Indian farmers: voice of the oppressed

Archive for January, 2010

Zero farming: no investment, yet guarantees good yield

The concept of natural farming, “revolves around the theory that ‘nature knows best’ and hence it is better to leave everything in her care.

“No ploughing, fertilizers or weeding needed to get a good harvest.”

That may sound like a fairy tale. But if one visits the farm of Mr. M.K. Kailash Murthy, of Doddinduvadi village of Kollegal taluk in Chamarajanagar district, you will realise it is true.

A banker who left his job to become a farmer, Mr. Murthy says, “external inputs are not necessary for getting a good yield.”


He calls this system of farming “zero farming method” and says, “reading the book The One-Straw Revolution written by Masanobu Fukuoka, a pioneer in natural farming in Japan, motivated me to follow this technique.”

The concept of natural farming, “revolves around the theory that ‘nature knows best’ and hence it is better to leave everything in her care,” he says.

In his 6.5 acres, Mr. Murthy, like several farmers, used fertilizers and pesticides and got a good yield.

Declining yield

“However, to my dismay, the yield started reducing steadily every year. Desperate to find a solution for this declining yield, I decided to experiment on the zero farming technique in my field.

“Except seeds, I did not use any other external input and a remarkable transformation started taking place gradually,” says Mr. Murthy.

The natural balance of the soil got restored, which transformed his fields into a mini-forest. Thousands of plant varieties, including many medicinal plants, started growing.

Bountiful birds

Several bird species and reptiles made their homes in the farm. “But this transformation was not an overnight miracle. It takes time,” he cautions.

On an experimental basis he harvested about 3 tonnes of paddy by this method from one acre against 1.18 tonnes harvested by his neighbours using fertilizers and modern techniques. “Farmers must understand that pests are natural occurrences. Left alone, the crops develop a resistance to them.

“Merely spraying the crops with pesticides will not control the pests. Initially it may seem to control, but in the long run the pests become immune,” he explains.

Myth broken

Zero farming method requires no investment but guarantees good yield. It dispels the myth that hybrid seeds, fertilizers, and pest-control techniques alone can guarantee good yield.

“Visitors can personally come and see my farm and if they desire, can emulate it,” says Mr. Murthy. Switching directly from chemical farming to natural farming is a risky proposition, according to him.

Soil productivity

“It is better to maintain soil productivity by adopting organic farming for at least three years before switching over to natural farming,” he explains.

In future, more than food crises, global warming threatens to create serious harm to the planet.

With this method of farming one can reduce global warming which in turn increases food production and protection of bio-diversity, according to him.

But how far is this technique reliable to feed the world population?

“In the last five to six decades, we have inflicted irreparable damage to the lands as a result of which agricultural output is declining.

“This method rejuvenates the land, which directly increases the food output. Instead of worrying about what to do to the land, we have to think about what not to do,” he concludes.

Positive report

Scientists from the Indian Institute of Horticulture Research, Bangalore visited his farm and endorsed his zero farming technique.

For more information contact Mr. M.K. Kailash Murthy, Academy of Natural Farming, Doddinduvadi village, Kollegal, Chamarajanagar district, Karnataka, website:, email:, mobile: 9880185757 and 9845125808.

Panchagavya: low cost organic input for both crops and animals

Dr. K. Natrajan at his farm in Erode, Tamil Nadu filtering the Panchagavya solution for spraying

Increasing input costs due to inflation, lack of proper marketing facilities, an indifferent government policy and an unpredictable monsoon are some of the identified obstacles in farming operations.

“Except lowering the input costs all other issues are not in the hands of the poor farmer.

“A low cost, easy to manufacture and proven input, which increases the yield finds popularity immediately among the ryots. And Panchagavya (PG)- organic growth promoter -seems to be the perfect choice for many,” says Dr. Namalwar, organic scientist.

Several hundreds of organic farmers across the country today use PG for their crops.

Organic movement

“While referring to historical dates we use BC or AD. Similarly the history of the organic movement can be divided into two different eras, before PG and after PG,” says Dr. Namalwar.

