Organic Farming Consultancy
Anjali Pathak is an avid organic gardener, seed saver, organic farm consultant and entrepreneur. For the past decade years she has also been a consultant to the Indian tea industry, fruit growers and spice growers on organic methods of cultivation, including the ancient methods of vrikshayurveda. Her book ANNAM BRAHMA : Organic Food in India was published in 2009 by Pilgrims Publishing, Varanasi.
Anjali has been involved with the organic movement of India for the past two decades, supporting and encouraging small farmers and self-help groups to practice organic cultivation of traditional Indian crops and foods. Anjali also gives private consultancies to farm and plantation owners who wish to adopt organic methods of farming in toto. Further details of her work in the organic field can be found on her website www.naturalorganicfarming.com
Training in organic farming methods
Training in organic methods of farming based upon the ancient Indian science of vrikshayurveda is Anjali’s forte. Usually training programs are of two days’ duration and the training is conducted on a farm from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with breaks for lunch and tea in between. The hosts or organizers of the organic farm training whether it is an NGO or a group of motivated people, have to make arrangements for the training and for keeping the entire group fed and watered during the course of the training. Anjali encourages the hosts to raise funds for the training by various means and also by asking the participants to contribute towards the costs of the program. Consultancy fees for the two or three day training is negotiable and a minimum attendance of 10 participants is highly encouraged. Anjali’s workshops are interactive and engaging and participants get hands on training which clarifies a lot of things on spot.
Participants are taught to make various kinds of organic manures and organic biopesticides with locally available materials. The current discourse on organic farming focuses heavily on indigenous breeds of cows as a source of cowdung and cow urine which are the raw materials for making various kinds of biofertilizers and biopesticides. However, there are farmers who do not have cows or do not wish to keep cows for whatever reason. Dairying and cattle rearing is underdeveloped in certain areas of India like northeastern India. So what are these farmers supposed to do to improve their farms naturally in the absence of cows? There are hacks for farmers who do not have cows on their land and hence no cowdung or cow urine. Vrikshayurveda addresses all these issues and acknowledges the fact that not every area or every farmer keeps cows. Anjali has utilized the principles of vrikshayurveda to come up with solutions for farmers and for areas that do not have cows in abundance.
Anjali can be contacted through phone and e mail for consultation about naturopathic treatments for chronic diseases. A coaching call with a patient or his/her family is for Rs 700. If the patient wishes to follow a special diet then a customized diet chart can be prepared upon additional payment.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the historical roots of Vrikshayurveda as a knowledge system? Can you share any information about its history of application? Where did it come from?
Vrikshayurveda is a Sanskrit word which means “Ayurveda for plants” just as Ayurveda is for human beings. India’s archaeological record shows that agriculture began to be practiced in the Indian subcontinent around 9000 B.C. These early agriculturists developed their knowledge of agriculture through trial and error and passed on to their knowledge to the next generation by word of mouth. However, this body of agricultural knowledge was not written down till much later. Krishi Parashara, a text on ancient Indian agriculture composed by Rishi
Surapala’s treatise called Vrikshayurveda can be dated to around 1000 A.D. Surapala states clearly in his treatise that the knowledge presented in his work is much older than him—he is merely collating it in the form of Sanskrit shlokas.
Can you summarise what does Vrikshayurveda aim to teach us?
Since vrikshayurveda is folk knowledge and not the invention of a single person, it can be said that it reflects the philosophy of life of ancient Indians and their relationship to the world of nature and the cosmos. This philosophy of life is based on a love of nature, mindfulness of the interdependence of all life forms and respect for what nature has to offer us and teach us. Human beings are not viewed as superior to nature, rather they are viewed as being participants in the divine cosmic play. Animals, rivers, forests, trees, mountains and all the constituents of the natural world must be given due respect if human beings are to survive as a species. Our ancients were acutely aware of this.
Can you share briefly perhaps how as humans, we are going (possibly) against the principles of Vrikshayurveda in our current way of living?
