Self-reliance is the main objective of our farming projects, hence they should be oriented towards production. They should not be dependent on outside resources. An integrated approach to farming should include such areas as agriculture, horticulture, floriculture, sericulture, lac culture, apiculture, dairy farming, animal husbandry, irrigation, pisciculture, pest control, the proper use of fertilizers, cottage industries, energy production, research centres and water conservation. This approach will help make farming projects self-reliant, and should be adopted.
Agriculture is the science of cultivating the soil and rearing animals. It includes the production of staple crops. Staple crops which are important in Bengal include pulses of many kinds, cereals, coarse grains, oil-seeds, sugar crops and vegetables. Pulses provide protein and supplement manure as they fix nitrogen in the soil from the air, but calcium, phosphates, potash and so on still have to be added to pulse crops.
Cereals are rich in carbohydrates and include rice, wheat, maize, oats, barley and rye. Coarse grains include all types of millet, sorghum, barley, rye and buckwheat. Oil-seeds include mustard, soya, sesame, linseed, safflower and sunflower. It is most important to exchange seeds between India and the rest of the world. Sugar crops include sugar cane, sugar beet, date palm and palmyra. Spices include cloves, cumin, coriander, etc. Many types of medicinal plants can be grown in Bengal. At A’nanda Nagar many herbaria should be established.
In India many seasonal vegetables such as summer vegetables, winter vegetables and all-season vegetables are grown. The variety of vegetables that are produced should be increased. Onions and garlic are grown for sale to the public and for processing into medicines, but of course they are not beneficial for those doing spiritual practices.
Some other items include coffee, cocoa, tea and rubber. Tea gardens and rubber plantations can be grown for use by the local people and as cash crops. Cash crops will help to transform the local economy.
If cash crops are grown by cooperatives, they can help raise the economic standard of poor local people in a short time.
In the case of yellow mustard, big lentils and wheat, there is a choice of early, medium and late varieties, but in the case of paddy there is no such choice. If the early, medium and late varieties of any crop are available for plantation, and sufficient time is at hand to choose any of them, then the early variety should be chosen first for plantation. Proper planning should be done so that the production of this crop is increased. In case the early variety fails, then the medium variety should be tried. If everything is done properly, the production of this variety will be almost equal to the early variety. If the medium variety also fails for some reason, then lastly the late variety should be tried. If the late variety is planted in the beginning of the season and fails for some reason, then there is no scope for cultivation and the season will be lost. Liquid manure should be applied along with the second irrigation after proper weeding. Paddy is the staple food in northeastern India. In the boro variety of paddy, weeding should be done one month after transplantation, and then liquid manure should be applied. Care should be taken that the liquid manure is not poisonous, otherwise it will harm the pisciculture. Even rocky land can be made fit for cultivation after filling it up with good soil.
We should try our best to grow napier grass for cattle fodder on hillocks wherever possible. It is more difficult to grow napier grass on hills than on flat land because it takes a lot of water. Nevertheless we should try, in order to save the best crop land for other crops. Where there are railway lines which belong to the railway department going through agricultural land, cow pea, late a’us paddy or black gram should be cultivated on both sides of the railway lines.
Whenever plants from frigid and temperate zones are transplanted into a warm or hot climate, they should be planted on high land, near stones and rocks if possible, so that at night they will be kept cool.
The fencing of all farm compounds except beauty spots may be utilized as a platform for spinach in spring and summer, and for beans in summer, the rainy season, autumn and winter. In the case of beauty spots, the fencing may be utilized as a platform for flower creepers. Farming projects should also cultivate some selected items for special emergency survival. These include vegetables, pulses, potato and fodder for dairy cows to ensure milk production. All farming projects must start the production of these items immediately. They are the minimum items necessary for physical survival. These items will ensure your survival in any difficult times that may come in the future.
