Swamy's army

AGRICULTURE

Swamy's army

Swamy Anand, a farmer from Mysore district, has triggered a revolution in Karnataka, thanks to his firm belief in zero-investment farming.


Besides spearheading this movement across the State, he has also set up his ‘Hasiru’ outlet to encourage farmers not to rely on middlemen and bring their produce directly to his shop in Mysore, writes P M Vijendra Rao

‘Zero Investment Farming’ is the title of Swamy Anand’s award-winning Kannada book. While it has easily set a record in Kannada publishing by selling more than 65,000 copies, it has, more importantly, triggered a major agriculture revolution in Karnataka.


Swamy and friends of his ilk, 60,000 in number, all with a pervading consciousness of natural farming and a strengthening zeal to remain committed to the cause. They are on the firm path of bringing fertility back to soil and dignity to the farming community, which is increasingly finding itself in distress due to faulty agriculture policies.

For his kind of background, Swamy was bound to find himself in his present role of a farmer-activist. His family migrated to Heggadadevana Kote in Mysore district in 1982 as his father, Ramegowda, found agriculture unsustainable in Maddur, his native taluk. The family grew cotton and maize, two popular crops in the region. When Chennamma, in 1984, found her chickens dropping dead on eating their feed, she traced the cause to the urea used as a fertiliser for maize.

Swamy recalls that the chickens, considered an extended family, began to drop dead in 1984 and his mother Chennamma found the urea used as a fertiliser for maize to be the culprit. What harm were artificial chemicals causing human beings, she asked herself, and that was the last the family ever used any fertilisers or insecticide.

Swamy, much against his father’s wishes, wanted to study beyond SSLC and eventually got an MA degree before taking to teaching. The family was also into sericulture but his mother could ill-afford a silk sari! She always wanted her son to settle down in the city, as she had seen her brothers-in-law free from financial worries. With a background in sociology, he came in contact with P Lankesh and started working in the latter’s tabloid in Mysore. He got to know about Fukuwaka’s nature-friendly farming and also became familiar with Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha.

With artificial growth agents already out of the picture, it was not too long before he got in touch with like-minded Subhash Palekar, the progressive farmer from Maharashtra and also an agri-scholar. ‘Zero Investment Farming’ is a book based on years of weighty reading, extensive field research, intuition attendant to such complete involvement, besides tremendous respect and love for nature and its every creation. Swamy relies as much on Palekar’s epoch-making work as his own vast experience as a farmer.

Dalit writer Devanooru Mahadeva correctly observes in his foreword to the book that Swamy approaches his subject like a man on his way to realising god. Swamy is determined in his resolve to restore soil to its original sanctity. The observations made in the book once again brings to the fore the values traditional agriculture always enshrined. “Simply surrender to Nature and Nature will take care of itself,” says Swamy in an interview with this writer.

Trust in the earthworm

According to Swamy’s philosophy, a tractor has no place whatsoever in farming. It adversely affects the soil (and therefore the yield). There is not even the need for a plough. The farmer still needs to find a friend better than the earthworm.


In farms where fertilisers are in use, earthworms don’t die, they simply go deeper down to levels where they have no beneficial use to the farmer.  Zero investment farming also pooh-poohs the use of vermicompost, derived from rearing earthworms. Earthworms imported from outside the country have created havoc, Swamy avers. He squarely blames the scientists at our agriculture universities for the plight of the farmers.

 

“Nothing our agri universities are doing is for the good of the community,” he says. His prescription, “An immediate end to chemical fertilisers and return to natural farming. Treat the soil with jeevamrutha, a composition with the dung of any native cow as the main ingredient. In a span of four days from the treatment, the earthworms will be back in action. Such is the power of the scent of jeevamrutha in attracting earthworms. Within no time they multiply into a huge army.”


Native breeds vital

In this context, Swamy highlights the role of the native cow (naada hasu), whose dung or urine has such a potency that one cow’s waste is good enough to take care of the fertility needs of 30 acres of land.


He echoes Palekar’s sentiments and exhorts the farming community to go back to the rearing of only local varieties.

It is unfortunate that the Jersey or Holstein varieties have come to play such a major role in the lives of our farmers, he says. Palekar has no doubts that the Jersey/Holstein varieties don’t yield milk but only a milk-like liquid. He has proof that their dung or urine is the source of diseases. He has announced a reward of Rs ten lakh to whoever that can demonstrate otherwise. Swamy declares that hybrid cow varieties have together destroyed India’s culture of agriculture. 

Swamy’s knowledge of agriculture runs deep. He talks about the amount of light needed for each species. For instance, paddy - like other grass varieties - absorbs 12,000 footcandles of light (for photosynthesis).


(You light a candle and what light it emits to a radius of one foot is one footcandle). Take a 100-kilo branch of any tree, allow it to completely dry and it shrinks to 26 kilos after evaporation of its water content. When you burn the dry branch, it is reduced to 1.5 kilo of ash, no matter what the tree variety is. Plants depend on the soil for their sustenance only to the extent of less than two per cent. The rest of their nutritional requirement is provided by their environment (atmosphere).

If the government is really serious about propagating organic farming, it must simply close all chemical fertiliser plants and also ban imports. Any action less than that, like spending huge amounts on publicity in favour of the organic method, is always questionable. Once the fertiliser plants are shut down, the farmer will stop using fertilisers and within no time, the soil regains its fertility and the farmer will bounce back to life. There won’t be any suicides, says Swamy.

Since it is a tall order, the other alternative is to launch a movement to educate farmers on the ill-effects of chemical fertilisers.

Farmer to consumer


Swamy, besides spearheading this movement across Karnataka, has also set up his ‘Hasiru’ outlet which eliminates the middleman and farmers across the State bring their produce directly to his shop in Mysore where they get duly rewarded. The produces include vegetables, fruits, cereals and milk. It is a small outlet that Swamy has set up, but it is already finding due support from the urban consumer.

This farmer-to-consumer movement is just about garnering attention and its further success depends as much on the consumer as the farmer. The farmer has to disband fertilisers altogether and become completely self-dependent - and it is possible because it costs no money to take to this method of agriculture; while the consumer has to understand that on the success of this movement depends the very food security of the nation as we have a long way to go before undoing the deleterious effects of the once-touted Green Revolution.

It also needs to be borne in mind that the use of fertilisers has severely affected the water retention of the soil.
 

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