NEWS: ‘No farmer practising natural farming has ended life’
Ramu Bhagwat | Jan 31, 2016, 03.01 AM IST Times Of India Nagpur: "I feel sad farmers continue to commit suicide in Maharashtra," saidSubhash Palekar who was named in the Padma Shri award list for his contribution to natural farming. He is extremely angry that not one Maharashtra chief minister in the last three decades has consulted him despite being aware that not a single farmer who practised his technique has committed suicide. For 25 days a month, he travels around the country giving his free service to farmers teaching no-cost, natural farming. Today, 40 lakh farmers across India are using his methods.
Palekar hails from Belora village in Amravati district of Vidarbha. Ironically, the region where he developed his Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) technique continues to reel under the farmer suicide crisis. Years of government support to farmers has failed to bring the agrarian distress in this cotton belt under control.
"In stark contrast, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu is very proactive. He congratulated me on getting the award. Naidu has given me a commitment that his new state (Telangana) would ensure that every farmer adopted the ZBNF method. I have conducted workshops and seminars for 1,200 agriculture officers of AP," said Palekar from Kakinada where he was camping on Friday.
The 65-year-old agriculturist found through research between 1988 and 2000 that the use of chemical fertilizers and poisonous insecticides initially increase yields. But, it went on to damage the soil and the food produced caused all diseases. "The Green Revolution did more harm to the country than good. Ever-growing cost of modern chemical farming has broken backs of farmers crushing them under debt burden. It has killed the soil's soul," says Palekar.
Palekar un-learned what he was taught for his degree in agriculture. He went back to ancient methods rediscovering magical qualities of cow dung, cow urine and Neem leaves — all resources available at the farm that can be used for sustainable agriculture. Through this he wants to end the exploitative system in which farmer has to visit cities for all his needs, be it agriculture inputs, education, medicine or even courts.
Excerpts from an interview...
Q. Do you feel your efforts have been recognized?
A.The Padma Shri came as a surprise. I know no one in Delhi and never expected it. For last three decades all I have done is to tell farmers to go back to nature to save themselves. Today, 40 lakh farmers across the country use the ZBNF method that uses easily accessible resources for successful cultivation of all crops. They are free from high-cost, toxic chemicals that have ruined soil ever since Green Revolution was ushered in.
Q. Having got your degree from an agriculture university, was it not retrograde to go back to cow dung and urine?
A. Far from it, today even vice-chancellors and agriculture scientists admit that they have been led the wrong way. They are helpless and unable to fight the established system and directions of Indian Council of Agriculture Research that forces them to spread capital intensive chemical farming polluting soil, air, water and harming human health.
Q. Farming has become non-remunerative and cause of distress. Is there any hope?
A. The good news is that there is a new generation taking to farming in these times of global recession. Software engineers hived off jobs are looking to work in villages. They understand the costs and health implications of chemical farming. This new generation is my hope. They are learning virtues of natural farming.
Q. Your native land of Vidarbha is yet to find respite from distress?
A. That does make me sad. But I blame the state government for this. Successive governments have failed to make any effort to wean farmers away from high-cost chemical fertilizers. No chief minister of this state has ever sought my help. Individually, farmers and their groups invite me for seminars and workshops. Not one farmer who switched over to natural farming has committed suicide. My books in Marathi are translated into all South Indian languages and used in those states to learn how to prepare 'jeevamrut' (a concoction of cow urine, dung, jaggery, green-gram flour) that is sprinkled in farms to revive soil nutrients.
Q. Should farmers solely depend on the government support and relief all the time?
A.Absolutely not. This dependence on doles is dangerous. Farmers should go back to ancient system where only resources available within the village are used — be it seed, natural fertilizer and own funds without taking loans at high interest. I have demonstrated it through my work in last three decades. The 'model farms' we have set up show farmers can be self-reliant without external support. I am not alone in this natural farming movement. Some 10,000 farmers are spreading the message. It is a voluntary work. We have not formed an NGO and do not raise funds to run the movement.
Q. How do you distinguish ZBNF from organic farming that also seems to be in vogue?
A. Organic farming with its specified ingredients and processes is a very costly affair that our poor farmers cannot sustain. Our methods of natural farming are totally cost effective and more useful. Farmers use only what is available and within reach without going to cities. One cow is enough to produce 'jeevamrut' for 30 acres.