INFOTERRA: Organic Farming Long Ago (fwd)

Comments by:       Craig Harris@SOC@SSC
Forwarded to:      out[sanet-mg@amani.ces.ncsu.edu]


craig harris
dept of sociology
michigan state university

   -------------------------- [Original Message] -------------------------      
Prof. Kango takes a look at some of the agricultural practices during his
grand father's times and brings out the wisdom in those organic farming

He has written this piece, especially for the infoterra mailing list.

-The Postmaster
Sustainable Development Networking Programme,   Phone: 051-270684,270691
PO Box 3099, House 26, Street 87, G-6/3,        Fax: 051-270688
Islamabad 44000, Pakistan.                      email: root@sdnpk.undp.org

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 2 Jun 1997 18:06:31 
From: "A.M.H.KANGO" <kanga@pind.sdnpk.undp.org>
To: root@sdnpk.undp.org
Subject: Organic Farming Long Ago


"The results (of chemical-free farming) take two or three years and 
often patience. I'm just trying to teach what I've seen work since I 
was a kid. Many people this far into the hills couldn't afford 
pesticides in the past so they learned how to enrich the soil and 
prevent diseases by mixing crops." Chico Maldonado.

Sher Muhammad was the elder of the village and a renowned rice 
grower. He transplanted the best quality of rice, the Sugdasi' and a 
local variety, the Kangni; and harvested a crop that yielded more 
than it is doing today with all the water, chemical fertilizer and 
the insecticide. He was a real progressive farmer of his times. He 
was my grandfather. Every time he went to the fields, I had his 
finger in my hand. He did the teaching but though I did learn but 
never practiced. 

This was in 1939, when the green revolution in agriculture was still 
not in sight . The high yielding varieties of IRRI-6  rice and 
Mexican wheat were not even in the minds of scientists. The chemistry 
of chemical fertilizers was not yet formulated. The Rice Canal, one 
of right bank canals of the famous Sukkur Barrage was recently 
commissioned (1932). We had lands that were earlier irrigated by 
inundation canal, the Gharwah on the bank of which was the river port 
of Larkana and famous market the Giles Bazaar. (Giles was Collector 
of Larkana under the British rule). Larkana at that time was Eden of 
Sindh or City of Garden. We had also a share in this environment; we 
had gardens of mangoes in our village, a few miles north of Larkana.

During inundation seasons, we had some patches of rice in salt 
affected areas, since there was enough water for leaching down the 
same. However in winters, there was no canal water and we drew water 
from the wells by means of Persian wheels and irrigated winter crops 
like wheat, vegetables, etc. There was a piezometer pipe just outside 
the village. I remember once our teacher took us on a tour of village 
surroundings. He showed us the pipe and told us that it was for 
measuring the depth (water table) of water. Someone brought a rope, a 
small stone was tied to it and lowered. We found that the water was 
at a depth of 32 feet. We found the same depth in open well which was 
out of use since 1932.

The Sukkur Barrage brought blessings - more water, cooperative 
society and new technology of the time. The water was in abundance 
and more area was brought under rice. Additional water beyond the 
actual water requirement of rice (maturity 120 days) was allowed and 
called pancho water - to meet the leaching requirements. This 
continues to be supplied till to-day. The mango can't withstand 
excess water in its roots. Thus one by one the mango trees died. The 
last a decade ago.

My grandfather was also the Chairman and Secretary of the society. 
Somebody would come from the Department of Cooperatives and give Rs. 
10 or so as loan to the members. At the time of recovery, the 
official would ask my grandfather to pay on behalf of the defaulter 
and recover from him when he was able to pay. This my grandfather 
promptly did. Many years after when I became Director (Banking 
Operations), Federal Bank for Cooperatives, I found this tradition 
still in vogue though in a different form.

The cooperatives provided technical assistance as well. The farmer 
used a chisel plough to till his lands. With more water available and 
the soils getting harder, the chisel plough tore the soil and formed 
big lumps of soil which had to be broken by crushing. The 
cooperatives gave us a new agricultural engineering technology that 
consisted by some Egyptian ploughs, a Jenkins clod crusher and a 
wooden roller. Jenkins was an agricultural mechanical engineer at 
Agricultural Research Institute, Mirpur Khas, later the workshop was 
shifted to Hyderabad, Sindh.

This was a sight for good kids, me included to follow the plough and 
see inverting the soil. The Jenkin's clod crusher was a very good 
ride because it had a wide platform for the driver to steer the 
bullocks. It was highly jolting though. My memories were refreshed 
when in Texas, some where on a ranch, we had a hay ride, through the 
dust and no wind.

The environmental change, if it ever comes through a slow evolution, 
maintains a balance in nature. But who waits for it. The good earth 
opens up its treasures, but all its resource wealth could be 
exploited without giving it time to replenish and leave nothing for 
the posterity. This is what should not happen. There are ways to do 
it and there are examples to follow.

My grandfather would not give me classroom lessons. I now realize he 
was passing on his knowledge and training me to be a good farmer 
which I was not destined to be. He would collect the best stock for 
seed. He would do the selection a mechanical separator can't do. This 
has to be done in the field. There is tome when the grain is ripe but 
not over ripe. We know that the unripe grain does not make good seed, 
because it has less germination vigour; like wise the over ripe seed 
has lost its vigour. The seed has prime importance in agriculture. No 
amount of fertilizers can help grow a healthy plant out of weak seed.

The fertilzer though is a must to supplement nutrient deficiencies in 
the soil. Our scientists have done a good job to classify soils and 
recommended the doses and types of fertilizers. The chemical 
fertlizers however react with other elements and produce new ions. 
This process changes the chemistry of the soil and ultimately refuses 
to respond favourably to any amount of chemical fertilizer. The soil 
becomes calcareous and contains fixed salts which are no so easy to 
remove, except by nature through heat, light and weather change.

The best solution my grand father found was through fixation of 
nitrogen by following rice with leguminous crops like gram and farm 
yard manure which he could obtain by settling sheep herders on the 
fallow land. There was an abundance of acacias on the farm 
boundaries. These with their pods would be fed to the lot. The leaves 
would add humus to the soil and improve its texture. The tree 
branches would be used as fire wood and the pruned trees would grow 
with increased vigour in the next spring.

The yield of Sugdasi was more than 40 maunds per acre. The straw was 
bonus and season long enough to provide green fodder to milch animals 
for 120 days. Now the tractor has replaced bullocks, the milch 
animals are no more, the fertilizer is washed away in the drain with 
pancho water and the pesticides have killed the benign insects. The 
biological control of insects in no more in view. The trees have been 
cut or reduced in number to have bigger fields and thus less firewood 
in energy scarce area. Now even cow dung cake is not available to 
keep the stove burning.

The lesson: Let us not decry old methods and antagonize the nature. 
The pinch of over exploitation of natural resources is already being 
felt. Though it is five years past Rio Conference, no tangible 
reconciliation with nature appears to be in view. If the earth has to 
survive, it will have to be dealt with at its own terms. The nature 
would guide us as well as warn us. As for agriculture, I wish my 
grandfather was with me again. His memories would be fresh only if we 
follow his methods for organic farming.

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