The Nanak Kheti: Organic Farming with a passion for prosperity
By Umendra Dutt

There is a silent and constructive revolution happening in Punjab to save the environment, regenerate ecological resources to bring back soil productivity and re-establish ecological balance in the farms. This is the natural farming movement of Kheti Virasat Mission (KVM), a civil society action group headquartered in the Jaitu town of Faridkot district. The movement is led by experienced farmers.

Does natural farming economics work? This spiritual soil science is financially more beneficial to the farmers. After adopting natural farming they are spending far less than that in the earlier chemical farming days. Natural farming is more cost effective and input efficient.

There is an urgent need of Swadeshi agriculture movement to decolonise Indian agriculture and to liberate Indian farmer from the clutches of westernised agriculture and developmental paradigm being promoted by ICAR and State Agriculture Universities. This prototype is philosophically alien to our cultural moorings and stranger to ecological ethos and beliefs of our society.

Neither are they environmentalists, nor economists nor religious preachers nor trained agriculture experts nor health professionals, but they possess and practice the wisdom of all these. They practice Guru Nanak’s precept of Sarbat da Bhala meaning the wellbeing of all, in their farming. They are the natural farmers of Punjab.

Their farms are laboratories of happiness for all and encompass every living creature on earth, every life form. It is farming with passion for the wellbeing of all; one can call it spiritual farming, natural farming, non-violent agriculture or simply Nanak Kheti. These farmers also take care of a large variety of birds, earthworms, honey bees, butterflies and fireflies and many more magnificent life forms. For these farmers all living creatures are part of a family and - it is their family.

Kheti Virasat Mission (KVM) preaches to adopt famous verses of Guru Granth Sahib in farming practices: “Pavnu Guru, Panni Pita Matta Dharat Mahat” (Air is guru, water is father and earth is mother). This holy guiding principle should be part of the life, practice and mission of farmers who want to do natural farming.

There is a silent and constructive revolution happening in Punjab to save the environment, regenerate ecological resources to bring back soil productivity and re-establish ecological balance in the farms. This is the natural farming movement of KVM, a civil society action group headquartered in the Jaitu town of Faridkot district. The movement is led by experienced farmers who believe in principle of Sarbat da bhala,” says Amarjeet Sharma, a farmer from Chaina village, district Faridkot who heads the village level Vatavaran Panchayat. Vatavaran Panchayats are local-level community institutions working as participatory civil society initiatives.

KVM has evolved a distinct philosophy that defines soil as the ‘source of infinite lives’. “Yes, it is true and we have experienced it,” avers KVM chairman and a farmer from Rai Ke Kalan village of Bathinda, Harjant Singh. If the soil is rich in micro-organisms, its texture is soft, full of natural essence and ample quantities of moisture are kept intact. Then the soil gives healthy crops, and there is a lesser need for irrigation.

KVM farmers use Jeevaamrita (a cow urine based microbial preparation) to revive microbial activity in soil. With the application of Jeevaamrita and Ghan Jeevaamrita (a solid form of Jeevaamrita), the soil is gradually becoming rich in the humus, yield has increased, and other life forms are coming back in the fields, says Charanjeet Singh Punni, another KVM farmer from Chaina village and a natural farming trainer. Punni highlights another aspect of natural farming. “Although some of the radiation of the sunlight is essential for photosynthesis, it is a threat to the soil bacteria. Mulching is the best answer to this.”

Mulching is an essential part of natural farming. Natural farmers aver that when the soil is covered with various forms of mulching, the results are unimaginable. Earlier the soil had lost all soil bacteria, microbes and earthworms. But after adoption of Jeevaamrita and mulching, the farms are again becoming wealthy in soil health. Krishnan Jakhar of village Dhaba (near Dabawali), Vinod Jyani of village Katehra, near Fazilka, Swarn Singh of Karamgarh Shattran, Madan Lal of Bullowal in Hoshiarpur, Jarnail Singh in Meharu, Nakodar and other natural farmers of the KVM network are using inter crops, plant residue, fallen leaves, bushes, weeds and sometimes even the wheat straw or the paddy straw cuttings spread in the fields to cover the naked soil. “Besides protecting the bacteria and retaining the moisture, this also keeps the temperature of the soil low and it never goes beyond the 40 degrees Celsius, which is the upper limit for the survival of microbes,” tells Ajay Tripathi, associate director of KVM.