Fruit and vegetable gardens should be established on all farming projects. There are many varieties of fruit. Fruits can be utilized to make jams, marmalade, jellies, dried fruits, etc.
Floriculture is the cultivation of flowers. Jasmine, magnolia, roses and so on can be used to make essences which in turn can be used to produce many other products. Tube roses can be grown and sold throughout the world just as roses are today. Roses grow very well in red soil. Floral nectar can be collected from lotus and is very good for all kinds of eye diseases, including retinal detachment.
Honey can be prepared from the flowers of the lotus, lily, cornel and cotton tree. A huge amount of honey is available in the flowers of the lotus, lily and cotton tree. The lotus and lily also give floral nectar — nectar which is prepared by the flowers, not by the bees. This is a part of floriculture. Floral nectar should be produced from floriculture. How can floral nectar be collected? It has to be collected with the help of a dropper or syringe. When I was young I used to eat the seeds of the lotus. In those days they were generally available throughout Burdwan.
I also used to take floral nectar by licking the flower. From the honey and floral nectar of lotus and lily, many types of medicines can be made. If this honey and floral nectar is sold in the market, it will command a very high price. To extract floral nectar one has to employ the same method as doctors use to extract blood. This is because many ants and insects feed on floral nectar. A syringe can extract it without getting clogged up.
The stems of okra can be used for a special purpose. Suppose you have a pineapple field which is not producing both fruits and flowers. If the stems are burnt and scattered throughout the field, the fumes and smoke will help the pineapple to develop fruit and flowers at the same time. But one should be careful that the pineapple plant is not burnt. This process will produce both fruit and flowers very quickly.
The field of floriculture has been neglected very much. It should be developed. We can easily make rose scent and rose water from the rose garden at A’nanda Nagar.
Useful Products From Insects
In Bengal production based on insects has three main branches — sericulture, lac culture and apiculture. The first is sericulture. There are two main varieties of silk in Bengal — mulberry and non-mulberry. Mulberry silkworms feed on mulberry leaves, and can produce two qualities of silk — fine quality (garad) and rough quality (matka). Non-mulberry silk includes munga, tasar and endy. In the munga variety the silkworms feed on drumsticks. In the tasar variety the worms feed on many plants such as sal [Shorea robusta Gaertn. f.], arjuna [Terminalia arjuna Bedd.], Indian plum [Zizyphus jujube Linn.], asan [Terminalia tomentosa Bedd.], Assamese swalu [Kadsura hetroclita], a bush which is mostly confined to Assam, and Indian rosewood (svet sal) [Dalbergia latifolia Roxb.]. In the endy variety the silkworms feed on castor leaves.
The mulberry silkworm is a domesticated variety of silkworm. Tasar is a naturally grown variety of silkworm. In this variety the cocoons are put on trees in order for the larvae to feed. Once the larvae have hatched the cocoons are collected from the trees. In tasar production the trees are kept to the manageable height of six feet, otherwise it would be impractical to collect the cocoons.
In domesticated silk production moths lay eggs, and then larvae hatch from the eggs, eat leaves, grow to their full size and finally spin a cocoon made of silk. The cocoons are usually dried in the sun or boiled to kill the larvae. As the larvae are in a state of natural hibernation, when they are killed in this way they do not feel pain.
The silk cocoons are collected and spun into silk thread. Silk production is a profitable industry, and silk is an excellent clothing fibre.
Some silk plants such as mulberry and Indian plum also produce fruit. Different crops can be grown around silk plants so that there is maximum utilization of agricultural land.
Non-grafted seedlings of mulberry give more foliage for silk production than grafted seedlings. Malda is a good source of mulberry. Mulberry seedlings should be planted in such a way that their shade does not fall on agricultural land.
The following should be grown between two mulberry plants:
– Where the land is extremely rocky and there is no soil, soil should be brought from outside so that palm, Indian plum and custard-apple saplings, not seedlings, can be planted between two mulberry plants. Research should be done on the custard-apple and the Indian plum.
