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  • K Sriram
    http://www.dnaindia.com/lifestyle/report_masanobu-fukuoka-the-man-who-did-nothing_1426864 Masanobu Fukuoka: The man who did nothing Published: Sunday, Aug 22,
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 24, 2010

      Masanobu Fukuoka: The man who did nothing
      Published: Sunday, Aug 22, 2010, 2:59 IST
      By Malvika Tegta | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

      More than 30 years after it was published, farmer sage Masanobu Fukuoka’s cult
      book One-Straw Revolution, continues to inspire. On the occasion of his second
      death anniversary, DNA talks toIndian farmers whose lives were transformed by
      Fukuoka’s radical vision of farming, nature, and life.

      Do-nothing’ or minimal interference is a radical idea. Especially for a
      civilisation obsessed with jumping from one complexity to another while
      simultaneously idealising simplicity. In 1983, a group of 20 farmers in
      Rasulia, a small village near Hoshangabad in Madhya Pradesh, was trying to find
      an alternative to chemical-intensive agriculture. Since 1978, they had been
      battling the legacy of the Green Revolution — hybrid seeds, pesticides,
      fertilisers — to redeem the promise of rishi kheti (farming as practiced by
      ancient sages), a practice that involves letting nature take its course. They
      had been successful. But there was more to be done, or rather undone. What that
      was, they weren’t sure. But they were open to learning.

      It was no coincidence, then, that they attracted the internationally recognised
      Japanese spiritualist and Buddhist farmer Masanobu Fukuoka into their lives.
      One of the Rasulia farmers, Pratap C Aggarwal, came across a review of
      Fukuoka’s The One-Straw Revolution. Here he heard of the ‘no-till’ technique, a
      farming philosophy pioneered by Fukuoka. Aggarwal couldn’t wait to read the
      book, which was not published in India back then. So he wrote a friend in
      London asking her to send him a copy.

      “I can never forget how, on receiving the book from the postman, I sat under a
      tree and read till it was too dark to see. I was lucky our house did not catch
      fire that afternoon, for I may not have got up to put it out!” writes Aggarwal,
      63, in the preface to the Indian version of The One-Straw Revolution.The book,
      first published in 1978 in the US, has become such a phenomenon that in June
      2009, The New York Review of Books republished the English language translation
      to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

      While Aggarwal and friends were curious to know the next course of ‘action’,
      the book asked them to leave the earth alone, not to plough it, and to let
      nature decide which seed it chooses to accept. Such was the spiritual authority
      and simplicity of Fukuoka’s book that the group sold their tractor and bulls
      against all dictates of ‘common sense’. Today the book, in its 21st edition,
      continues to move whoever is ready for the mystical realisation Fukuoka had at
      the age of 25, of which he wrote, “Humanity knows nothing at all.

      There is no intrinsic value in anything, and every action is a futile,
      meaningless effort.”

      The value of nothing
      Masanobu Fukuoka (1913-2008) was very much a man of science. While working as a
      plant pathologist in Yokohama, in Japan, in 1938, he suffered a ‘meltdown’
      because of long intensive hours spent in the lab. He then had a mystical
      experience. He was constantly pursued by the thought that human intellect was
      acutely limited and the solutions it can offer are necessarily myopic. With
      this insight, he went back to his father’s farm in Shikoku. One day, he noticed
      a long-unploughed field where straws of rice grew through a tangled web of
      weeds. That was that. He observed nature closely, surrendered to it, and over
      time realised that do-nothing was not ‘abandonment’ but the order of nature.

      Doing nothing does not mean being passive. “His message was this: Information
      comes to you without experimenting. Once you develop receptors to receive the
      message, then everything tells you; every object is continuously broadcasting.
      Receive it,” says Pune-based Vijay Vishnu Bhat who chaperoned Fukuoka around
      Bhaskar Save’s (the Gandhi of organic farming) farm on his last visit to India
      in 2003.
      In 1984, Bhat was a loan recovery officer in a bank in Kutch. The way
      agricultural products were being aggressively pushed on to the farmers,
      destroying their self-reliance, bothered Bhat.

      “Fukuoka saw it too. I realised that to free the farmer from financial duress,
      he has to be freed from his dependence on inputs,” says Bhat. All default in
      agricultural loans, he found, had arisen out of buying products not needed by
      farmers. So when not at work, Bhat would take to the field with other farmers
      to conduct experiments, like growing plants without irrigation.
      A philosophy of life
      More and more people are reading The One Straw Revolution, says writer and
      environmental activist Bharat Mansata. “And they are getting converted —
      because it talks about how industrial, chemical-intensive agriculture is
      unsustainable and is breeding a mounting spiral of problems such as groundwater
      pollution and loss of biodiversity. The future lies in organic, ecological
      methods.” In his forthcoming book The Vision of Natural Farming, Mansata talks
      about the similarities between Fukuoka and Bhaskar Save.

      The One-Straw Revolution is not only about the technicalities of natural
      farming but also a philosophy of life. It talks of crop rotation, but also of
      foolishness; of pruning trees, and also of raising children; of “drifting
      clouds and the illusion of science”. To many, it is a Bible on alternative

      “Fukuoka has taken the plant kingdom as an example to show that people know
      only a small part of the universe. For me, the book is an explanation of why we
      are going the way we are — trying to control, trying to be judgmental,” says
      Bangalore-based Intel employee Srikanth MA, who shuttles between his office,
      home and farm in Maralwadi, 50km from Bangalore, where they are planning to
      shift in five years’ time.

      Srikanth and his wife, Priti, a neurophysiologist, are wildlife lovers. For
      them, it started with planting trees to attract birds. Then they began to
      dabble in farming as a hobby, and started reading up on organic farming. “The
      One-Straw... opened up a whole new vision of life for us. Till then, we’d
      looked at farming only as a hobby. In 2005-06, we took it up as a way of life.
      The entire book is about that. It’s about living in harmony with nature,” says

      They contemplated home schooling their son Sriram, to make his learning
      holistic. At a home schooling conference, Srikanth made a friend who too was
      drawn by Fukuoka’s ideas on formal education — Shashi Kumar, an employee of IT
      major, Wipro.

      Kumar was not happy with his son’s schooling. “Fukuoka said that whatever you
      do, at the end, you have to learn with nature. If you learn this, then you
      start learning about yourself,” says Kumar, who went on to do more research on
      Fukuoka and was amazed by what he read. So he bought three acres of land 90km
      from Bangalore and moved there with his family. He commutes from his farm to
      work daily.

      When he started farming, Kumar did not ask anyone what to do and how to do it.
      He followed Fukuoka’s philosophy of observing. Initially, there was a lot of
      confusion. “We tried growing paddy; only weeds grew,” he says. Three years
      passed before the dry land yielded. “I wouldn’t even get the seeds back. But
      yield it did.” Today his farm has 100 banana plants, chiku trees and blueberry
      plants. “You can call it a leap of faith, but the book is convincing enough,”
      says Kumar.

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