An organic crop nutrient it can be easily made by farmers themselves and used as a spray for crops and mixed with water while irrigating.

“Compared to chemical sprays, in the market which boosts good growth and yield, absence of similar inputs in organic methods was the main reason for the slow spread of the organic movement in the country,” says Dr. Namalwar.

Dr. K. Natrajan, a practising physician and organic farmer from Kodumudi town, Erode, Tamil Nadu discovered PG nearly a decade back.

“I never thought that our farmers would use PG in such massive quantities when I devised it,” he says.

Overwhelming response

So overwhelming was the response from farmers across the country, that the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore, did a scientific study on PG and submitted a report stating that PG does increase yield.

In fact the University also started marketing PG to farmers. “Being pocket-friendly accounts for its main popularity,” says Dr. Natrajan. One litre of PG can be manufactured at a cost of Rs. 20 if the inputs have to be bought (if the inputs are available in the farm, then there is no cost).

An acre requires about three litres of PG as spray. If mixed with irrigating water then 20 litres will be sufficient.

Input details

The following inputs are required for its manufacture:

About five kg of fresh cow dung, three litres of cow’s urine, two litres of cow’s milk, curd (made from cow’s milk) and toddy each, 500 gm of cow’s ghee, three litres of sugarcane juice and tender coconut water each and 12 bananas. Cow dung and ghee are mixed well in a plastic drum and covered with a lid. For three days the mixture should be stirred well once during the morning and evening. On the fourth day all the other inputs are added and stirring continued for 15 days.

Shelf life

On the 18th day, PG solution can be used either as a spray (after filtering) or along with irrigation. PG made by this method can be stored for nearly six months.

At regular intervals tender coconut water, sugarcane juice or jaggery diluted in water must be added and stirred well. In the unavailability of sugarcane juice about 500 gm of jaggery diluted in three litres of water can be used.


Similarly in the absence of toddy, two litres of tender coconut water sealed in an airtight plastic bottle for a week (in a week it will transform into toddy) can be used. In the absence of tender coconut water, two litres of black grape juice can be used.

Apart from crops Dr. Natrajan advocates PG as a medicine for cattle and poultry. “Cows yield more milk (nearly 2 litres more) when they are fed with PG.

Similarly the egg laying capacity in poultry chicken also increases. Animals which are fed with PG have been known to be more healthy and resistant to several diseases,” he says.

For more information on PG, marketing and training, contact Dr. K. Natrajan, Rural community action centre, R.S. Hospital campus, Bypass Road, Kodumudi, Erode: 638151, Tamil Nadu, phone: 04204-222469 and 222369, mobile: 9443358379.

A farmer develops a herbal pest repellent after suffering from chemical pesticides

Farmer chelamuthu spraying his herbal pest repellant.

Though agricultural discoveries by farmers get dubbed ‘accidental,’ they are born out of a creative restlessness.

“It is this restless feeling within me which guided me to find an alternative — a herbal pest repellent —safe for both crops and the person spraying it.

“I did not want another person to undergo the same suffering I underwent after I fell sick because of continuous usage of chemical pesticides,” says Mr. K.M. Chellamuthu, an agricultural labourer in Kodumudi village in Erode District of Tamil Nadu.

Today more than 20 villages in the district are using the herbal spray developed by him.
Good example

Mr. Chellamuthu stands out as a classic example of how chemical pesticides cause a devastating effect on the health of those spraying it.

“For nearly a decade my work involved spraying these’ toxics’ on other people’s fields for a living, and about three years back I suffered a severe paralytic stroke which left me bedridden.”

Dr. K. Kodumudi Natrajan, (inventor of Panchagavya) a civil surgeon in Erode who treated Mr. Chellamuthu says:

“There are a number of similar cases which come to my hospital. Most of themare labourers who earn a daily income of Rs.40-50 for spraying the chemicals.

“Especially in Erode and surrounding areas turmeric and other crops are grown on an intensive scale commercially, and use of chemicals becomes very extensive. While spraying the chemicals, they inhale the vapours and over time, fall sick. Many of them also suffer from rashes on the skin.”
Protective gear

Do they not wear any protective gear while spraying these chemicals?

