Bhaskar Save, the Gandhi of Natural Farming
On the 27th January, 2014, Bhaskar Save – the acclaimed ‘Gandhi of Natural Farming’ – completes 92 years. He has inspired and mentored 3 generations of organic farmers. In 1997, Masanobu Fukuoka, the legendary Japanese natural farmer, visited Save’s farm. He described it as “the best in the world”, even better than his own farm.
Indeed, Save’s farm is a veritable food forest; and a net supplier of water, energy and fertility to the local eco-system, rather than a net consumer.
Save’s way of farming and teachings are rooted in his deep understanding of the symbiotic relationships in nature, which he is ever happy to explain in a simple, down-to-earth idiom to anyone interested. In 2010, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) honoured Save with the ‘One World Award for Lifetime Achievement’.
Bhaskar Save’s 14 acre orchard-farm, Kalpavruksha, is located on the Coastal Highway near village Dehri, District Valsad, in southernmost coastal Gujarat, a few km north of the Maharashtra-Gujarat border. The nearest railway station is Umergam on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route.
About 10 acres at Save’s farm are under a mixed natural orchard of mainly coconut and chikoo (sapota) with fewer numbers of other tree species. About 2 acres are under seasonal field crops cultivated organically in traditional rotation. Another 2 acres is a nursery for raising coconut saplings that are in great demand.
The farm yield is superior to any farm using chemicals. This is true in all aspects of total quantity, nutritional quality, taste, biological diversity, ecological sustainability, water conservation, energy efficiency, and economic profitability. The costs (mainly labour for harvesting) are minimal, and external inputs almost zero.
A residential learning centre on natural farming is proposed to start in a few months at Bhaskar Save’s farm.
Natural farming and its fruit
Natural farming is holistic and bio-diverse organic farming in harmony with nature. It is low-intervention, ecological and sustainable. In its purest advanced form, it is a ‘do-nothing’ way of farming, where nature does everything, or almost everything, and little needs to be done by the farmer. This can best be achieved in a progressive manner with tree crops. As Bhaskar Save explains, “When a tree sapling planted by a farmer is still young and tender, it needs some attention. But as it matures, it can look after itself, and then it looks after the farmer.”
With annual or seasonal field crops, more continuing attention and work by the farmer are needed, but even here, the work and input needed progressively diminishes as the soil regains its health and symbiotic biodiversity is re-integrated.
“Who planted the great, ancient forests?” asks Bhaskar Save. “Who tilled the land? Who provided seed, manure, irrigation, or protection from pests? … In our forests, untended by man, the (human)food trees – like ber, jambul, mahua, mango, wild fig, wild sapota, tamarind, etc. – yield so abundantly in their season, that the branches sag with the weight of the fruit. The annual yield per tree is commonly over a tonne, year after year, carried away by forest dwellers, including man. But the earth around each tree remains whole and undiminished. There is no gaping hole in the ground! If anything, the soil is richer.
“From where do these forest trees – including those on rocky mountains – get their water, their nitrogen, phosphorous, potash? Though stationary, Nature provides their needs right where they stand. But arrogant modern technology, with its blinkered, meddling itch, is blind to this.
“Our ancient sages understood Nature’s ways far better than most modern day technologists,” says Bhaskar Save. He quotes the Upanishads:
Purnamidam Purnat Purnamudachyate
Purnasya Purnamadaya Purnamewa Vashishyate’
This creation is whole and complete.
From the whole emerge creations, each whole and complete.
Take the whole from the whole
(respectfully, as many times as you need)
the whole yet remains,