– Where the land is extremely rocky but there are accumulations of soil between the rocks, thorny puneala plum (thorny paniala) [Flacourtia jangomas (Lour) Raeusch.] and custard-apple can be planted between two mulberry plants. Research should be done on the thorny puneala plum.
– Where the land is less rocky, non-thorny puneala plum (non-thorny paniala) and custard-apple can be planted between two mulberry plants. Research should be done on the non-thorny puneala plum.
– Where the land is a bit better than in number three above, date palm (khejur) and custard-apple saplings can be planted between two mulberry plants.
Custard-apple varieties from abroad should be brought to India as far as possible, especially the variety from the Philippines, which is a large variety. Sporting goods can be made from mulberry wood. Mulberry can be grown successfully in A’nanda Nagar.
Next is lac culture. Lacquer is produced by insects grown on trees such as palash [Butea frondosa Koenig-ex Roxb.], Indian plum and kusum [Schleichera trijuga Willd.]. Lac should not be grown on all Indian plum trees, otherwise fruit production will be affected. Lacquer may be used as protective varnish for furniture, etc.
In apiculture bees produce rectified honey and pure beeswax from a variety of flowers. The types of bees include wild bees like rock bees which cannot be tamed, and bush bees which can be tamed. Specially bred bees should be encouraged, but wild bees should not be prevented from entering our gardens. All bees, including wild bees, should be allowed in our gardens.
Bee boxes can be located near oil-seeds, flower gardens, neem trees, Indian olives and grapes. The honey in the bee boxes should be collected regularly. In Bengal the period of maximum flowering for these plants is March, April, May and June.
Floral nectar can be collected directly from some special flowers which naturally produce honey. More research on all kinds of floral honey should be done.
Dairy farming includes milk production from dairy cows, goats, sheep and buffaloes. Milk powder and dehydrated curd should also be produced. Animals are not to be sold for slaughter.
Irrigation is also an important aspect of farming. As a principle, subterranean water should not be used for irrigation purposes. Subterranean water should not be disturbed, otherwise the level of the water-table will drop, leading to an acute shortage of water. The best system is to collect surface water. The rainwater, even from light showers, should be collected where it falls. If the huge reserves of water under some deserts are harnessed, it may do more harm than good. It is always better to conserve surface water.
Water conservation, irrigation and afforestation are essential for desert reclamation. In the Thar Desert of India, a canal has been constructed to bring water from the Ganges to irrigate the land. The Ganga Nagar area has been reclaimed and is now producing large quantities of wheat. The canal can be extended even further into the desert. Conserving surface water is the best method of irrigation and is preferable to exploiting underground water reserves.
Ecologists claim that some deserts are essential for keeping the global ecology in a balanced state. The high day temperatures and the cold night temperatures that occur in desert regions create a useful effect. Because the air in the desert is dry, the hot air rises and creates a vacuum which sucks in other air, generating a chain reaction. Moist air comes in from the sea and causes rainfall. If deserts vanish entirely, the overall rainfall will be reduced.
Certain plants such as sirisha [Albizzia lebbeck benth.], shisu [Dalbergia sissoo Roxb.], Himalayan white oak [Quercus incana Roxb.] and ferns have the capacity to attract rain clouds. They also create a congenial environment for other plants.
Fish should be cultivated in lakes, dams and ponds because they help conserve and purify the water. Small fish can also be cultivated in the paddy fields during the rainy season. Fish are the natural food of birds, so they are an essential part of a balanced ecology.
In the rainy season in the last week of Shra’van’a there is water in the paddy fields of Bengal. In these fields we should cultivate fish, but fishermen should not be allowed to catch these fish while the paddy is still growing. Harmful insecticides or pesticides should not be used in these fields because they will kill the fish and pollute the water system.
