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.
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
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 its function.
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 recipe.
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 seventh day.
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
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.
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
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
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
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 absence.”
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
DAY THREE: 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 healthy planet.
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 learning experiences.