Person of the Week: Patanjali Jha

Dear Readers,

In this interview series where we ask questions to people who are making a difference, it can be big, it can be small, it doesn’t matter, what matters is their contribution to our society. It can be anyone from any walk of life and from any country. Please, do send us suggestions of people whom you think we should interview for this series.

patanjali_jha

 Patanjali Jha is a commissioner in Indian Revenue Services in Bhopal, India. He has pioneered and experimented on the concepts of multi layered and no till farming at a farm called Vanya. He shared his experience with us in following conversation.

  1. Tell us something about yourself?

 I am by qualification a post graduate in Economics from Delhi School of Economics.  I joined the Indian Revenue Service in 1986.

  1. Can you explain philosophy about Vanya and why you decided to pursue this?

 About 15 years back I read Fukuoka’s  One Straw Revolution and could figure out that the philosophy of sustainable growth is the answer to most of the ills of our world in particular our country.  Once I got interested in natural farming as a major environmental and economic solution I read all classic literature ranging from Albert Howard to Bill Mollisons permaculture and figured out that a country which is so rich in sun energy, arable land, young population and rains the best way to harness them all is by resorting to natural farming which is no tilling, no chemical fertilizer pesticide etc. and growing food in a forest like situation.

  1. Can you explain the multi-layer farming and your experience with its application in Vanya?

This set me thinking for having multi layered canopy of trees and plants which are suitable for this.  Hence, I chose Neem tree as predominantly at the periphery of the farm.  On this tree we planted a wine of Guduchi (Tinosporacordifolia) which is a brilliant herb for improving the immune system and protects you from malaria, dengue, swine flu etc.  I am reasonably sure that this can also be used for combating the zika virus.

Inside the farm the highest canopy is that of Moringa(Drumstick tree) which has tiny leaves and allows the sunlight to filter through it to the next layer which is citrus trees.  We have plenty of kafir lime, sweet lime aswell as rangpur (Gondoraj) lime as the second layer.  The third layer consists of cowpeas and vitiver grass.  We never uproot cowpeas plants hence harvest by pruning. Vitiver has a life span of extremely long period.  Someone putting it as old as 100 years.  This plant brings micro nutrients from the lower depths of the soil to the root zone of the other plants and hence extremely beneficial for soil as it also holds the top soil and moisture.  A research in Malaysia has pointed out that any plant if surrounded with vitiver would grow much faster than other plants.

At the lowest level of the layer we are planting turmeric and Aloe Vera, largely turmeric which can be grown with very little sunlight.  Now we can see that every bit of sun energy which falls on our farm is harvested completely as it falls first on Neem on the periphery, tiny leaves of Moringa filters through and falls on Citrus, filters through falls on next layer of Vetiver and cowpeas or Tuar plant, filters through and the last bit of sun energy falls feeble rays falls on turmeric leaves.

  1. Can you tell us some of the challenges and lessons that you learned in Vanya experiment?

Soil is the biggest depositor of carbon after the oceans and in this method of growing due to no tilling all energy is trapped inside the soil, this also encourages the microbes, earthworms and other small animals including white ants.

 I am very clear in my mind that no growing/farming is sustainable without the bees which is seriously threatened due to massive spray of pesticides and mobile towers and lack of food for them throughout the year.

  1. An average farmer tend to make profit solely on the yield of crop, can you list some reasons why he should adopt Vanya method or at least incorporate certain aspects of it?

On our farm other than the above mentioned trees and plants most of which have blossoms and flowers we also have plenty of ber(Indian jujube), guava, papaya, Indian gooseberry and plenty of other flowering plants also like pink pepper which flowers twice in a year so as to make bees have food round the year.  In turn our minimum productivity all around the farm goes up by 30%.

 The productivity of agriculture we see can go up anywhere between 100% to 300% by adopting this low cost natural farming which is not only self sustainable but regenerative and is a biggest solution to climate change and global warming.

  1. Can you give some examples where ideas from Vanya may be applicable in urban or industrial setting?

 We have natural bee hives on our farm and many cancer patients come to take this natural neem honey and raw turmeric from our farm for which we do not charge any money.  My dream is to send the raw turmeric to millions of suffering humanity especially cancer patients free wherein they should only pay for the courier charges.  Incidentally raw turmeric if had with black pepper enhances the digestibility by 200% in human beings.

