Sustainable Agriculture

Farming in Egypt 4000 years ago

Chemical fertilizers and pesticides used in agriculture are examples of how environment damaging practices carried out for short time commercial profits always extract a heavy price from society. Green Revolution Farming with promise of bumper food harvests to "feed millions" soon gave way to excessive exploitation of irrigation, propagation of cash crops beyond the capacity of the soil and terrain and domination by big agri-businesses whose only interest in farming was maximization of profits.

This has destroyed large areas of fertile agricultural soil, marginalized thousands of small farmers as costs began outstripping their meagre earnings, poisoned the earth with chemicals from fertilizers and pesticides to levels where toxic chemicals began finding their way into the food chain and bodies of animals and human beings. Many farmers waking up to these dangers are now abandoning chemical fertilizers/pesticides/hybrid seed driven farming for environmentally safe organic or natural farming practices.

Parisar has long advocated sustainable agriculture and organized "Natural Farming Meets". We have also published a Marathi translation of Masanobu Fukuoka's classic "One Straw Revolution", and organized a talk and discussions with Mr. Fukuoka. From the encouraging response to his lecture and discussion meeting organized by Parisar in Pune, we felt it would be productive to organize a seminar on Organic/Natural farming where practitioners of sustainable agriculture could collectively discuss problems and share their experiences. At a time when mechanized farming, chemical fertilizers and deadly insecticides were the order of the day and the official Government policy was to actively encourage agri-businesses in the hope of raising food grain production this was indeed a pioneering effort.

The first Natural Farming seminar was organized by Parisar in Nasik on 14th and 15th of January 1989. More than hundred persons attended from different parts of Maharashtra and participated in discussions for two days. Participants ranged from those with little experience in traditional farming methods but greatly influenced by Mr Fukuoka’s writing, to hard core farmers who were beginning to see the truth of Mr Fukuoka’s assertion that for long term sustainability, the present path of “modern mechanized” farming had no future, and if agriculture was to sustain and enhance the productivity of the farm and its natural resources, there was no alternative to adopting the path of natural farming. Outstanding presentations were made by many practitioners of organic or natural farming and participants decided to form an alliance of Organic Farmers and to meet periodically to share information and to learn from each other’s experiences.

Over the years, with the growing media exposure about toxins in our foods, traces of pesticides in soil, food and water, the organic farming movement has grown deep roots and the practice of natural/organic farming has begun to become profitable for farmers, though not surprisingly, official vision continues to sing praise of green revolution, mechanical farming and genetically engineered crops, that are partly responsible for mounting number of farmers’ suicides caused by failure of these unsustainable methods of farming.