KVM farmers have redefined, reestablished and regenerated their mother-son relation with the soil. They feel a spiritual bond, oneness with the soil. That is why they are against all forms of agro-chemicals and burning of fields—to them it is a form of violence against the earth.

There is a common question usually asked from KVM activists. Does natural farming economics work? This spiritual soil science is also more financially beneficial to the farmers. After adopting natural farming they are spending far less from earlier chemical farming days. Natural farming is more cost effective and input efficient says Amarjeet Dhillon a small farmer from Dabrikhana village, who owns only two acres of land. For example, farmers having sugarcane and black gram in their farms have to spend virtually nothing on inputs, asserts Dhillon. He cites several examples where farmer had spent only Rs. 100-200 on inputs for one acre as against Rs. 3000 by a chemical farming farmer. “Some of us had stopped cash outflow to cities any more to purchase urea, DAP and pesticides and thousands of others have reduced this outflow of cash in a big way”, he adds.

On an average in Malwa’s cotton belt farmers are spending Rs. 7000 on chemical inputs per acre annually in normal conditions. If there are more pest attacks, then there may be no limit to this amount. There is a rough estimate that every village is spending a large sum of money—from Rs. 40 lakh to Rs. 6 crore—purchasing agro-chemicals, depending upon area of cultivation and cropping pattern. Natural farmers want to stop the loss of village wealth by bringing down farmers’ spending on agro-chemicals. This is kisan version of Swadeshi movement says Chamkour Singh of Dhudhike village of Moga district. Dhudhike is famous for being the birthplace of eminent freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai and other martyrs of Gadar movement. “Our farmers are no more going to serve MNCs or big agro-chemical corporations. We are evolving a framework for an agricultural Swadeshi movement in Punjab. We are going to redefine Boycott and Swadeshi in the present context that is why KVM has given a slogan to its farmers—MNCs quit our farms,” he adds.

KVM feels that there is an urgent need of Swadeshi agriculture movement to decolonise Indian agriculture and to liberate Indian farmer from the clutches of westernised agriculture and developmental paradigm being promoted by ICAR and state agriculture universities. This prototype is philosophically alien to our cultural moorings and stranger to ecological ethos and beliefs of our society.

The KVM’s natural farming movement has also brought another significant change in the mindset of farmers. Now they do not look towards agriculture university or departmental experts for expert advice any more. “We feel that every farmer of ours is an expert in himself; he practices this science of natural farming; he lives natural farming every day; he is totally engulfed with the philosophy of natural farming,” said Dr. Harminder Sidhu, a Homeopath practitioner and a practicing natural farmer from village Jalaldiwal of Raikot in Ludhiana district. “The modern agriculture paradigm has limited all expertise to agriculture universities only. The chemicalised agriculture model has made farmers scientifically illiterate—who presumed to be ignorant to every aspect of science and agri technology. This is a conspiracy which has made farmers dependent on universities, department, companies and even pesticide retailers. It is a cruel joke that those who get a three or five year degree in agriculture with a alien kind of agriculture knowledge, and who are practicing an agriculture knowledge of only 40 years old, are known as experts whereas the farmers who possess the agriculture wisdom of at least 5000 years are made commoners. We are not going to accept this nonsense any more. We are working to build self-confidence of our farmers on their own about agriculture heritage and wisdom. We are the nation with abundance in farm produces, agro-biodiversity and prosperity,” adds confident Dr Sidhu.

(The writer is Executive Director of Kheti Virasat Mission, a civil society action group based at Jaitu in district Faridkot of Punjab. He can be contacted at umendradutt@gmail.com)