"I believe that a revolution can begin from this one strand of straw. Seen at a glance, this rice straw may appear light and insignificant. Hardly anyone would believe that it could start a revolution. But I have come to realise the weight and power of this straw. For me, this revolution is very real."
— Masanobu Fukuoka, One Straw Revolution
Increasingly, farmers in greenrevolution belts are becoming aware of the long-term economic, health and ecological benefits of switching over to organic farming. Many have seen for themselves the effects of chemical farming — soil erosion and loss of soil nutrients, loss of nutrition in food, and human diseases resulting from the chemicals that inevitably seep into the water table. All these reasons make way for the urgent demand for organic food and farming.
Statistics are predicting that the global market for organic foods that was only US$ 17 billion in the year 2000 may touch the US$ 31 billion mark by 2005 — and India's share is only 0.001 per cent. Most of India's organic farms are not officially considered (or certified) as organic, they are "organic by default." In India, we worship cow dung as Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Gobar-dhan puja is literally the worship of gobar (cowdung) dhan (wealth).
Cow dung is worshipped because it is the source of renewal of soil fertility and, therefore, a key factor in ensuring sustainability of human society. The cow has been made sacred in India because it is a keystone species for agro-ecosystems — it is vital for the sustainability of agriculture. Methods that worked for millennia suddenly require certification. Maybe we all need to go back to “Gobar Times”!!
One Straw Revolution
Masanobu Fukuoka is one of the most radical and influential agrarian thinkers of our times. His book 'One Straw Revolution' describes the events that led to the development of Fukuoka's concept of 'natural farming'. He emphasises the basic principles of no cultivation, no chemical fertiliser; and incorporating and controlling useful weeds and rather than eradicating them.
Using these methods Fukuoka produces better crops than achieved by chemical-based modern farming practices. Year by year the soil becomes richer and more productive. This book, an all-time classic, is a clarion call to all of us to abandon modern agriculture and its destructive methods and poisons, and to return to our far richer heritage of working closely and simply with the land.
‘Organic’ refers to agricultural production systems, which are used to produce food and fibre. All kinds of agricultural products are produced organically. This includes grains, meat, dairy products, eggs, fibres such as cotton, flowers and processed food products. Organic farming management relies on developing biological diversity in the field. It helps in managing pest organisms that disrupt. It also ensures maintenance and replenishment of soil fertility.
Organic farmers are not allowed to use synthetic pesticides or fertilisers. Organic farmers build healthy soils by nourishing the living component of soil — the microbial inhabitants that release, transform, and transfer nutrients. The organic matter in soil contributes to good soil structure. It also increases its ability to hold water.
Organic farmers feed soil biota and build soil structure. They build the organic matter in soil with compost, and biologically-based soil amendments. These produce healthy plants that are better able to resist diseases and insect predation. Organic farmers' primary strategy is to control pests and diseases by prevention. This can be done through balanced plant nutrition and management.
Organic farming is a viable vocation for many. Many entrepeneurs have created very successful businesses by producing organic food of good quality. Besides earning a decent living, sustainable farming also contributes to the well-being of the people and the planet.
Says Vandana Shiva, a promoter of organic farming, “The agriculture technologies of the future have to work for people, not corporations, they have to work with nature, not against nature. If farmers and farming have to have a future, it has to be organic.” Want to be a part of this new era? Become an organic farmer!
Grow your own meal
A c t i v i t y
Healthier schools produce young people with healthier attitudes to life. Make your school or home garden into an organic one. Why school gardens? School gardening projects fit easily into the curriculum and enhance studies in a wide range of subjects, but they also have a special value of their own. Some schools have always had gardens, but gardens for teaching have a more recent history.
The wonderful thing about gardenbased learning is that it is a hands-on, minds-on experience where students and teachers work together. You can create your own simple and flexible organic food growing system for city-dwellers — or for anyone. Your ‘living lab’ shall not only contribute to restoring biodiversity but also act as a resource for school biology, ecology and environment projects.
You can create an indoors or outdoors garden. Recycle the waste. Turn kitchen scraps into new soil. Start composting and recycling and improvising to minimise costs and waste. The organic waste-recycling system can be extended to homes and other institutions, and has the potential to make an impact on city waste-disposal and pollution problems. Join the “Green Schools Program” of the Centre for Science and Environment.
Besides creating a landscape for learning from your school grounds, learn how to convert your school into a green school. Do energy, waste and water audits of your school.
To know more, contact:
Environment Education Unit,
Centre for Science and Environment,
41, Tuglakabad Institutional Area
New Delhi - 110062,
or mail us at