“Practically nobody in these areas wears them. Severe sweating, and inability to move freely with the protective gear are the common complaints of these people,” says Dr. Natrajan.

Being a strong supporter of organic practices, Dr. Natrajan advised Chellamuthu to use bio pesticides and other locally available safe pest repellents. “On the doctor’s advice I seriously started thinking of using bio pesticides. Before that I never knew anything about them,” says Mr. Chellamuthu.

Based on guidelines from Dr. Natrajan, Mr. Chellamuthu developed a herbal pesticide which he advocates as “ideal for any crop”.

Giving details on its manufacture it he says: About one kg of garlic, 500 gm of ginger, green chillies and tobacco each, 200gm of pepper, 200ml neem oil and 30 gm khadi soap are required.
Soaking overnight

The garlic should be first soaked in 100 ml of kerosene overnight, and ground with green chillies and pepper the next day.

Tobacco is to be soaked in water for a day and then filtered and mixed with 200 ml of neem oil. The two solutions must be mixed together. Finally, khadi soap should be added and the mixture stirred well.
For an acre

The total quantity of the mixture will be about seven litres. This entire quantity is sufficient for an acre.

For an acre, 700 ml of the mixture must be diluted in 10 litres of water and sprayed. About 10 tank sprays (10 litres capacity) are sufficient for an acre.

Initially, many farmers did not want to use this spray as they were afraid that it might damage their crops.

“I sprayed it secretly on my uncle’s field on his turmeric crop. On seeing the result, my uncle was surprised and asked me what I had sprayed. It was then that I told him about my finding,” he says.
Encouraging feedback

Slowly other farmers also started enquiring and Mr .Chellamuthu taught this practice to several farmers and the feedback is quite encouraging.

“It costs only between Rs,100-200 to make this herbal spray. If one has to buy chemicals, then you have to spend Rs 600 toRs.700 for an acre,” he explains.

Mr. Chellamuthu also sells the herbal pest repellent in bottles priced at Rs.50 each. The National Innovation Foundation, honoured the farmer for his work.

For more information readers can contact Mr. K.M. Chellamuthu at Karukkamapalaym, Oonchalur Post, Kodumudi via, Erode District, Tamil Nadu, phone: 04204-266127, mobile: 9486602389.

A farmer’s experimentation leads to a highly popular drumstick variety

Alagarsamy with his new drumstick variety.

In agriculture, personal experience and an inquisitive mind are two known ingredients for success.

“Often, we come across reports of some farmer developing a low cost invention which becomes popular. Mr. Alagarsamy in Dindigul district, Tamil Nadu has developed a high yielding moringa (drumstick) variety named PAVM which yields for nearly 8-9 months a year,” says Mr. P. Vivekanandan, Executive Director, Sustainable Agriculture andEnvironmentalVoluntaryAction (SEVA), Virattipathu, Madurai.
All praise

The variety has become such an instant hit with hundreds of farmers in Dindugal, Coimbatore and Erode areas that even scientists from the Horticultural College and Research Institute (under the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University), Periyakulam are all praise for Mr. Algarsamy’s path breaking finding.

“I am basically a post-graduate in arts and my 10 acres of land, unemployment and an inquisitive mind led me to develop the new variety,” says Mr. Alagarsamy.

Through a procedure called air layering, selected branches from the main tree are cut and soaked in Panchagavya solution and coir pith placed over them.

A polythene sheet is spread over them and secured with a thread. In about 3 weeks the grafts grow new roots after which they are separated from the main tree. The layers are then planted in polythene bags after removing the polythene sheet.

The polythene bags are placed in the nursery for about 20 days after which they can be planted in the main field.”
Less water requirement

Compared to other high yielding varieties, PAVM requires less water and starts yielding from the 5th or 6th month after planting. “About 150-200 kg of matured pods can be harvested from a single tree from the second year of planting,” says Mr. Alagarsamy.

If organic practices are followed, the fruits become fleshy and weigh about 200 gm each and stay fresh for nearly a week.