Alternative pesticides like neem paste pesticide should be used. If copper sulphate spray is used, care should be taken to use the minimum amount because it is harmful. Neem paste can be prepared from neem leaves. Before planting the paddy, during the last ploughing, neem oil cakes should be ploughed into the fields. In addition, neem paste pesticide with urea should be used whenever there is an attack of insects. Copper sulphate solution can also be mixed with urea.
Fish should not be the food of human beings, but the food of jackals, birds, foxes and other fish and crabs. If the paddy water drains into ponds, lakes or rivers, small fish will flourish and become the food of larger fish, birds and animals. In this way the farmers will be helping maintain ecological balance.
Some special medicines can be prepared for particular crops. For example, to kill the worms which attack cauliflower crops, soapy water mixed with a small amount of kerosene may be sprayed on the cauliflowers.
Because the water is soapy the kerosene will easily wash off the cauliflowers and not be harmful to human beings.
Snakes will most likely be found wherever wax gourd is cultivated. To avoid this, iishanmula [Aristolochia indica Linn.] is used because snakes are afraid of its smell. Snakes are also afraid of any copper salt. Wherever there is copper salt snakes will not be found, as in Ghatshila and Maobhandar, near Tatanagar. Water kept in a bronze pot becomes antiseptic due to the copper in the bronze. Copper sulphate is poisonous for human beings.
In the distant past, large animals used to go to predetermined places to die. Wild elephants still have this habit. At such places, with the passage of time the bones of the animals became deposits of calcium sulphate and calcium carbonate.
Wherever cretaceous animals lived in groups, limestone will be found. In Assam, for example, limestone and petroleum can be found. The fat of these huge animals became petroleum and the bones became limestone. In Ra’r’h, in Jalda and Jaipur, limestone can also be found. Limestone can be used to manufacture good quality cement, and it helps make oranges sweet.
There are two types of fertilizers — organic and inorganic. When fertilizers are used, bacteria are also being used indirectly. These bacteria function in two ways — one positive and the other negative. When you utilize bio-fertilizer bacteria, that is, organic fertilizers, the function of the bacteria will only be positive. You should start practical research into positive microvita from the study of bio-fertilizers and their positive functions.
Among the organic fertilizers from animals, the urine and dung from sheep are the best manures. Sheep to be raised in Ra’r’h can be acquired from Bengal, Jammu, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Varieties from Australia can also be used. Materials for bio-gas include cow, buffalo and sheep dung, the dung of mammals kept in protected compounds, and the organic material from beauty spots. Water hyacinths are also a good raw material for producing bio-gas, but cow dung is best. The dung of hybrid animals is not as good as that of pure or natural breeds because hybrids are more prone to disease.
The best manure for green vegetables is rotten vegetables. Cow dung may also serve the same purpose. In the case of gourd, oil cakes and mustard cakes mixed equally with soil will increase production.
Once before I said that farmers need fertilizers for the maximum utilization of agricultural land. Animal fertilizers are insufficient — farmers need chemical fertilizers. However, it is noticeable that whenever chemical fertilizers are used intensively, the land becomes infertile and useless after some time. This is because chemical fertilizers destroy the vital energy of the land so that it becomes lifeless, just like cement. Intensive research should be conducted on how to use chemical fertilizers in agriculture without producing any ill effects on the land. In the system of individual farming it is not possible to escape the ill effects of chemical fertilizers.
The solution to this problem lies in the cooperative system. In the cooperative system there is great scope for agricultural research and development to discover new ways to better utilize and prolong the vitality of the land. The benefit of cooperatives is that they combine the wealth and resources of many individuals and harness them in a united way.
There was a time when farmers used to leave their land fallow for a year after several years of continuous cultivation, but this is not possible today. It is now necessary to adopt a system in which either chemical fertilizers that do not decrease soil fertility are used, or high yields are produced without using chemical fertilizers at all. I am optomistic that this will be achieved in the near future.