  1. Do you think we are not quick enough to adapt these agricultural innovations?

 Yes, however the past practices are proving to be counterproductive and are serious risk to health.  Further, the productive soil which is top soil is being eroded around the world at a very fast pace and unless no tilling and the above mentioned practices are not implemented in the foreseeable future majority of productive soil of farm land would be gone and salinity of soil would stare us in our face.

 If the above model is created with some variations in different parts of the country and the world at large depending on the local conditions and consumers are made aware of the goodness of produce from such farms probably the spread of this knowledge of multi layer no tilling farming would scale new heights.

  1. Your message for our readers?

            ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पुर्णमुदच्यते
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥

 

 That (‘Brahm’) is infinite; and this (‘Universe’) is infinite; the infinite proceeds from the infinite.  Then taking the infinitude of the infinite (‘Universe”), it remains as the infinite (‘Brahm”} alone.

 This sholaka from Upanishad is extremely profound and most relevant for our contemporary times where sustainable growth without leaving any adverse impact on earth is the solution for mother earth and generations to follow.  Our farming of food forest with biodiversity, no tilling and no chemical fertilizer, pesticide etc. is the solution for environment, hunger, poverty alleviation and health. The above practices are also on you tube with the following link.

            https://youtu.be/O6CjqrRAvnQ

            https://youtu.be/dPcXAJ-MQJ0

33 Comments

  1. Parul Sachdeva says:

    I am so glad to read this interview, it is a heart to heart connect. I know bhaiya since 26 years and feeling so proud of him. Yes truly he has brought change in this concept of agriculture, organic farming is bringing PRANA BACK… In farming.

  2. Virendra singh says:

    Absolutely brilliant

  3. Fantastic research oriented interview patanjali.when you developed interest in organic farming I don’t know?.but definitely such interview will motivates others.specially when they know that it is being researched and practiced by one of the senior most revenue service officer.right from school to Patna college you have shown vivid interst and this new one is very remarkable

  4. Incidentally, Patanjali Jha happens to be my school as well as college mate. He elaborated the concept of organic farming, when I met him 4 months back. But I didn’t get profoundness of organic farming.
    Brilliant presentation… Anyone can get what an organic farming stands for and how it will serve the humanity as well..
    I am sure, you become a Role Model…

  5. Wonderful work. Proud of you.

  6. Hargovind Singh says:

    Great work indeed.. Inspirational..

  7. Mind blowing work by Varsha & Patanjali . Most people just talk , but these guys have gone ahead and just done it .
    I have learnt of multi layered farming for the first time . And I hope to emulate this concept in the coming days

  8. Wonderful interview. Indeed rare are the one who can be so close to mother earth in this toxic world. May the divine blessings be always with you.
    PRANAM

  9. Proud of You My brother friend Patanjali.
    For all these years I am a witness to your devtion and committment to this.
    You are a blessing to many.
    God Bless.

  10. The most practical and cost effective approach to sustain agriculture. Thank you sir, for bringing this information to the knowledge of the public.

  11. जूही समर्पिता says:

    आप जैसे लोगों का छोटा सा प्रयास आम आदमी के लिए प्रेरणा स्त्रोत बनता है
    आदर्श सोच बेमिसाल पहल

  12. Dr Ramesh Kumar says:

    Patanjali, Congratulations for very informative talk/interview on triple layer farming and 100%utilisation of resources. Vanya (very apt name) is doing wonders.
    My best wishes to you, Varsha bhabhi and your entire team.
    ……. Love and regards
    ….. Dr Ramesh kr (Ahm’bd)

  13. Vinayak Gawande says:

    It is really amazing to know how you are enriching your life by giving so much to the society. Like Robert Frost’s poem you “took the one (Road) less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

  14. Very inspiring work.

  15. Sir wonderful presentation of your farming activities.You had explained me in Bangalore but i did not know that it is so innovative.Congrats sir again.

  16. O K R Sivagnanam says:

    The authorities would do well to promote
    Mr.JHA’s innovative pattern of farming aimed at increased agricultural produce at affordable cost without depletion of soil fertility!

  17. Pradeepkumarmitra says:

    Many congrats to u nd ur entire team sir. We all r very proud of u.

