These six paribals maintain a dynamic balance. Together, they harmonise Nature’s grand symphony – mystic grace! — weaving the new.
  • “Man has no right to disrupt any of the paribals of Nature. But modern technology, wedded to commerce – rather than compassion – has proved disastrous at all levels. We have despoiled and polluted the soil, water and air. We have wiped out most of our forests and killed its creatures. And relentlessly, modern farmers spray deadly poisons on their fields. These massacre Nature’s jeev srushti – the unpretentious but tireless little workers that maintain the vital, ventilated quality of the soil, and recycle all life-ebbed biomass into nourishment for plants. The noxious chemicals also inevitably poison the water, and Nature’s prani srushti, which includes humans.

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