India needs agricultural renaissance - Bhaskar Save PART 2 (2/8/2006)

Here's an introduction to the farm of Bhaskar Save and other documents sent in support of Bhaskar Save's Open Letter to M S Swaminathan - the 'father' of India's 'Green Revolution' and a key promoter of GM crops in India.

You can read the Open Letter (and Annexure 1) here:

The supporting documents below provide:
*An Introduction to Bhaskar Save's Farm
*Opinions of Visitors
*A Biographical Note on Bhaskar Save
*Guidance on Dryland Mixed Cropping for Diverse, Continuing Yield in Low Rainfall Areas
ANNEXURE 2: An Introduction to Bhaskar Save’s Farm, Kalpavruksha

(Adapted extracts from Chapter 2 of  ‘The Vision of Natural Farming’ by Bharat Mansata, Earthcare Books)


(On Nature’s way and her silent workers – the soil-dwelling creatures, earthworms, weeds – at  Kalpavruksha.)

“Natural farming is blessed by Annapurna, the mother goddess of abundant food for all that lives.” Bhaskar Save, 84 year-old man of the earth, speaks with quiet conviction, grown from long experience. He has lovingly nurtured a magnificent natural orchard and farm near the coastal village Dehri, a few kilometers north of the Gujarat-Maharashtra border.

 “Thousands of useful plant species, indigenous or long-adapted to local conditions, grow in this country. Thus graced with Nature’s generosity, why should our people ever have to suffer lack of food or any basic want?” asks Bhaskar Save.

At the gate of Save’s verdant 14 acre orchard-farm, Kalpavruksha, a bright blue sign in white lettering reads “Su-Swagatam”, the traditional Indian greeting of an auspicious welcome. About twenty steps from the gate is a sign that says: “Co-operation is the fundamental Law of Nature.” – A simple and concise introduction to the philosophy and practice of natural farming!

Further inside the farm are numerous other signs that attract attention with brief, thought-provoking sutras or aphorisms. These pithy sayings contain all the distilled wisdom on nature, farming, health, culture and spirituality, that Bhaskarbhai has gathered over the years, apart from his extraordinary harvest of food!

If you ask this warm, humble farmer where he learnt his way of natural farming, he might tell you, “my university is my farm”. His farm has now become a sacred university for many, as every Saturday afternoon (Visitors’ Day) brings numerous people. Included in such weekly entourage have been farmers from all over India, as also agricultural scientists, students, city folk, senior government officials, ‘V.I.P.s’, and occasional travellers from distant lands, who have read or heard of Bhaskar Save’s work. 

Kalpavruksha compels attention, for its high yield easily out-performs any modern farm using chemicals. This is readily visible at all times! The number of coconuts per tree are among the highest in the country. Some of the palms yield over 450 coconuts each year, while the average is almost 400. The crop of chikoo (sapota) – planted over forty years ago – is similarly abundant, providing an average of 300-350 kg of delicious fruit per tree each year.

Also growing in the orchard are banana, papaya, and a few trees of date-palm, drumstick, areca-nut, mango, jackfruit, toddy palm, custard apple, jambul, guava, pomegranate, lime, pomelo, mahua, tamarind, neem, audumber, …; apart from some bamboo and various under-storey shrubs like kadipatta (curry leaves), crotons; and vines like pepper, betel leaf, passion-fruit, etc.

Nawabi Kolam(or Surati Kolam) – a delicious and high-yielding, native variety of rice, several kinds of pulses, winter wheat and some vegetables too are grown in seasonal rotation on about two acres of land. These provide enough for this self-sustained farmer’s immediate family (consisting of ten members, including four grand-children), and an average of two guests. In most years, there is some surplus of rice, which is gifted to relatives or friends, who appreciate its superior flavour and quality.

The diverse plants on Bhaskar Save’s farm co-exist as a mixed community of dense vegetation. Rarely can be seen even a small patch of bare soil exposed to the direct impact of the sun, wind or rain. The deeply shaded areas under the chikoo trees have a spongy carpet of leaf litter covering the soil, while various weeds spring up wherever some sunlight penetrates.

The thick ground cover is an excellent moderator of the soil’s micro-climate, which – Bhaskar Save emphasises – is of utmost importance in agriculture. “On a hot summer's day, the shade from the plants or the mulch (leaf litter) keeps the surface of the soil cool and slightly damp. During cold winter nights, the ground cover is like a blanket conserving the warmth gained during the day. Humidity too is higher under the canopy of dense vegetation, and evaporation is greatly reduced. Consequently, irrigation needs are very low. The many little insect friends of the soil thrive under these conditions.”

Tillers and Fertility Builders at Kalpavruksha

It is not without reason that Charles Darwin declared a century ago: it may be doubted whether there are many other creatures that have played so important a part in world history as have the earthworms. Bhaskar Save confirms, “A farmer who aids the natural regeneration of the earthworms and tiny soil-dwelling organisms on his farm, is firmly back on the road to prosperity.”

Earthworms flourish in a dark, moist, aerated soil-habitat, protected from extremes of heat and cold, and having an abundance of biomass. These tireless workers digest organic matter like crumbling leaf litter along with the soil, while churning out in every cycle of 24 hours, one and a half times their weight of rich compost, high in all plant nutrients.

Vermi-compost – or earthworm compost – is a treasure of fertility. In relation to the surrounding parent soil, the intricately sculpted worm castings may contain twice as much magnesium, five times as much nitrogen, seven times as much phosphorous, and eleven times as much potash [8]. Moreover, the bacterial population in such castings is nearly a hundred times more than in the surrounding soil. Save estimates that at least 6 tonnes of nutrient-rich castings are provided by the earthworms each year in every acre of his land. That is more top-grade organic fertiliser than most farmers can afford to buy!

The earthworm’s tunnelling action efficiently tills the land, imparting a porous structure to the soil. This increases its capacity to hold air and moisture, the most important requirements of plant roots. The worm castings are similarly well-aerated and absorbent, while allowing excess water to drain away. They also form stable aggregates, whose soil particles hold firmly together, and thus resist erosion.

Various other soil-dwelling creatures – ants, termites, … many species of micro-organisms – similarly aid in the physical conditioning of the soil and in the recycling of plant nutrients. And there


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