Monday, July 9, 2012

Book: The One-Straw Revolution

Hello friends,

I hope that all is well with you and your garden. I am sure that your gardens will have something new to make you smile. I am a dreamer - with 1000 dreams popping up and out like soap bubbles. Having said that, you can guess as to why I have been dormant here. You guessed it right - I have been dreaming! What's the dream, you ask? Read on. :-)

I love books whether I read them or not. But, mostly, I end up reading them. I love to be surrounded by them. I can spend hours at a bookstore. I love to listen to people talking about books and their experiment with different genres of books. I also admire all the authors for their ideas and stories that they offer us.

One such book that I accidently found was - The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka. I was at the Blossom bookstore at Bangalore, and after selecting my books to purchase, I found this book at the billing counter. When asked about this book, the sales person highly recommended the book. Yes, it's a book about farming - natural farming. I bought the Indian edition of the book, which has a preface by Partap C Aggarwal, who can be associated with The Friends Rural Centre and Rishi Kheti.

On one fine day, I began to read the book. A wonderful journey with the author had just begun! Masanobu sensei writes about how he discovered his method of natural farming, and then explains it. Though the book is about farming, it's not just about farming. It also has words of wisdom - Zen principles. That's an added bonus. In fact, when I sat contemplating about sensei's words, I realized that his technique of do-nothing can be customized to all walks of our life and profession. Well, that's another story altogether for another day.

The One-Straw Revolution
The book has five parts, 178 pages. The reading is easy, and the narration is captivating. Though, at times, you may want to take a few seconds to visualize sensei's words. Each part is dedicated to interesting aspects. Let me summarize the parts. 

Important: Do not skip the Preface! It is as interesting as the rest of the book.

Part 1Sensei's opening sentence is "I believe that a revolution can begin from this one strand of straw," and introduces his calling and his field that stood as a testimony of his experiment. He explains his technique of growing rice, barley, and rye, without having plowed the fields for 25 years. He stresses on the point that Nature knows better than human, and studying or observing the natural pattern is important. He encourages to adopt a technique in which the plants can grow, acquire their immunity, and produce healthy harvest naturally. Human intervention must be kept to the minimum. He also discusses about why natural farming hasn't gained popularity.

Part 2: Sensei introduces the Four Principles of farming - No cultivation, No chemical fertilizer or prepared compost, No weeding by tillage or herbicides, and No dependence on chemicals. Interesting, isn't it? He elaborates about cultivation and its damage to the natural environment, the cons of using fertilizers, and the art of coping with weeds and controlling pests. He explains how one can grow with weeds, how one can farm with straw and its advantages.

According to him, the straw helps in seed germination, and to cope with weeds and pests. 
He shares about growing rice in a dry field, and his technique used to grow and manage several varieties of citrus on hillsides. His message is - "Do not kill the natural predators", and explains why. He tells his readers about growing vegetables like wild plants, and I guess our saints (rishis) used this method centuries ago. Lastly, he discusses the terms for abandoning chemicals and limits of scientific method.

Part 3 and 4Sensei beings with the happenings at a conference that was arranged to discuss pollution. The Agricutural Management Research Center, Organic Agricultural Council and the Nada Co-op were the joint organizers. He narrates about his suggestion to the council about natural farming, which would reduce the need for agriculture chemicals, fertilizers and heavy machinery. He brings forth the problems - political, economical, and social issues associate with this suggestion. But at the end of the day, it's the farmer who needs to decide what's the best way to keep his land healthy naturally. 

Sensei says that the most commonly used chemical fertilizers, such as ammomium sulfate, urea, super phosphate, though used in large amounts, only a fraction is consumed by the plants. The rest go waste, enter the water bodies such as lake, stream, rivers. Solution in his words - "My modest solutions, such as spreading straw and growing clover, create no pollution. They are effective because they eliminate the source of the problem."

He educates us about the chemicals, coloring agent, and waxing used for fruits. He compares such fruits to his naturally grown fruits, including pricing and packaging. He states that commerical agriculture will fail, and provides elaborate explanation. He tries to answer, "What is human-food?", and provides a few case studies in related topics. He also introduces the nature's food mandala and culture of food, and diet.

Part 5Sensei re-iterates the fact - "Human beings can destroy natural forms, but they cannot create them." He explains how and why by taking examples of people that come to stay at his fields to learn his technique or to help. Though human beings are the wisest of the living beings, we have been acting like fool, destroying nature to suit our needs.  The closer we are to the nature, more satisfied we are. The farther we go from the nature, miserable we become. To make us understand the Zen way of life, Sensei shares a few interesting stories or moral learning with us. 

He then shares his contradicting thoughts about the Theory of Relativity, and tells the youths why he picks of the scientists all the time - “It’s because the role of the scientist in society is analogous to the role of discrimination in your own minds.” In the chapter - A Village Without War and Peace, he visualizes Japan as being under one big nuclear umbrella, and with tilling the earth beneath that dark umbrella, he believes that a crisis is approaching from inside and out.

In the last chapter, he revisits the One-Straw revolution. He says that the only thing that he can offer people that are poor in body and spirit is the one straw - from which a revolution has begun. Though the straw appears small and light, it is strong enough to start a revolution.



  1. Lovely review, intro for the lovely book.

    So many blogs have been written about this book. I have read excepts too, from some Australian gardeners!.

    There are variations for growing food, in various parts of the world. While reading them, I feel so much of goodwill flows through their efforts to make our world more greener.

  2. Yes; it definitely is a great book.

  3. Thankssssssssss..............Asha ...i feel proud for ur stmt: "I too a software professional" :)).Thanks A TON for this information.Keep IT UP.


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