Various types of cottage industries should be established on master units,* subject to the availability of raw materials. Some types of cottage industries include the following:
– The first stage of processing farm products of animal and insect origin, such as milk, wool, silk thread, lacquer, honey and wax.
– Producing all types of farm products derived from plants, such as papad from pulse, beaten rice from rice, cereal flakes from different types of cereals, jams from fruits, etc.
– Industrial products and herbal medicines of plant origin, such as essences, ayurvedic medicines and naturopathic remedies.
– Medicines of non-plant origin, such as allopathic and biochemic medicines, as well as medical equipment such as pressure gauges.
– Different fibres produced from plants, such as jute, cotton, linen, hemp, banana, pineapple, sisal, okra and basil.
– Fibre products of non-plant origin, such as nylon, rayon, plastic and artificial silk.
– Articles of mineral but non-metallic origin, such as calcium carbonate, calcium sulphate, calcium phosphate, conch shells, rubber and oyster shells.
– Non-metallic products, such as soap, shampoo, liquid soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, detergent and nectar.
– Metallic products from gold, aluminum, bronze, brass, zinc, etc., as well as tin articles, thermometers, crockery and utensils.
– Iron materials and articles, such as steel, stainless steel, grinding machines, cement and fertilizers.
* Master units are model rural multi-purpose development centres. The primary requisites of an ideal master unit correspond to the provision of the minimum requirements of food, clothing, housing, education and medical treatment in PROUT. They will expand all possible services, particularly in the fields of education, culture, economics and spiritual upliftment.
These are just a few examples of some of the items which can be produced. There are in fact many items which can be produced under each category. In poor areas, two or three simple industries can be started first, such as manufacturing briefcases, medicines or making flour with grinding machines. If cottage industries are properly established, poor local people will enjoy immediate economic benefits.
Energy which can be produced on a small scale includes solar energy, thermal power, bio-gas, hydroelectricity and pneumatic power.
Solar energy for lights and water pumps can be produced from solar panels. Thermal power can be produced from coal and other fossil fuels. Bio-gas for generators, cooking, lighting and small generators can be produced from bio-mass waste. The bio-gas plant harnesses the gas generated by the decomposition of the bio-mass, which can then be collected and used for various purposes. Cow, buffalo and human excreta can be used in bio-gas plants.
The slurry is an excellent manure because it breaks down in about one week, whereas fresh manure takes up to six months. Slurry takes only three days to reach the roots of a plant compared to three months for normal manure. Slurry can nourish a plant within ten days, whereas normal cow dung takes up to nine months.
Small-scale hydroelectric plants can also be constructed in the right environment. For example, on the Daksina River at A’nanda Nagar a plant which can generate hydroelectricity can be constructed. It will be able to give power for up to nine months of the year.
Pneumatic power is one of the cheapest sources of energy for pumps and generators. It is very cheap because the costs include only the initial capital investment to construct the mill and the maintenance costs. It is ideal in windy locations.
Research centres should be developed on all large farming projects and master units. Although all types of research should be encouraged, first preference should be given to agriculture, second preference to biology (first preference to zoology and second preference to botany) and third preference to chemistry.
Agricultural research should be done on a wide range of subjects including seeds, fruits, flowers, silk, herbs, medicinal plants, summer vegetables, winter vegetables, all-season vegetables, spices, pulses and paddy.
Some nuts and fruits such as walnut, chestnut, almond, persimmon, cherry, apricot, grape, fig, pistachio and Paraguay coconut should also be subjects of research.
Research centres can also be established for fibre plants such as jute, agave, hemp, okra, permanent and winter cotton, linseed, remi and pineapple. Oil-seeds such as melon, cucumber, linseed, sesame, safflower and mustard should also be thoroughly studied. New techniques for extracting more oil from oil-seeds and deodorizing the oil should be developed.