Mr. Rajendran, a farmer from Dindugal who has planted this variety says:

“I got an income of rupees one lakh from my one acre in a year as this variety yields substantially in my red soil, is resistant to diseases, and responds well to organic practices.”

Another farmer Mr. Kuppusamy from Erode district, Tamil Nadu says:

“Initially I planted about 200 grafts in my one acre and spent about Rs.50, 000 (for one year) for labour, weeding and manures. The trees came to harvest from the sixth month and the harvesting is done once a week. At present, I am harvesting about four bags a week (a bag weighs 500 kilos). The pods are sold at the rate of Rs.5 to Rs. 20 in the local market.”
Harvesting tonnage

“Annually about 20 tonnes of moringa pods can be harvested (at an average of 100 kilos per tree with 200 trees in an acre) from this variety,” says Mr. Alagarsamy.

In some fields the trees planted along the hedges recorded more yield than those planted inside the field. A farmer can easily get a gross income of Rs. 2 lakh a year and after deducting Rs.75,000 as expenses, a net profit of Rs.1.25 lakhs can be obtained.

Mr. Alagarsamy so far sold more than 10 lakh grafted seedlings to nearly 3,000 farmers in Dindigul, Madurai and Coimbatore districts. Nearly 6,000 acres in these three districts come under this variety.
Annual profit

In a year about 2.5 lakh seedlings are produced from his nursery which fetches him a profit of Rs. 6 lakh a year. Mr. Alagarsamy has been conferred a host of awards from several organisations for his effort.

Readers can contact Mr. P. Alagarsamy at No:6/39, south street, Pallapatti, Nilakottai Taluk, Dindigul, Tamil Nadu, mobile: 98653 45911 / 97917 74887 and Mr. P. Vivekanandan, email:, phone:0452-2380082 and 2380943.

A farmer’s quest for a solution ends in pig success

Rangaprabu in his white pig farm at theni.

Farmers, equipped with an acute sense of traditional knowledge and wisdom, find a solution even when scientists seem to give up hope on dealing with some infestations or pests.

“A farmer’s perseverance and determination in finding a cure for his problem has brought about surprising results,” says Dr. G. Namalwar, organic scientist.

Take the case of a farmer named Mr. G. Ranga Prabu at Pudhupatti village in Theni district, Tamil Nadu. With several acres of cardamom plantations and nearly 1,000 local variety coconut trees, Mr. Prabu had nothing to worry about in terms of monetary returns.
Difficult solution

But problems started some years back, when several of his coconut trees started to wither. Though a number of reasons were attributed by experts, hundreds of trees in Theni, Bodi and surrounding areas started to die.

“We tried our level best to control this problem by spraying chemicals. But it only aggravated the situation rather than control it. Like me, several farmers were desperate for a solution,” says Mr. Prabu.

Government officials who visited the district advised the farmers to cut the trees and were willing to pay Rs.250 as compensation for every tree cut to prevent the spread of infestation.

Mr. Prabu had also cut down some trees from his garden. About 100 hybrid white pigs are also grown in the coconut garden. The pig sheds are cleaned at regular intervals by two manual labourers. The dung and urine of the pigs are diverted through a small pipeline which flows into an open well.

“This saved my men a lot of labour, as otherwise they have to manually transport the waste to some other place and dispose it,” says Mr. Prabu. As usual, the well water was used for irrigating the coconut trees.
Surprising result

“In about 6-7 months, I was surprised to see many of my sick trees becoming healthy. Even the trees marked for cutting down starting growing. New fronds were noticed in almost all my trees,” says Mr. Prabu.

In addition, each tree started bearing about 80-100 nuts (a tree under normal conditions bears 60-70 nuts a year). Seeing this transformation, farmers and officials have started visiting his farm. At present, the coconuts are being sold at Rs.6 each and the demand for the nuts is “encouraging,” he says.
Some alterations

Mr. Prabu decided to use the same method of using pigs’ waste on his cardamom plants with some alterations.

Accordingly, he added one litre of diluted effective organisms (EM) along with 10 kg of pigs’ dung, 40-50 litres of pigs’ urine, 1kg of jaggery and virgin soil (soil in which no chemical fertilizers or pesticides are present) each.