  18. What surprises me the most is that we have so many agricultural scientists and so in a country like ours, this method should have been brought in and promoted long ago. This must be taught to the farmers and to start with, can be initiated in areas where it is possible with minimum efforts. While this concept is an eyeopener the interview aptly shows your drive and motivation which is infectious.
    Regards
    Dr Satish Mishra

  19. Thanks for all the wishes and invoking blessings from above, this “Eureka” farm could come into existence only because of the blessings of our parents Mrs Parvati Jha and Mr.Baldeo Jha who lived on the farm and did all the hard work. This journey were we see very bright prospect for addressing major ills of the society viz. poverty, productivity in agriculture, optimal use of rains, health and fight against hunger etc. was not possible without the active contribution of our beloved parents.
    I met a friend from IIT & IIM Sandeep Saxena who was experimenting with raising chicken but due to excessive heat it had its limitations. Once he visited our farm where micro climatic condition is significantly lower temperature and hence suitable for raising chicken in the open. Hence from the four layer of our farming this comes the fifth layer and if bee boxes are kept it would be sixth. On our farm we would not do the raising chicken for one of our partner it would hurt his religious sentiments. I am personally not against it. Mr. Bill Gates is doing the same in Africa for charity. However, this model of six to seven layers/ crops on the same land can bring enormous help to our most impoverished section of the society.
    My sincere advise is to adopt Moringa leaves, Guduchi, raw turmeric, natural honey without antibiotic and aloe vera alongwith clean food would keep us all in good health. Thanking you all again for good wishes, Warm regards Patanjali & Varsha.

  20. Mr.Patanjali s passion and commitment to the cause comes through very nicely in this interview.No conversation with Mr.Patanjali is complete without a reference to multi layer , no tilling,organic farming !!!

    Very very proud of you ji.

    with warm regards

    Venkat

  21. What is wrong with our Agricultural research system? our experiences :) :) #MyStory
    source:
    https://www.facebook.com/gv.ramanjaneyulu/posts/10209613704353703

    Apathy, vested interests, high egos, lack of scientific attitude and socio-economic/ecological concerns together at the top level have deteriorated the system. When ever these issues are raised either they raise the national food security card-saying feeding the millions is on their head or scientific card saying all what they dont understand is not science.

    One of the main reason for initiating CSA was to build scientific understanding of several successful alternatives in agriculture and scale up to benefit people. In this process we had interacted with many top officials to share and discuss how things can improve…but we were always unsuccessful. looking at the recent controversy raised after the subash palekar’s comments wanted to share few incidents.

    After the successful demonstration of Non Pesticidal Management in several villages we had a field visit organised to the scientists and extension staff to villages in kurnool districts to field area of the KVK. every one who visited said it was good but the Director Extension at that time said ‘No’ and they cannot promote it because it was not developed or researched by them. we argued saying many of the pesticides promoted by the university also are not developed and researched by the university…and why not they start research. he didnt agree on that.

    Later we met the Director Research of the Agriculture University and discussed with him and requested to take up research and say what works and what is not working in the practices which are promoted as part of the NPM. for several years we followed up and always used to say i wrote to the research stations but no one is interested. later on he became the vice chancellor of the university. we met and discussed with him several times. nothing happend.

    in 2007 (if i remember right) One senior official from world bank was interested in trying out an IT system to support farmers. we had a discussion in MANAGE. i proposed that it should be knowledge based and give several options to the farmers and not just the so called ‘recommendations’ by the university and we can evaluate what is more adopted by the farmers and then leave the choice to the farmers. The same director extension didnt agree then.

    after 2010 we left chasing or discussing with university officials..and thought we should continue to do what we are doing and can reach out to people in our own way.

    in 2013 (again if i remember right..i am bad with numbers and years) surprisingly i bumped into the same director extension who is retired and now promoting ‘chemical free’ chilli production. he is now into promotion of natural farming in a bigway… :) :)

    the director research who never took any initiative to work on the alternatives inspite of repeated requests is now heading an education institution promoting ‘organic farming’..;) :)

    i remember what Jairam Ramesh said during the Bt Brinjal Consultations i Hyderabad…while most of the farmers were opposing the commercialisation of bt brinjal, and NGOs were presenting their arguments about biosafety, monopoly, viable alternatives, the scientists of university and research stations were saying its a scientific advancement and should be promoted…and many retired scientists were saying we should be cautious and should put a break till biosafety is established and we exhaust all our existing alternatives. Jairam ramesh asked ‘how come wisdom dawns on indian agricultural scientists only after retirement?’

