Fertile soil and adequate water
resources, though important, cannot alone ensure
a good yield. Inputs such as fertilizers and manures
are essential. “Today c"emical fertilizers
cost a lot, and a sudden shortage in their availability
makes a small farmer desperate for an alternative,”
says Dr. G. Namalwar, organic scientist.
In addition to buying these
chemical at a high cost, and applying them, a
farmer cannot be assured of good yield. “Constant
application of these chemical salts makes even
a fertile and barren over time and it takes several
years to reclaim the land,” he explains.
“The only alternative
to this,” according to Namalwar, is “sustainable
agriculture or natural farming, which has proved
that it is capable of not only increasing crops
yields but also safeguards the soil, water, and
climate. It protects those who use and consume
Natural or sustainable agriculture
is low budget, easy to manufacture, effective
against pests and infestations, and more important,
is safe, according to Mr. Arunachalam, inventor
of Aatootam and an organic farmer at
Gobichettipalayam, Erode district, Tamil Nadu.“Take
my own case as an example. Our family had purchased
three acres nearly eight years back at a very
low price as the soil was highly alkaline and
was considered a liability.
People were telling us that no crops can be grown
in such a soil. Using chemicals was out of question
as we were against it.On advice from Dr. Namalwar
we first did multi-seed sowing (with various minor
legumes and grains) in the land and after a month
the germinated seeds were mulched back into the
soil. And since then we have never looked back,”
Mr. Arunachalam says.
They raised some traditional
paddy varieties in the same land and earned about
Rs. 1,90,000 from selling the paddy. Later about
1,800 banana tubers were grown in the same field.
The crop is into its 11th cycle and
the fruits are harvested once in eight months.
Each banana bunch is sold at between Rs. 100 to
Rs. 190, and has fetched a sum of nearly Rs. 1,80,000.
The banana mulch that remains
each time after the harvest has piled on to about
a feet above the original soil level. “There
is no weeding, no inputs, and no costs as it is
a continuous self managed cycle that only requires
harvesting,” adds Mr. Arunachalam. Vegetables
such as ladies finger, brinjal, chilli, ridge
gourd and pumpkin, papaya, green gram and black
gram are grown as intercrops in the banana field
and have fetched nearly Rs. 10,000. Timber and
fodder value trees are grown as fence and border
crops along the field bunds.
Two kangayam (native variety)
bullocks were bought at Rs. 8,500 each, when they
were one year of age.Within six months, they were
sold at Rs. 50,000 in the annual local cattle
fair. By the time they are sold, the animals are
well trained to be efficient load carriers.
The dung of the bullocks and
about 15 Thalacherry goats are mixed with the
water used for irrigating the fields. This acts
as good manure for the soil. The wastes of the
goats are also used for making Aattootam.
“The sale of the Aatootam fetches
me about Rs. 1,00,000 a year. In addition the
income from selling the goats brings an additional
Rs. 60,000. Papaya fruits and seeds are used to
feed my ten cocks. They are trained as fighter
cocks and are sold for Rs. 1,000. In a year I
get Rs. 10,000 from selling these birds,”
says Mr. Arunachalam. None of these traditional
animal breeds (be it bullocks, goats or cocks)
is vulnerable to any disease and there is no cost
incurred in getting them market-ready. “If
I can earn rupees six lakhs from my three acres
in 365 days, without spending much on inputs,
why not other farmer?” he asks.
For more information, readers
Mr. V. Arunachalam,
kulavikaradu, P.vellalapalayam, (p.o), Gobichettipalayam,
Erode, Tamil Nadu, Pin: 638476.
The Hindu, January 01, 2009