“The result was amazing” says Mr. Prabu. “It took 6-7 months to see the results for my coconut trees but when I sprayed the EM solution on my cardamom, “I was able to see the result in 24 hours. All the leaves became dark green in colour, the foliage more dense and the cardamom which was plucked was well formed, healthy with a pleasant smell.

“But farmers should take care to use water from a borewell or open well for making EM and chlorinated water should be avoided,” he emphasises.
Price of an animal

In addition Mr. Prabu also sells his pigs. Full grown animals (10 months) reach a body weight of 125-135 kg and are sold for Rs. 12,500 each (1kg costs Rs.100).

For more information readers can contact Mr. G. Ranga Prabu, No 136/7, Panchayat office street, C. Pudhupatti, Theni district, Tamil Nadu: 625556, mobile:9962552993.

Sustainable farming: low investment, maximum returns

Mr. V.S. Arunachalam

Fertile soil and adequate water resources, though important, cannot alone ensure a good yield. Inputs such as fertilizers and manures are essential.

“Today chemical 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 chemicals 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 land 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 crop yields but also safeguards the soil, water, and climate. It protects those who use and consume it.”
Low cost

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.
Income from paddy

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.
Banana mulch

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.
Additional revenue

“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 farmers?” he asks.

For more information, readers can contact Mr. V.S. Arunachalam, email:, Kulavikaradu, P.vellalapalayam,(po), Gobichettipalayam, Erode, Tamil Nadu, Pin:638476, mobile: 9443346323.

Self-help groups come to the rescue of farmers, farm women too

Sadhu Deepthi SHG members

Economic independence becomes important for empowering farmers, especially farm women. “Such an empowerment can be achieved through the formation of women self help groups (SHGs) or farmers’ clubs.

“Through the formation of such clubs farmers feel more secure, can learn and earn more than what they can do in isolation,” says Dr.V.A. Parthasarathy, Director, Indian Institute of Spices Research (IISR), Kozhikode, Kerala.

“It is not as though those working individually are not secure. What I mean is that instead of working individually, if farmers and women come together to form groups then their output in terms of productivity and remuneration will also increase substantially.”
Getting subsidies

“With so many problems plaguing agriculture today, a farmer stands a good chance of getting subsidies, loans and professional guidance if he joins a group or creates one,” says Dr. Parthasarathy.

In addition, these groups are also good stress-busters. In terms of crop failures or other unknown reasons these groups help the farmer to unwind and relieve his mental stress, he emphasises.

For example Sadhu Deepthi is the name of an SHG with about 20 farm women (whose husbands are mostly farmers), as its members at Kakkayam village in Kozhikode district.

Most of these women have little formal education and have land holdings from 3 cents to 4 acres. Mr. P.A. Mathew, Programme Coordinator, and Dr. T.K. Jacob, Principal Scientist of IISR, periodically guide these women on vegetable cultivation, fisheries, plant propagation, dairy, piggery, poultry, vermicomposting, preparation of botanical pesticides. The members are taken on exposure tours to successful units.

According to Dr. Parthasarathy, particularly now when our country’s agriculture production is going through a plethora of problems, a lone struggle by an individual farmer may not be noticed.

Financial aid

“But if they come together and form a group, then it becomes easy for them to voice their grievances if any. Also, it is becomes easier for banks to extend financial aid to such groups than to a single individual.”

But merely starting a group does not solve any problem. It boils down to arranging finance for the members to start their own enterprise.

“The group was initially linked to a co-operative bank for availing loans to start various income generating activities and they are repaid out of the profit gained through several activities of the group,” explains Dr. T.K. Jacob
Minimal interest

Mrs. Daisy Francis, Joint Convener of the group, says: “Many of us had availed loans and have completely repaid the amount from the income that we generated out of our activities.

“As of now, each member has a share of Rs.5,000 to Rs. 9,000 and any member can avail a loan of up to Rs.30,000 at a very minimal interest and can repay in easy instalments.