    while i fully disagree with the attitude of subash palekar about agricultural science…is it not the time the agricultural scientists open their minds and look at world outside which is progressing beyond their labs with more open mind? be scientific in approach… science doesnt mean only chemicals…science doesnt mean what is developed in their four walls of research centres…its time you change other wise you become irrevalent

    Just holding names not to disclose identities…this share is not to prove a point that they were wrong…it is to prove a point that they right but at a very late….its good that atleast they are now into alternative stream. things would have changed if they were so open minded while they were in service….its a request to all those agitated scientists to open up and see the value in agroecological approaches… you dont need to wait till the wisdom dawns on you after retirement. #MyStory

  22. What Mr.Jha is doing with his regenerative farming is using soil not just to produce plants, but also Carbon farming! That is, biologically active soil (thats where the no-tilling comes in) is capable of acting like a SPONGE (for water) & a MAGNET (for nutrients). Once water is held in the soil, it can act as a SINK for atmospheric CO2, drawing down the excess greenhouse gases. Remember modern farming uses pesti-cides, fungi-cides, herbi-cides. That word CIDE means KILLING. And completely destroys the web of life on the surface and within the soil. Thus, modern farming results in massive erosion of top soil (loss of carbon & water) and consequent drying out of land.

    The links between Climate regulation, water and living soils can be read in many ecological scientific textbooks. Here is one, the ecologist Jerry Wilhelm : http://www.saltcreekgreenwayassociation.org/files/Wilhelm%20by%20Buckley.html

    “Depleted soils, such as those under commodity agricultural crops, experience “fever and chills,” says Wilhelm. And the atmosphere above those soils does the same. “The commodity farmer has to irrigate to bring the soil moisture up, and that soil is only alive about 90 days per year. Every time the farmer tills, organic matter is lost to oxidation. That means that farmers have to irrigate the soil and when it is not irrigated the temperature of the soil fluctuates wildly.”

    Wilhelm adds that we have similar problems with the soil beneath our lawns and paved areas, where little or no water infiltration can occur.

    Today’s earth has third-degree burns
    “It’s almost as if the whole earth skin has third-degree burns,” he says. “We have to get the organic matter back into the soil. We have to allow perennial grass roots—which go down into the soil up to 15 feet—to grow and die every year. That will replenish the organic matter and bring the soil back to life.

  23. O K R Sivagnanam says:

    We have allowed an unimaginable proportion of chemical deposits settled within the soil that needs to be cleared side by side with organic farming resorted to in a phased manner finally going full throttle for agriculture to take on a different ‘ avatar’serving the purpose well!

  24. Thank you Mr Al, for your elaboration and erudite comments as above. You have taken the simple talk of a practicing farmer to a new level. I shall definitely be reading Mr Wilhelm in detail soon. I couldn’t have put it better.

    However, no tilling multilayered farm is embarrassingly simple. The advantage of reading only the classic across centuries and geographies is also a simple act of learning. One of the most fundamental principle governing the universe is cycle of nature which has two sides i.e of growth and decay. Modern agriculture has accelerated growth by putting chemical fertilizer, pesticide and herbicide etc and completely forgotten to take care of the process of decay. Thus created a great imbalance. Even the last remains of wheat crop is also burnt causing enormous damage to various cities such as Delhi by the farms of the neighboring states. On our farm we have enormous amount of quality biomass such as one crore vitiver grass(perennial in nature), several thousands of cowpeas(Tuar) plants, several thousand Moringa trees, several thousand subabul trees, glaricedia, four hundred of neem trees besides guava, papaya, indian jujube(ber) , bamboo, custard apple; several under the soil plants such as elephant foot(yam/suran), sweet potato which was extensively used by George Washington Carver in USA.

    From the above list we can see that besides enormous amount of biomass there are several nirtogen fixing trees such as subabul (leucaena leucocephala), neem, glaricedia which is also a living fence material. Besides nitrogen fixing plants are cowpeas, hemp and yam and sweet potato etc.

