group: For farmers pushing bravely
against the norms of society, the organic revival
provided at least three days when they were no longer
Gujarat, India is a region
accosted by thorny shrubs, needle-laden ground creepers, and
long expanses of lifeless desert. Local news tallies the heat-related
deaths, and often boasts the nation’s highest temperatures.
Rising out of such adverse surroundings comes a small but
growing group of men and women seeking ways to support human
life without harming health—or Mother Nature. Many gathered
recently to empower each other in their common goal: bringing
health-giving, organic produce to their communities and beyond.
All-cow home brew shows many benefits
Organic farmers agree they want to “work
with nature.” Strict adherents accept no
additions, but others delight in experimenting
with concoctions of natural ingredients that boost
production or deter pests.
At the Gujurat organic conference, a group from
Tamil Nadu had a mission -- to share the recipe
of a miracle brew that they call panch kavya.
This special combination of five dairy cow ingredients
is sweeping the organic movement of that southern
state with astonishing results. Claims for its
benefits far exceed the current science that explains
A dilute solution of the product is sprayed on
or used as a root drench to enhance flowering;
fruit set, weight, color, and taste; rooting depth;
and resistance to pests and drought. It is said
to deliver up to a 20 percent yield increase.
In an unknown application route, it is even alleged
to cure AIDS.
You can make this at home using the Tamil Nadu
Combine 5 kilograms of cow manure and 3 liters
cow urine. Stir daily for one week. On the seventh
day add half a kilogram of ghee (clarified butter),
1 kg additional manure, 2 liters milk, and 2 liters
milk curd. Stir for another seven days.
S. Poongodi, an organic farmer from Tamil Nadu
reports, “On the fifteenth day, you have
the most wonderful solution on earth.” This
brew is then processed to remove solids and used
in a 3 percent water solution.
Experimental additions include 2 kgs of jaggery
(cane sugar), 12 ripe bananas, tender coconut
water, or toddy, which can all be added on the
Experiments with panch kavya are continuing.
-- Matthew Blom
The Organic Farming Conference, held at the Gandhian Institute
in western Gujarat (bordering Pakistan), brought together
a diverse group that included farmers, doctors, professors,
the health conscious, even a tax auditor. They gathered to
share experiences and successes, question failures, and give
visions for the future. The three-day event included several
keynote speakers, but its main focus was the farmers themselves
and their thoughts from the daily grind in the field. Many
farmers in attendance were already 100% organic, but the event’s
aim was to assist those wanting to make the organic transition
and needing the strength to push through. Kapil Shah, the
main coordinator of Organic Farming in Gujarat, opened by
stressing that the focus of this gathering was to assist transitioning
farmers, provide support and connections for those already
organic, and to discuss the ever-present question of where
and how to market organic produce.
Farmers here grow a wide range of crops. Rain-fed crops consist
of millet, groundnut, sesame, castor, cotton, pulses, etc.;
and with the expansion of irrigation, crops such as sugarcane
and various fruits are increasing.
The 1000+ participants seemed to run the gamut of diversity
found in farming. The loud and boisterous, middle-school educated
man who’s simple joy of life helps clarify one’s
perspective on happiness; the quiet, thoughtful one who contemplates
walking the life of peace and the role of farming as it contributes
to that lifestyle; and the former big city hustler, who left
the concrete jungle for a better life in the green one.
DAY ONE: Emphasizing
local control, and local markets. Discussing the logistical
and social barriers to organic transition.
In another show of support, regional leaders share
the progress and frustration their groups have faced.
The first day provided an opportunity for regional groups
to share their progress and advice. Each region within Gujarat
holds quarterly meetings to discuss current issues and “increase
confidence that we’re on the right track.” They
reported current strengths and future opportunities for growth.
Words of advice were plentiful. The first rule of organic
farming is: know your soil, then improve it. In addition,
prepare yourself well in advance of the actual planting of
the first seed. Don’t import farming inputs. Make your
own compost, your own vermiculture (composting with worms),
and self-produce herbal pesticides. One region’s reporter
offered this comparison: “When Gandhi called for home
rule of India, ceasing to import British goods was of utmost
importance. So also, you must home rule your farm and eliminate
all external control of it.”
Another representative suggested opening your mind to small,
local markets. Don’t limit yourself to marketing only
in the big cities. Since the markets are still unappreciative
of the organic difference, cottage industries should be integrated
with farming activities. A melon grower stressed the importance
of educating buyers. In his area, farmers held meetings with
local communities and brought fruits for sampling. They now
have difficulty filling all of their orders.