“We never depend on the local money lenders,” explains Mrs. Daisy.

All the members cultivate vegetables organically to meet their needs, using vermicompost produced by them.

About ten women members started dairy units with two to seven cows. Each member gets a net profit of Rs.100- Rs.140 per day per cow through the sale of milk to the nearby milk co-operative society.

They also earn Rs.2000 to Rs. 14,000 through the sale of cow dung in a year. Some of them get an additional income of Rs.5,000-Rs 6,000 through the sale of calves.

Four members started a goatary unit, each with 3-7 Tellicherry breed goats, which brings an income from Rs.1,000 to Rs. 9,000 every year for each woman. In addition, the goat’s dung bring them an additional income of Rs 2,400 to Rs. 5,000 per year.
Local resources

Mrs. Sainaba a member says, “the expenditure on each goat is around Rs.100 per year towards medicines and we do not spend any additional amount on feed, as sufficient green fodder is locally available.”

Every group member has started a poultry unit with an initial supply of 280 chicks and increased the number of birds to 2,000 in the same year. The women earn up to Rs.11,000 through the sale of eggs and meat in the local market.

Two women have started rearing ornamental fishes and have sold them for Rs.4,800 within a year.

The KVK has also been rewarded and rated as “excellent” in its activities for promotion of farmers’ groups in the State of Kerala by the NABARD.

For further details, contact Mr. P.A. Mathew, Phone: 0496-2662372, e-mail: and Dr. T.K. Jacob, Principal Scientist, e-mail:, mobile: 09447539967.

Scope for converting human waste into useful crop manure

Using human waste as crop manure can save expenditure on fertilizers for the country's budget

Human waste may invariably evoke strong and repulsive reactions.

“But scientific studies in different parts of the world have proved that human excreta particularly urine will become as precious as gold if only mankind knows how to manage it scientifically,” says Mr. M. Subburaman , Director, Society fo r Community Organization and People’s Education (SCOPE) at Tiruchi, Tamil Nadu.

Every individual produces on an average 450 to 500 litres of urine and 60 kgs of faeces per annum.

Human urine is by far the largest contributor of wastewater. About 80 per cent of nitrogen and 50 per cent of phosphorus derived from urine accounts for just one percent of the volume of wastewater.
Good results

According to Mr. M. Subburaman, research all over the world has revealed that urine when used as a fertilizer has yielded excellent results in crop yield.

However these studies have been done only in European countries where the climate and soil conditions are different from our country.

The Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore (TNAU) has taken up studies on the impact of urine on paddy crops and also on urine storage under tropical conditions.

The University signed an MOU with SCOPE for a research project (for two years) and at a cost of Rs.4.2 lakhs to conduct trials on paddy crops at Musiri village in Tamil Nadu by using urine as a liquid spray. (the outcome of the research will be officially announced by the University soon.)

“Fertilizers such as urea, phosphate and potash were applied to crops grown in experimental plots and diluted urine was applied three to four times as a spray. The spray was stopped one month before harvest,” Mr. Subburaman says.

SCOPE has specialized in ecological sanitation which aims at ensuring safe and sustainable management of human excreta, which at the moment contaminate the environment.
Organic manure

“If at least 35 per cent of the people in our country having toilets switch over to ecosan toilets, it will enable the country to produce over 65 million tonnes of fertilizer (N,P,K) which is environmentally friendly form of organic manure.

This can save our government from spending nearly Rs.800 crore every year in its budget for buying fertilizers,” explained Mr. V.Ganapathy, Liaison Officer. But sourcing the urine was a big problem initially, because sizable quantities of human urine were not available for our research.
Open defecation

“Due to open defecation by over 65 per cent of the population and inability to collect urine from those who were using pit latrines, septic tanks and sewage systems made it impossible for us to collect urine for research.,” explains Mr. Subburaman.

In what way has this ecosan toilet helped?

By constructing ecosan toilets, urine collection has become easier. There is a separate provision in the ecosan toilet for collecting the urine and faeces separately and this type of toilet is more environment friendly as the need for water usage has drastically come down.
Collected separately

The urine, faeces and washwater are collected separately and the urine is used for agriculture.

