Lawrence F. London, Jr. - Venaura Farm - Chapel Hill, NC, USA
mailto:london@sunSITE.unc.edu  http://sunSITE.unc.edu/InterGarden
mailto:london@mercury.interpath.net  http://www.interpath.net/~london
Piedmont Online http://sunSITE.unc.edu/piedmont piedmont@sunSITE.unc.edu
Title: 160_Masanuba_Fukoukas_Natural_
Subject: Re: Masanuba Fukouka's Natural Farming??
Date: 24 Jan 1996 02:59:59 GMT
From: cearsk@waikato.ac.nz (Gavin Kenny)
Reply-To: cearsk@waikato.ac.nz
Organization: CEARS, University of Waikato
To: sustag-public@amani.ces.ncsu.edu
References: <4defjr$7t5@ruby.interactive.net>, <4dh9v2$gf3@metro.ucc.su.OZ.AU>

In article <4dh9v2$gf3@metro.ucc.su.OZ.AU>, slead@extro.ucc.su.OZ.AU says...
>sgriese@interactive.net (Stephen Griese) wrote:
>>Has anyone read or heard about a man named Masanobu Fukouka (sp?).
>>I'm interested to hear others' opinions on his methods.....
>I read 'The One Straw Revolution' a few years ago, and at first I was
>very impressed by his message. I recently reread it, while doing a
>university assignment on organic farming, and I must say I was
>considerably less bowled over as I read it more critically.

I first read Fukuoka's book 12 years ago, and still have a copy.  I
recently picked it up again, after experiencing first hand the poverty
of rural Bangladesh.  My reaction was quite the opposite to yours.  I
was more deeply struck by the truth of what he says.  As I read it I
kept in mind that his approach is essentially Buddhist, so that what may
seem to be negative is actually the putting forward of ideas to stimulate

As a scientist I am constantly critical of what I do and why.  I attend
conferences and see a lot of wasted energy.  Modern science has created
some wonderful advances, which we all benefit from.  But also many
problems, which we are busily trying to fix through science and technology.
Fukuoka essentially says that we need to remind ourselves of nature.
In our endless pursuit of knowledge, we forget this connection.  Are we
a part of nature or apart from nature?  How much do you think we really
understand about nature?

We don't have to live Fukuoka's modest life to put in place the fundamentals
of his methods.  He has developed his own philosophy of living and his
own unique relationship with his land.  He speaks from experience, not
from uninformed arrogance (which is not a comment on yourself).

>Fukuoka (again, sp?) seems to totally oppose modern society, and all
>that it stands for. I agree with many his opinions regarding the
>ridiculous nature of conventional agriculture, with its total reliance
>on chemicals and mechanisation, etc. However, he seems to be
>advocating a return to the mediaeval times, where everyone works on
>the farm 12 hours a day, to eke out an existence.

This is a bit heavy.  Fukuoka is a philosopher.  It seems to me he lives
a life of abundance.  Think of the peasants in Bangladesh and other
developing countries, who work from dawn till dusk.  Who are constantly
in debt to money-lenders because of the high cost of fertilisers and
pesticides, who live on the edge of existence constantly, who grow barely
enough to feed their families, whose yields are declining because they
have been seduced by the wonders of modern agriculture and no longer
return their paddy straw to the soil, and now suffer declining soil
fertility.  The simplicity of Fukouka's approach could do wonders for
these people.  It may not appeal to you, but it could benefit many millions,
who cannot even afford a radio, let alone a CD player.

>If everybody spent all day farming and weeding, etc, how would humans
>progress? Who would design such conveniences as videos, CD players,
>even the internet? I personally happen to enjoy using all of these

Time you detached from your cosy existence and saw the reality of the
vast majority of people in this world.

>Throughout 'The One Straw Revolution' Fukuoka seems to be saying
>"aren't they all stupid for doing what they're doing", while smugly
>suggesting that his way of farming is the only true way. He tells us
>how unenlightened all the university and department people are who
>come to his farm to see how clever he is. I personally found the book
>too 'preachy' by far.

It is a philosophical book as much as anything. You happen to personally
disagree with his approach.  I happen to see things the opposite way.
A man who spends 40 years of his life developing and living his philosophy,
before he writes a book, is no preacher as far as I am concerned.  He is
a man of wisdom.  I find his thoughts very challenging.  They have
challenged me to think more deeply about my own approach to farming the
small holding that we own.

>For my money, the best conservation farming books are the
>'permaculture' books, especially the "Permaculture Designer's Manual"
>by Bill Mollison. This book, and others like it, are full of
>solutions, rather than criticisms. Mollison also advocates the use of
>technology, including re-thinking of system designs, in rendering
>agriculture more efficient.

I have met Mollison once, and heard him talk once.  I found him to be
a very cynical person.  I have, in the past, been much more impressed
with David Holmgren whose dissertation formed the basis for Permaculture
One, which he and Mollison co-authored.

Here is a quote from a "Mother Earth News" article

MOTHER:  Bill, do you think Fukuoka's type of natural farming is included
in permaculture?

MOLLISON:  It's not only included but welcomed.  Actually until Fukuoka
wrote The One Straw Revolution, I had a mindset against all grain farming,
so I didn't include it in my first book, Permaculture One.  Now I know
that the approaches of both these other gentlemen (referring to Fukuoka and
Wes Jackson who are also interviewed in this article) fit naturally into
the permaculture framework.  Indeed, Fukuoka-san and I are basically the
same person.

I think this is a pretty arrogant response from Mollison, but that is the
way he is.  The point is, neither he nor Fukuoka make the distinction
between their approaches that you have made.

>Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed Fukuoka's book, I just think he is being
>too simplistic to suggest the we all work in the fields all day long,
>when that's not what most people would be happy doing.

To finish:

In the same article mentioned above...

FUKUOKA: Part of my purpose is to create a society where no one has to do
MOTHER: I beg your pardon?
FUKUOKA: [Draws a picture of a man sleeping under a tree]:  This is a
natural farmer, sleeping in the sunshine.  He does no fertilising, no
ploughing, no weeding --- almost no work.  You could say I have been
sleeping for 40 years, yet my yields are as high as those of the farmer
who works all the time.

And later... out of context, but this a nice way to finish:

FUKUOKA:....... You can think of us three (himself, Mollison and Jackson)
as being on the horse of Don Quixote.  It looks like we are saying different
things, but we are really on the same horse.  The horse is running toward
disaster.  Wes Jackson's trying to stop the feet of the horse.  Bill
Mollison's trying to turn the head of the horse. [Laughs]  I'm just hanging
on to the horse's tail!


Find the book, read for yourself and form your own opinions