MS Balasubramanian doesn’t believe in conventional farming: “It is said that farming cannot be done without chemicals as we need to increase food production. When there is no food, there will be starvation, but is it right to feed poison to people?”


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In Nagapattinam district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, a group of organic farmers have set up a producer company on their own effort. These farmers have conserved 180 varieties of traditional rice eleven of which are produced today. They are seed savers, procure funds on credit loans, produce chemical-free food, and market it without any government support.

A narrow, winding lane dotted by solar-powered street light leads to MS Balasubramanian’s house. Balasubramanian, who left Tamil Nadu’s capital Chennai in the 1990s to practice agriculture on a four-acre plot in Pagasalai village near Sirkazhi, was among the farmers protesting against the Green Revolution. “Farmers dumped huge quantities of urea on their land, only to find later that this had neither solved the pest problem nor increased production,” he says. “On the contrary, the soil hardened, reducing its capacity to retain water.”

Having decided to go organic, Balasubramanian worked on encouraging the microbes giving life to the soil. Keen to learn more about seed saving, and natural pest control measures, he got to know the Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems (CIKS), an NGO, which has been working on traditional knowledge systems and organic farming for over 20 years in Sirkazhi town, in the Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu.

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