Take the example of okra. Edible oil can be extracted from okra seeds. This oil does not have a high fat content. The stem is low in calories. The fibre of the plant can be used to make cloth. The remaining part of the plant can be used for fodder and fertilizer. Okra is grown above the soil, so it can be grown with a tuber crop to get two crops at a time — one above and one below the ground. The stick of the okra, that is, the stem, can be used in the plastic industry, and can also be used in the paper industry to produce ordinary quality paper. It can also be used as a fuel. Match sticks cannot be made from the wood of okra because the wood is too weak. Okra takes only forty days to grow and it consumes little irrigation water.
Better techniques to increase production should also be developed. For example, in the case of pulses, the leaves and stems of the plants may be plucked often and used as vegetables. This induces more shoots to grow and increases production, but it should be stopped one month before flowering is to occur. Orange tomato, apple tomato and grape tomato were developed in India by Satya Banerjee.
Crops requiring shade include such plants as ginger, turmeric, betel leaf, sweet potato, sweet juice potato and elephantum potato. Plants useful in making scents include the rai bel, matia bel and mogra bel varieties of bel phul [Jasminum sambac Ait.], jui phul [Jasminum sambae], chameli [Jasminum grandiflorum Linn.], bukul [Minisapes elangi], kamini [Murraya paniculata Linn. Jack.], lavender and oleander fragrances.
Paper can be made from bamboo, bamboo leaves, safia grass, soft wood, sugar cane waste and maize waste. Good paper can be manufactured from hoop pine [Araucaria cunninghamii D. Don.].
All sweet seeds should be sown after proper sprouting, otherwise ants will eat them up. Radish seeds should always be brought from at least three miles away from the field where they are to be grown, otherwise they will be prone to disease. To produce seeds for sunflowers, varieties which produce more seeds should be used; for ginger, varieties which have sprouts; for peanuts, the Gujarat variety, the Andhra Pradesh variety or the Tamil Nadu variety; and for paddy, the late boro variety.
There should be a seed production centre at A’nanda Nagar or A’nanda Shiila where the climate is very cold. In the plains of India, good seeds cannot be produced. The best places for producing sugar beet seeds are the Garhwal Himalayas of Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and the Kashmir Valley. We should try to produce seeds at A’nanda Nagar or at Calcutta in a green house.
A’nanda Nagar ja’grti is the highest point in central A’nanda Nagar, so the seeds of broccoli, sugar beet and cabbage should be grown there.
Herbs and medicinal plants should be given special importance. Some plants are very useful in helping cure mental disorders. For example, brahmi sag [Herpestis monniera H. B. & K.] increases memory power and is good for the brain. Bottle gourd (lau) [Lagenaria valgaris Seringe] is good for the mentally disturbed. Bhringaraj [Wedelia calendulacea Less.] oil can be used to treat the insane.
Tulsi nishanda or oil extracted from basil seeds can be used to treat madness. Other plants are useful in treating physical disorders. For example, kalmegh [Andrographis paniculata Nees.] or cirota, which is dried kalmegh, prevents malaria. Cinchona is a source of quinine. Phaniphal [Trapa bispinosa Roxb.] is good for stomach and intestinal disorders.
There are six categories of hills — small mounds, demi-hillocks, small hillocks, hillocks, hills and mountains. The land near sources of water such as wells and barrages should be utilized by growing varieties of sag or green leafy vegetables, mint (pudina) and Indian pennywort (thankuni) [Hydrocotyle asiatica Linn.].
Creepers to be grown in protected areas include the gach pa’n variety of betel leaf and long pepper (pepul) [Piper longum Linn.] climbing on alternate red oaks; black pepper (golmarich) [Piper nigrum Linn.] climbing on silver oaks and green oaks; choi [Piper chaba Hunter.] climbing on coconut plants; and other creeping or climbing medicinal plants such as harjura [Cissus quadrangularis Linn.] and iishanmula [Aristolochia indica Linn.] growing on different palms. Such climbers should not be grown on roadside palms. They should be grown only in protected areas.