Certification and marketing, while still in their infancy,
are becoming increasingly important terms for the farmers.
The National Standards were recently translated into the local
language of Gujarat. But for the most part, problems here
remain more basic. Proper roads for transport stand in the
way of many simply getting their produce to the markets undamaged.
When finally at the market, organic farmers find their produce
is treated no differently than conventionally grown counterparts.
was once approached by a disciple praising a new 40
horsepower tractor. "It is said to have the power
of 40 horses.It will revolutionize work on our farm!"
Gandhi retorted, "Wonderful! Does it also give
the manure of forty horses?"
Culturally, the social and family restraints put pressure
on farmers wishing to convert to organic. The strong, joint
family system of India brings many voices to the table when
changes are discussed. Many reported being strongly discouraged
by family members--“Without pesticides and fertilizers,
how is it possible?” “People will laugh at us
for trying something so silly.” “The neighbors
will think we are crazy.” Family meetings and joint
decisions have to be resolved before any changes could occur.
DAY TWO: Sharing
personal experiences with organic farming. Discussing the
importance of good labor relations on farms primarily dependent
on hired help.
The second day of the conference included composting and
alternative technology demonstrations, group brain-storming
sessions, and booths selling or promoting organic items. The
main emphasis, however, was placed on inviting the farmers
to convey their personal experiences. One by one they rose
to tell stories of their convictions to make the organic transition,
and their subsequent experiences. Once again they echoed that
changes in the community are discouraged and highly criticized.
“If you don’t spray, your children will go hungry.”
up converts: A composting demonstration
draws a large audience. One of the main focuses
of the three day event was to encourage farmers
to transition to organic.
A man from the audience stood at this point to say that after
10 months, his neighbors finally converted from criticism
to “sitting right here next to me!” Again and
again, the powerful farmers showed their convictions: “Come
what may, I opt for organic farming! You must remain strong
in your decision, and have faith in God.”
A recurring concept was the importance of one’s relationship
with hired farm help. In a country containing one-sixth of
the world’s population, hands are easier to come by
than machinery. On most farms, the work force comes from the
surrounding communities working like a swarm of locusts to
complete the tasks at hand. From age 12 to those seeming 112,
they are the force behind the farmer.
To improve these relations, farmers shared a few successful
ideas. One onion grower allows his female workers to come
later in the morning because of their extra obligations in
the home. A papaya grower, after enlightening himself to the
financial situation of his workers, offered interest free
loans to assist them. Through her efforts, one mango grower
reported with great pride, “they now even work in my
farmers of Gujarat are making changes in their farming
even though the risks are high, the social pressure
heavy, and their efforts will go entirely unnoticed
by the consumers.
A small group coming from the southern state of Tamil Nadu
offered the following Gandhi story about the mostly non-mechanized
methods of farming in India. Gandhi was once approached by
a disciple praising a new 40 horsepower tractor. “It
is said to have the power of 40 horses. It will revolutionize
work on our farm!” Gandhi retorted, “Wonderful!
Does it also give the manure of forty horses?”
With markets scarce and resistance to organic high, farmers
reaffirm their commitment to organic farming as essential
to human health
The third day was devoted to reporting key points from the
group discussions, and concluding thoughts from the farmers.
These final speakers demonstrated where the farmers’
true power lies. The market for organic produce here is virtually
non-existent. What this means is that these farmers are making
changes even though the risks are high, the social pressure
heavy, and their efforts go entirely unnoticed by the consumers.
Their motives are not often profit driven (although, many
have reported profit increases), but rather sprout from various
roots of disillusionment with chemical practices. The powerful
proclaimed this message: “The most important aspect
of farming is health. Poison should not enter our bodies or
our earth.” Organic produce may go unnoticed by the
minds of the consumers, but not their bodies. In the midst
of the Western Indian desert, may the powerful continue to
be strong in their vision of nurtured of lives living on a
Matthew Blom is a nomad wandering the world finding happiness,
peace, and love, and attempting to leave the same in his wake.
He is deepening these efforts through Vipassana Meditation,
organic/natural farming, natural living, an a sun-cooked/fruitarian
diet. He is enrolled in Global Learning University where tuition
is free, classrooms have no walls, teachers are everywhere,
and no report cards are sent home (plane, bus, train, ferry,
bicycle, elephant, and camel fares not included). He lives
with his green satchel, and the wonderful beings he meets
along the way exchanging work for shelter, fruit, and continual