Organic farming

Organic farming ensures sustainability as food is produced using local resources without harming the environment or human health. Indeed, it is our responsibility to maintain a symbiotic relationship with Nature so as to conserve it for posterity. Robert Hart, Albert Howard and Masanobu Fukuoka have described how one can fulfill the human need for food ecologically.

Robert Hart’s book, “Forest Gardening” (May 1996) describes how to grow the fruit, nuts, vegetables and herbal medicines we need while allowing different life forms to interact, stimulate and support one another. He says: “Because of these family forest gardens, most people in Kerala are to some extent self-sufficient in the basic necessities, above all food. Therefore, poor as they are, they are far better nourished than most other Indians. In Kerala, people grow their own mangoes in their forest gardens, together with some sixty other nourishing food and fodder plants, medicinal herbs, and spices.”

Sir Albert Howard is known as the father of organic farming. He worked for 25 years as an agricultural investigator in India. He treated Nature and Indian farmers as his teachers and emphasised that to achieve stability in our farming systems we should, as far as possible, imitate the original, natural ecosystem of the particular locality where we farm. His book “The Soil and Health” links the health crises being faced by crops, livestock, and humanity to the degradation of the Earth's soil. His message is that we must respect and restore the health of the soil for the benefit of future generations.

Using the forest as an example, his four principles of natural farming are:
  • Mixed cropping is the rule
  • The soil must always be protected from the direct action of sun, rain and wind
  • The forest manures itself
  • Crops and livestock look after themselves
Links to Books by Sir Albert Howard
Masanobu Fukuokas One Straw Revolution” is an eye opener. Throughout his life, he worked on refining traditional cultivation practices requiring less labour and causing minimal disruption to nature. On the basis of his experience on his farm, he formulated these four principles of farming:
  • No cultivation
  • No chemical fertilizers or prepared compost
  • No weeding by tillage or herbicides
  • No dependence on chemicals

Vandana Shiva, the well-known environment activist, has published a book with Vaibhav Singh of Navdanya – “Health per acre”. They propose a shift from chemical-intensive to ecologically-intensive agriculture and biodiversity, from external inputs to internal inputs, from yield per acre to health and nutrition per acre, from food as a commodity to food as nourishment and nutrition.
Link to Vandana Shiva's book 'Health per acre'