L Narayana Reddy, a pioneer of organic farming in India, passed away earlier today at the age of 83 from natural causes.
An influential figure, Reddy would often hold classes on organic farming over the weekends at his farm in Doddaballapura Taluk, Bengaluru Rural district, which is more than 50 km away from Varthur.
After running away from his village as a young boy, Reddy first found a job as a cleaner in a local restaurant. In the following years, he completed school, learnt typewriting, found another job as an office attendant before being promoted to manager.
From the savings he generated, he bought a piece of land in his native village Sorahunase. Growing ragi and maize on his farm, Reddy practised conventional farming using chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
“The first mistake I made was going to an agricultural university. I quadrupled my yield with chemical farming. I got the best farmer of the country award in 1976,” he told an audience of students in 2017, reports Bangalore Mirror.
However, buying these farm inputs was proving to be an expensive proposition and six years after first purchasing the farm, he had his mind set on starting a business.
His life changed when he met a NASA scientist at an ashram, who gave him a copy of Japanese organic farming pioneer Masanobu Fukuoka’s ‘One Straw Revolution.’
Reading the book many times over entirely transformed his perception of farming, and by 1979 went back to the land growing crops without using chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
This idea was dismissed by several farm experts at the time, even though it did a lot for the preservation of land.
Despite low yields in the first year, the subsequent years saw levels of productivity that nearly matched the ones he had been earning earlier.
While other farmers and experts chided his shift to organic farming, Reddy and his wife soldiered along, and with locally available irrigation systems, he began growing coconuts and sapota. He went on to grow peanuts, coffee, guavas, mulberries and soyabean, besides a whole host of other crops.
However, a landmark moment in his life arrived in 1988, when Fukoaka visited his farm in Varthur on an invitation from a local NGO.
“The happiest day of my life was when he came to my farm. I didn’t know he was coming. My most valued teacher is Fukuoka. I got the gift of meeting him personally. You are lucky you have his book. Distribute it among your friends. His message is for humanity,” he told students at Azim Premji University in Bengaluru in 2017, reports Bangalore Mirror.
Following this, in 1992, a group of representatives from the European Commission (an institution of the European Union) invited him to give a seminar on organic farming in Brussels, Belgium.
Over the years, he addressed a host of seminars and public meetings on the value and techniques of organic farming not just in India, but across the world.
Until his passing, Reddy would teach organic farming to those interested at his other farm. He also wrote a regular column in the Kannada daily Prajavani on its benefits, in addition to responding to queries by readers.
“Organic farming took over his life. Farmers from all over the world sought a meeting with him from time to time, and he would not hesitate to arrange it. Even on days when the family celebrated a marriage, he sometimes held classes,” says his son Jagadish in a conversation with The News Minute.
A great loss, indeed.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)