The faeces gets composted in the ecosan chamber and is free from E-Coli and salmonella, when it gets dehydrated in a period of about 8 months.

The washwater may contain some particles of faeces and the same from the ecosan toilet is collected in a filter bed and allowed to ooze out into the ground for promoting plant growth.

Full impact

The full research on this field will go a long way in making our environment more sustainable for for promoting higher productivity.

Thousands of farmers across the country are visiting the fields to know more about the ecosan toilets and using human wastes as manure for crops.

For personal visits and more information contact Mr. M.Subburaman, phone: 0431-2774144, mobile:94431-67190, email: and, web: and Mr. V.Ganapathy, email:, mobile: 94431-09032.

A practical solution for turning drylands into productive areas

Drylands can be turned into productive areas with careful planning and strategies.

Water as a natural resource has been subject to so much misuse and abuse. As a result today there is an acute shortage of water.

“Unlike scientific inventions, water cannot be invented. One has to depend on the clouds for it.

“Monsoon failures and sudden heavy downpours with flash floods washing away a major portion of the water and fertile top soil into the ocean show how difficult the situation can be,” says Dr. G. Nammalvar, organic scientist.

In the name of industrialization and urbanization, trees have been cut. With the absence of trees, rains fail and this has a direct impact on the planet. While others may feel it, farmers experience it acutely, and monsoon failure results in a disaster for farmers, especially dry land cultivators.
Moisture retention

For a farmer who depends on rains, conserving every drop of water by increasing moisture retention in the soil is important. Maximizing yield with less water should be his objective.

To achieve this one needs to integrate mixture cropping, tree growing and animal breeding. Thus the by-product of one unit will serve as input for another. Labour utilization will be optimum.

Even farmers having fertile land and abundant water resources are finding it hard to practice commercial agriculture. How can a small dryland farmer hope to succeed?

“A dryland is not nature-made,” he says. Nature is always flourishingly rich. Drylands are man-made.

When one goes on cutting trees, over a period of time the area becomes barren and unproductive due to the absence of surface water and ground water recharge.

In due course, farmers sell these drylands to traders who buy these lands for a throwaway price and sell it as commercial plots for a huge amount.

“With farm lands shrinking and erratic climate patterns, increasing food grain production and food security does become a vital point to ponder,” emphasises Namalwar.

Is there any inexpensive way to convert these drylands into fertile lands?
Proper planning

“By proper planning and initial low investments drylands can be made productive. For example cropping patterns have to be closely monitored.

Farmers can grow drought resistant native crops which require less water. Also the native varieties are resistant to pests and infestations,” explains Dr. Namalwar.

In addition farmers can dig small ponds, or pits in their fields. These serve as effective rain catchers. They can grow fishes such catla, roghu, mirgal and grass carper to get additional food and income when the pits get filled with rain water.

Growing azolla

If they have cattle, azolla can be ideally grown in these water bodies. The azolla can be harvested and used as a feed for their cattle and poultry as it has been proved that azolla increases the milk yield in cattle and egg laying in chicken.

The dung from their cattle can be applied time and again over the land. In about 3-5 years they can see for themselves the results, how their lands are turning into productive areas.

If there are trees in the area, farmers can collect the dried fallen leaves from the ground and apply them all over their lands as these leaves serve as effective mulches.

They prevent evaporation of moisture from the soil, serve as shelters for earthworms and also act as effective weed suppressers.

Not only the leaves, any waste which is available such as kitchen waste, garbage (except polythene or plastic material) can be collected and converted into compost and then vermicompost.
Sustainable livelihood

Integrated multi culture is not only mitigating the impact of climate change it brings about sustainable livelihood for producer and consumer.

“But this procedure does not produce an overnight miracle. It takes a minimum of 3-5 years of patience and labour to prepare the land for cultivation under proper guidance,” he says.

