Sir Albert Howard called Indian Farms an Estate

Before we start talking about Sir Albert Howard let us reconcile the fact that the global food is contaminated with agrochemicals at least in big cities and towns of the World.

The model of development that we have accepted over years has made us to eat petrol and diesel along with rice, bread and vegetables in our platter. The way villagers are running toward cities, is considered as progress, the same way as a country is known as developed which consumes exhaustive energy. And this has coined a new term in Western developed countries - the Food Mileage, meaning how much your food has travelled to reach you. A survey reveals that the Food Mileage for England and USA is between 1000 to 1200 miles. Now, when the food is brought from such a distant places by airplanes, ships, trucks or trains, their transportation will eat that much more petrol or diesel, and pollution is imminent and common man pays for it.

Gandhiji had warned us 100 years back about the trade of food, now prevalent, by tearing at nature, when he started Swadeshi Andolan [Self grown food movement]. This also meant that growing food in vicinity of your dwelling rather than bringing from distant places. Even in America some alert citizens are following this principle, thereby the concept of Locovore * is taking roots. They ask the shop keeper about the source and place of the things they buy.

Gandhiji did one more thing. In 1915 when he came back from South Africa to join the Freedom Movement, at the advice of his political mentor Gopalkrishna Gokhale, he toured the entire country, nook and corner, and then realized that he has to take the farmers also along with him because 75 percent population of India are farmers and they live in villages. Thereby he was right in his approach and succeeded in bringing freedom to India. The non-violent (Ahimsa) way was the motto.

Like Gandhiji, a British agricultural scientist Sir Albert Howard had accepted Indian farmers as his hero. The British Government had sent him to India to teach our illiterate novice farmers the real productive farming by using chemical fertilizers and all. However, Albert saw and was astonished that Indian farmer can and is growing good, productive crops with the use of only decomposed animal dung thrown on garbage heap. \"If this is so, then where is the need for chemicals, and what shall I teach them?\" He asked himself.

And this is how Sir Howard\'s journey to Indian farming system began. To give scientific shape to India\'s agriculture what he wanted was farmland where he could convert his concepts into practice. This was provided to him by the H.H. Holkar, King of Indore.

In 1923 Sir Albert Howard established the Institute of Plant Industry in Indore. For 11 years he worked on collecting Cow dung, Cow urine, water and crop residues to convert them in organic manure and finally succeeded in developing Indore Method of Compost Making, a feat acclaimed all over the world.

Soon after Sir Albert went back to England in 1934. He breathed his last in his hometown on 20th October 1947. In the year 1940 his wife published the book \"An Agricultural Testament\" written by him. Those were the days when 2nd Word War was to begin. The war ultimately ended in 1945. Soon after the huge quantity of left over explosives like ammonium nitrate etc. and insecticide DDT manufactured to kill mosquitoes in Vietnam War caused the problem for their disposal. It was then decided to divert them to use in agriculture the world over and era of chemical farming began. Big industries to manufacture chemical fertilizers and pesticides were established and agriculture fell into the grip of these harmful chemicals.

The past 70 years have not only polluted human body with residues of these harmful chemicals but also made farming an expensive proposition. Their residues entered human body through food grains, milk, meat and vegetables, resulting in epidemics of ailments like diabetics, obesity, blindness, disability (lameness) and cancer, to name a few. These residues even entered mother\'s wombs resulting in newborn children with disability and diseases. These chemicals entry into mothers\' milk carried the residues of pesticides like DDT into children\'s body. Eating of contaminated food made people full of anguish, violent and despair.

The main cause of these ailments and disorders is the contamination of soil and farm land. This is the reason why the UNO has declared year 2015 as soil year. The message is \"Stop Agro chemicals and adopt organic farming.\"

Sir Albert Howard was a great visionary. He started research on Indian farming system for the betterment of the society. He never considered research as a business or means of earning money, but the prime object of his research was aimed at growing healthy crops with minimum investment. All the main points he stressed in his book \"An Agricultural Testament\" (\"Hamari Kheti ka Vasiyatnama\" in Hindi and \"Eka Shetiche Varsapatra\" in Marathi language) should draw attention of agricultural scientists, Policy makers and social groups of this country in order to formulate progressive and far reaching programmers.

Following are the salient points stressed in his book:

  1. Soil is the only Asset of this earth. Never over look it. If we utilise the input material lying in the neighborhood of the farm and fields to make the soil fertile, rest of the production process will become easier.
  2. The downfall of mighty Roman Empire was the result of ignorance to agriculture and farmers.
  3. Human population is the real strength of every country. If we provide them two square meals every day, cloth to cover their body and roof on the head, then no power can stop our progress. But if they are ignored or deprived of these basic needs, then no bigger or biggest capital investment can save the country. For India\'s prosperity there has to be a balance between prosperity of villages, financial planning of the country and farming system.
  4. Our farmland soils should have Carbon: Nitrogen ratio (C: N Ratio) of 10:1 order. This strengthens the soil and crops to fight the menace of insect pests and diseases.
  5. Never consider agriculture like industry. If the arithmetic of profit and loss, same as in industry, enters the realm of farming, then no power can save the farmers.
  6. Farm Yard Manure or dung manure is the basis of our crop productivity, ignorance of this wealth has been the weakness of western countries. Any research done by ignoring the concept of dung usage in farming will result in farmers ousted from their farms.
  7. Farmers of Europe should learn from Indian farmers the ways of soil conservation.
  8. Our agricultural scientists accept the results of laboratory research as final and try to apply them on full sized farms which are ridiculous.
  9. The man resource for agricultural productivity is the micro-organisms invented by Louis Pasture and earth worms by Charles Darwin.
  10. Seeds of high yielding varieties increase the crop production to the extent of only 10 percent, but the fertile soils will increase cent percent.
  11. Farming system does not work on the principle of statistics. Results of a 10 meter by 3 meter size plot cannot be applied to a large sized farm.
  12. Learn \"More and more from less and less.\"
  13. Our research has ignored farm animals. Application of statistical and mathematical principles in agriculture will ruin the farming system.
  14. Farming should not be viewed piecemeal but should be considered in totality.
  15. England could save its potato crop only by organic way. When chemicals entered in farms there, pests attack started.
  16. England citizens should promote chemical free, holistic foods in their schools. Not only this but Organic farming method should be included in school syllabus there.
  17. Kitchen gardening should be made compulsory for every city dweller.
  18. Woman folk of England should promote organic gardening in each and every village.
  19. Research centers need a complete overhaul. The system made and run by Government is expensive and factitious. Drop it. Ignore time consuming meetings and committee reports. Reduce the number of agricultural experts and scientists to make farming profession developed and prosperous.
  20. Indian climate and temperature does not suit for packaged food.
  21. Farming system should be left to selected men and women who have done factual research on proven ground. There should be balance between science and practice and usage because different places have different set of climates, so one cannot device one set of recommendations for all places. It needs constant visit to places and follow up.
  22. I have learned from Indian farmers that productive, profitable farming can be done without the help or knowledge of entomology, plant pathology and plant genetics.