Nammalvar Explains the entry of Fertilizers, Pesticides to India, the "Green" Revolution and the need to go back to Organic Farming.
G Nammalvar (or Nammazhwar) தமிழில் : நம்மாழ்வார் (1938 – 2013) was an Indian organic farming scientist. Hailing from the agro-based Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu, he was involved in preaching the farmers to get an edge in organic farming.
Nammazhlwar was born in 1938 in Elangadu, Thanjavur District, and he graduated from Annamalai University with a BSc degree in Agriculture. In 1963, he began working for the Agricultural Regional Research Station, a government organisation in Kovilpatti, as a scientist, conducting trials on spacing and manure levels of various chemical fertilisers in cotton and millet crops. During his tenure there, the government had conducted various experiments in rain fed land, using expensive inputs like hybrid seeds, chemical fertilisers and chemical pesticides which Nammazhwar considered futile as the rain fed farmers were resource poor. Based on his experience, he felt very strongly that it was imperative to totally reorient the research work being undertaken. But his peers at the institute paid little attention to his advice. Frustrated, he left the institute in 1969.
For the next 10 years, he was an agronomist for Island of Peace, an organisation founded by the Nobel Laureate Dominique Pire. His focus was on improving the standard of living through agricultural development in the Kalakad block of Tirunelveli District, Tamil Nadu. It was at this time that he realised that in order to get optimal results in farming, farmers should rely only minimally on external inputs. All inputs should come from within the farm. So called wastes should be recycled and used as input. This revelation was a turning point in his life. He completely lost trust in conventional farming practices and began experimenting with sustainable agricultural methods.
In the late 1970s, Nammazhwar became greatly influenced by Paulo Freire and Vinoba Bhave and their theories on education. The purpose of education should be freedom. Freedom is essentially self-reliance. Self-sufficiency means that one should not depend on others for one’s daily bread. Secondly, one should have developed the power to acquire knowledge for oneself. And last but not the least, a man should be able to rule himself, to control his thoughts and feelings.
Eager to propagate these new theories on education, specifically to aid farmers in becoming self-sufficient, he started a Society, Kudumbham in 1979. “Participatory Development” was the way forward. There can be no education without action. Nor can there be any action without education. Both go hand in hand. Nammazhwar interacted with local farmers, understood their needs, and based on their input, evolved farming practices suited to the local farmers.
In 1987, Nammazhwar attended a 4-week training course conducted by the ETC Foundation, Netherlands, on ecological agriculture. In 1990, he founded a network called LEISA (Low External Input and Sustainable Agriculture) to promote the concepts of ecological farming, specifically the importance of self-reliability and low external inputs. During the same year, he started an ecological research centre for rain-fed cultivation in Pudukottai district.