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This Kollege farmer thrives despite drought all around, thanks to worms

 

Animal lovers, step aside. This farmer from Kollegal taluk takes pride in protecting the smallest of nature, namely Microbes. And because of this focus, he has created a world where nature appears in all her glory.

When BM visited Murthy’s farmhouse, which has never gone dry, we found he uses only natural methods of farming and shuns artifical inputs.

Tucked away in a village in Kollegal taluk is an oasis amidst miles and miles of barren land. While Karna-taka reels under the worst-ever drought in 40 years, a farmer of Doddinduvadi village here has managed to keep his 11-acre farm green and fertile.

The fact that land has come alive is visible when Murthy shows Bangalore Mirror a handful of soil collected in his bare hands.

Wriggling and kicking in the wet soil are a number of worms and other life-giving organisms.

“We fight to save elephants and tigers. I do not say that is wrong. But we never talk of saving the microbes, though they are the ones that will end up saving the earth and other living beings too. The microbes are the kings. They are the protectors of biodiversity,” says Murthy.

He explains that the microbes allow the soil to be fertile and allow the plants to grow wild. And of course, if there are plants and trees, the other beings follow and soon you have a forest. This also helps conserve water in the process.

For Murthy, who follows the natural method of farming, artificial inputs are the villain. They are the reasons that cause the death of microbes, he says.

“Chemical farming, soil erosion due to deforestation, direct exposure to sunlight and changing the soil atmosphere frequently do not give the microbes a chance to adapt to the changes. I call this a crime against microbes!” he says.

“The microbes create colonies in the soil and conserve water for the plants, and that way we don’t require lakes and dams.”

This champion of water conservation explains that the idea of artificial lakes and dams is wrong as there are other more effective ways to conserve water. “We have many other ways to conserve water. Dams or lakes cause more evaporation of water.

The water once evaporated goes to the seas and then it is impossible to get it back as ground water,” he says.

He says deposits from the water get accumulated and form silt thereby not allowing the water to enter the ground. “What is the use if we are not able to conserve the water underground?”

Such practices have ensured that despite farms next to his being almost barren with their ground water levels plummeting way below normal, Murthy’s farm has groundwater.

“I have abundant water in my farm. I can get water just 65-70 ft below the ground, whereas the others need to dig for close to 1,500 ft or even more,” he says.

“Farmers, the water conservation board, engineers and the agricultural department need to pay attention to water conservation in fields. Farmers need to adopt appropriate methods that can help them save up to 80 per cent water in their fields,” Murthy says.

Of the water on his farm, he uses only 10 per cent for agricultural purposes. “Another 4-5 farmers can use this water in my farm. I conserve 90% of the water. The plants survive with sunlight. I use small pipes to water my plants and yet look at the bunch of healthy mangoes growing on my farm,” he points out.

The farm also has a variety of vegetables and fruits. The fruits are of a good size and different varieties. “From mangoes, to drumsticks, I have secured my future with what I get from my farm.”

For many years now, Murthy has not consumed any fruit from outside his farm. “Food security is what matters at the end of the day. That way, we have just lost the battle. We have gone ahead and practised the unnatural way of farming and groundwater has depleted severely,” he says.

Ask him how he effected the transformation of land into a min-forest and he says he did nothing.

And nothing was exactly what Murthy did as he let the land be and allowed nature’s healing powers to take effect on it.

Murthy says intensive artificial inputs such as fertilisers and chemicals decreased the soil fertility, increased soil erosion and destroyed the food chain of its predator and prey population.

“In the ancient days, people grew all they needed around their houses without ploughing. They used to believe food grown on unploughed land is healthier. But what has happened now? How much are we spending on our regular medical check-ups?” he asks.

When he took over the land, Murthy gave the usual way of farming a break. He left the land without tilling, not using chemical fertilisers or pesticides. All he did was scatter seeds at random.

Surprisingly, within two years, there was a miraculous transformation. When the soil’s natural balance was restored, the 11 acres turned into a mini-forest, a self-sustaining eco-system.

“We are being misinformed that pesticides or fertilisers are good for crops. By the use of these, we actually end up killing the natural defence mechanism of our plants. Like us, even plants sense changes in the climate and adapt on their own. We are also told pests need to be removed from trees. That too, is wrong. Plants build their own mechanism to battle the pest,” Murthy says.

Murthy calls photosynthesis the best process. “Plants breathe and respire through a beautiful process. We don’t have to do anything. They manage by their natural process and grow,” he says.

The mini-forest that is Kailash Murthy’s farm is in stark contrast to the parched farms in the vicinity.

He loves weeds

Weeds are of great importance in the fields, he says. “What we call weed is the protector for millions of microorganisms living under the soil. If we count the number species present above the soil and the number beneath the surface of the earth, the latter is higher. Therefore, we need to allow these microbes to grow as they hold the fertility of the soil.”

Murthy says that even by weeding out the small plants, we are actually allowing water in the soil to evaporate. ” When small plants and shrubs grow below the plantations, the sun rays do not directly hit the ground and the chances of the water getting evaporated are slim. Even when it rains, the water settles in the soil.”

Murthy calls natural farming a simple process. “Allow the plants to grow by themselves. We don’t have to do anything, they grow with sunlight and photosynthesis will help them grow. Even dry leaves and branches that fall from the trees should be allowed to settle wherever they have fallen and that is the way, we need to allow the bio-diversity to grow,” he says.

He has over 135 species of plants, trees, herbs, medicinal plants in his farm.

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