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INFOTERRA: Organic Farming Long Ago (fwd)
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- Subject: INFOTERRA: Organic Farming Long Ago (fwd)
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- Date: Tue, 3 Jun 1997 00:04:21 -0400 (EDT)
- Resent-Date: Mon, 2 Jun 97 22:24:42 GMT
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Comments by: Craig Harris@SOC@SSC
Forwarded to: out[email@example.com]
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 2 Jun 1997 18:06:31
From: "A.M.H.KANGO" <email@example.com>
Subject: Organic Farming Long Ago
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
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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