Looking to the past

Farming for the future: An introduction to low-external-input and sustainable agriculture Coen Reijnties, Bertus Haverkort & Ann waters BAyer Macmillan

By S Rajendran
Published: Monday 15 May 1995

IN THE traditional farming system, locally available resources that are cheap and sustainable have been used after repeated experiments with local knowledge for subsistence. While modern agricultural research made a big stride in many countries, most of the traditional systems of farm practices have been neglected. Be it crop or animal husbandry, fishery or forestry, new farm techniques and technologies have been developed to maintain food, fodder and fuel security. This has resulted in a market-oriented commercial farming system.

The vulnerable small and marginal farmers have also been made to depend on external sources and market for their inputs and other services. These farmers will soon reach the end of their tether. It is in this context that the book argues that a concentrated effort should be made by the knowledgeable farmers, the scientists and the extension workers together, to find out a package of farming practices that are sustainabe.

The researchers have found that the farmers are eager to learn by mutual exchange from their fellow farmers. External agencies, like the extension workers, with their pre-packaged solutions are suspect. Some 50 per cent of the Indian farmers prefer counsel from their fellow farmers. Moreover, their decisions about what to produce are based not only on market demand but also on what can or cannot be obtained in the market.

The authors highlight simple, appropriate, indigenous and integrated farming systems that are practised over the generations to maintain soil health, agro-ecosystems, weed management, livestock development, irrigation practices and productivity.

Such a book inherently runs the risk of becoming burdensome reading, but the mention of organisations and individuals working in these directions and the periodicals highlighting the relevant issues make it a valuable tome to have.

---Writer S Rajendran is a research officer at ISEC, Bangalore.

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