    Moringa is one of the most miraculous tree on earth which is alternatively also known as mother plant. The leaves of this plant holds an answer to end the problem of mal nourishment, mothers dying while giving birth due to low hemoglobin or overall health of everyone.

    Raw turmeric is mother of all herbs and brilliant for liver, heart and brain and rich in iron. Guduchi or neemgeloi is a brilliant immuno booster and possibly one of the best herbs on earth.

    Needless to say the importance of neem, natural honey, elephant foot which is a natural blood thinner and tonic to the liver.

    For a practicing farmer when you bring some of these best things on earth the result has to be spectacular. Mr. Al thank you once again for taking this simple experience of growing to a new height. Hoping to hear from you more and from everyone.
    Warm regards Patanjali

  25. Thanks for a lovely description of your farm Mr. Jha. As an academic (not a practitioner), I am humbled by your self-taught understanding of AgroForestry. The mix of deep rooted perennial grasses, nitrogen fixing legumes, native trees that are supremely adapted to a local microclimate, nutritious plants are exactly the principles of Agroforestry. The grasses in particular, with their deep roots will help increase the organic matter in your soil and provide the water retention and climate regulation functions that I described above. Truly, it is thanks to Climate Heroes like you who are regenerating the landscape that I feel India has a small chance of escaping the ecological catastrophe barrelling down at us. For your benefit and any others who might be reading this, I have collected together some documents & videos on Agroforetry and healthy soils. https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BybR_Neydw6eQVYzaDRLdkt3UnM ( I would strongly recommend reading “Natural succession of species” and videos by the brazilian agroforester Ernst Goetsch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSPNRu4ZPvE

    Please feel free to email me at albert.pinto.kyun.gussa.hai@gmail.com for any questions.

  26. Great way to live and allow the bounties of nature to nourish both us and planet earth. Keep up the good work Patanjali. May your tribe increase!

  27. Congratulations. Very inspiring. Having first-hand experience in sustainable farming I know for sure I want Kodaikanal farm to follow this method.
    Thank you much for sharing inspirational interview.

    Shyam Mariwala

  28. Pingback: Vanya – a Food Forest in Madhya Pradesh, India | Aman Bagh

  29. Hi Patanjali & Versha,
    I am dr.daya misra (Medical) mother of Harsha’s friend Arvind Misra. I was so,so,so,so, delighted to read about your “Vanya” that i feel like growing “Pankh” and come down to your place. Jokes aside ,is there apossibility for me to come down and visit your farm? Just let me know the shortest possible route to come down. It will not matter even if involves flying down. Hope to hear from you soon.
    Bless you both.
    Love and Ashirvad.
    Daya

  30. Dear ma’am, delighted to hear from you and even more delighted at the prospect of your wanting to visit our farm .you only need to let us know in advance so that we are at the farm to receive you,our farm is about 100kms from Indore. You can reach us on cell nos 9406717288 and7470828179. Thank you for your blessings -we really always need them.😊 With warm regards Patanjali andVarsha

  31. Hi Patty,

    Excellent presentation and comments. Rightly appreciated. Am still toying with what all to do in my village. One idea is to set up a skill development center, where organic farming concepts could also be taught on the job / shared / disseminated. But this will have to wait for a couple of years, or till I get posted back.

    Congrats, keep it up.

  32. Janak Palta McGilligan says:

    It was worth coming to Bhopal ,meeting you and your wife. Having heard about you many times at Jaivik Setu and seen the products as well as seeing posts on FB by many of our “Organic” friends was always great but it was nice to feel it personally …I have carefully read this article and all your answers…I am anxiously look forward to visit your farm on Nov 27 with my sister-in law and Brother-in law ( Jimmy ‘s Sister and brother in law ) from Northern Ireland .Is there any chance you are coming this side ? Look forward to be there and also want you to be here at Jimmy McGilligan Centre For Sustainable Development ..lots of love to you both Janak didi

  33. Ram Pratap Singh says:

    Hi Patanjali
    Greetings from Abhinav Gram Foundation,Ranchi
    Let me Congratulate u for ur brilliant Innovation and initiative.I am a 81 batch IFS retired recently abd working in Ranchi.We have adopted 27 villages of 4 panchayats whom we are helping to make their life a bit easier by promoting organic farming.I fully endorsed your vanya project.Will call you to learn more from you. Warm regards
    RP Singh CEO

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