Readers can contact farmers such as Mr. K. Muthusamy, mob: 9786383917, Mr. A. Govindaraj(9843684992), Mr. S. Ramakrishnan,(9786780202), Mrs. Sakunthala, (9843313426), Mr. Maruthamuthu, (9843313426), Mr. Thandayuthapani, (9943010527), Mrs. Banumathi, (9894320349), Mr. K. Darmaraj, (9843692674), Mr. R. Govindaraj, (9787754301), Mr. Chidambaram, (9245802516), Mr. Anbarasan (9360712402), Mrs. Malliga (9843313426), Mrs. Jothi (9843313426) to learn how these farmers have successfully converted their drylands into productive ones.

For personal visits to the fields readers can contact Mr. K. Murali, Indian Organic Agriculturists Movement, email: mobile: 94425-31699.

‘Villages must become self-reliant to increase food production’

When the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, envisioned ‘gramaswaraj,’ he would never have dreamt that the country’s agriculture sector would face numerous problems as it is, today.

“From price increase to lack of marketing opportunities, today’s farmer finds himself in a cauldron of problems.

From seeds to labour, a farmer has to depend on external sources today for growing his crops,” says Dr. Kamalassanan Pillai, Bio-technologist, Head of R&D, VK- NARDEP, Vivekanandapuram, Kanyakumari.
Two ways

According to Dr. Pillai, for agriculture to become viable, villages have to become self-reliant. This can be achieved only if natural and sustainable farming systems are practised and easy marketing channels are established. “Without these two crop failures and suicide stories could continue to haunt us,” he emphasises.
Concentrate on seeds

“The first thing farmers should concentrate on is the seeds,” he says.

Farmers should carry out seed selection after every crop, so that they can improve upon the productivity of the native seed.

Instead of buying hybrids, they should sow and preserve native seed varieties. The next thing is inputs in the form of manures.

With most of the villages having cattle and livestock, manufacturing organic inputs must become an important agenda for every farmer. Farmers should concentrate more on bio-manure from animals, biomass waste and liquid bio-manures.

The third factor is marketing. Every village must have a place (called eco-shop) where the produces from the farmers’ fields and organic inputs such as bio-fertilizers, vermicompost, trichoderma viride and azospirillum are made available to farmers and interested persons.

Has such as project been achieved in any village so far?

Dr. Kamalasanan Pillai with some villagers of Kozhikodupothai village.

Yes, under a project called bio farm started by the Vivekananda Kendra in Kozhikottupothai village in Kanyakumari district.
Basic plan

The basic philosophy of bio-farm, according to Dr. Pillai , is that the farm and home level diversity of subsystems has to be increased. That is, livestock, poultry, vermicompost unit and biogas plant are linked to the local ecological and economical context of the farmer.
External dependancy

“By doing so, the external dependency of the farmer reduces progressively over the years, and his food security increases,” he says.

Bio-farm empowers the farmers to use and take care of the local common resources by revival of local knowledge systems with expert guidance.

In also includes farm-level processing of agri-produce, enabling the farmers to enhance the shelf-life and direct marketing to the consumers, which we are yet to be tried.

Are there plans to expand such eco-shops in the near future?

We will help other NGOs and like minded organisations in opening such eco-shops in other parts of the State or country based on our experience at Kozhikottupottai.

Initially a paddy growing area, the lure of more income from rose flowers from a major flower market nearby made the farmers of Kozhukoothupatti shift to chemical rose cultivation.
Low yield

Though at first they were satisfied with the returns, over the years there was a decreasing return both in terms of yield and income, while at the same time the input costs were escalating.

It was then that the Vivekananda Kendra-Natural Resources Development Project (VK-NARDEP) went to the village to establish the biofarm project.

The village today is completely organic and farmers manufacture their own animal manures and leaf extracts which help to repel pests and reduce disease incidence by enhancing the internal energy system of the crop.

Once known for its high debt rate among farmers and stone quarries in neighbouring hills, Kozhikodupothai village today stands transformed into an outstanding example of sustainable agriculture.

For more details and visit to the village readers can contact Dr. Kamalassanan Pillai, Bio technologist, Head of the R&D, VK- NARDEP, Vivekanandapuram, Kanyakumari – 629 702, Tamil Nadu, email:, mobile:9387212005.

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