The anthropocentric view of nature and the materialist ideology stemming from it have affected our lives the world over. In very frank terms this is what this world view consists of—humans are superior to nature and all life forms; money is all that matters; and it is okay to loot, plunder, kill and destroy nature for material gain and satisfaction. Now the philosophy of Vrikshayurveda is the exact opposite of this world view. It is a philosophy of the interdependence of all life forms. Yes, one can hunt animals and eat their flesh too, but in moderation. One can cut down trees to build a house or furniture but in moderation. One can utilize rivers for irrigation, one can mine minerals and precious gems from the earth but in moderation. In contrast modern materialism believes and goes for excessive exploitation of natural resources to the point of total destruction. And this has led to our current crisis, to the Covid-19 pandemic, to the burning of the Amazon rainforest and so on.
How do you use and apply Vrikshayurveda in your practice?
I have successfully applied the principles of Vrikshayurveda to commercial farms and to large tea plantations in both north and south India. . The methods chosen and applied have proved to be cost effective and simple and have brought amazing results in a short period of time. For instance pesticide residues can be eliminated from the soil within three to six months by intensive application of Vrikshayurveda remedies. Western experts say that it will take three years at the very least to eliminate pesticide residues from the soil, but our practice has shown that it can be done within a year’s time or even within a few months.
Is Vrikshayurveda related to Ayurveda? Can you explain the differences or similarities?
Vrikshayurveda pertains to plants. The tridosha theory of vata, pitta and kapha is present in Vrikshayurveda too. Remedies for sick or affected plants, crops and trees are based on what kind of disease is affecting them. The aim is to pacify the disturbed dosha very much like regular ayurveda does in human beings.
Is Vrikshayurveda still practiced today? And if so, in which context?
In those villages or areas of India that have been left untouched by modern chemical agriculture, traditional agricultural practices may well be traced back to early agriculturists of 9000 B.C. I would say that the term vrikshayurveda should be used with reference to Hindu communities. The tribal peoples of India also practice a rudimentary form of agriculture which is called shifting cultivation or Jhum or slash and burn agriculture. Those tribes that were in closer contact with Hindu society picked up many of their agricultural practices as well. By and large the tribal people of northeast India practiced jhum cultivation as their contact with Hindu society was very limited or non-existent. The pig is the main animal used in the agriculture and economy of the tribals of the northeast. But in Hindu communities it is the cow which forms the backbone of the economy and agriculture.
Do you feel that there is a place for Vrikshayurveda to be applied in this modern day? Will any adaptations need to be made to this particular age we are in?
Vrikshayurveda is still very relevant in the twenty first century. It is simple, easy to understand and apply and very cost effective. No extensive or expensive training is required for the famers to understand and apply it to their farms. Today farmers are growing various commercial crops which were not grown in ancient India. For instance tea and coffee were not grown in ancient India nor were potatoes, tomatoes, chili peppers and soyabean grown. Farmers growing these crops as mono culture crops are facing various problems. Most if not all of these issues can be successfully tackled by the application of vrikshayurveda principles. One may have to modify the recommendations of Surapala a little, but still good results can be expected.
Can we apply the principles of Vrikshayurveda in our lives now? If so, how?
If you understand the tridosha theory, then the principles of vrikshayurveda will be easy to grasp. But translating it into physical action may require some radical changes in one’s thinking. For instance, kunapa jal is the remedy par excellence in Surapala’s treatise. But what does it consist of? Well, it consists of decomposed and rotting animal flesh, skin and bones. It stinks to high heavens like all rotting flesh does, but the results it produces can only be called miraculous. I can now make kunapa jal with my bare hands and even tolerate its rotting stench without gagging for I know it is worth its weight in gold!
If we wanted to learn more about Vrikshayurveda, where can we go? Can you recommend any books we can read?
Agricultural universities and institutes in India have still to introduce vrikshayurveda into their syllabus and courses. The best way to understand and learn vrikshayurveda is through trial and error. Pick up a remedy and apply it to your garden or to your farm, tinker with it a little bit to fine tune it. If you do not see the desired results then try changing it a little the next time you use it. Surapala’s Vrikshayurveda in both English and Hindi translations, along with the original Sanskrit text, as well as translations of other ancient Indian treatises on agriculture and horticulture have been published by the Asian Agri History Foundation. Their publications can be ordered from their website www.asianagrihistory.org
Is there anything else you might like to add?
If you study Vrikshayurvda and practice it you will start seeing the beauty and the basis of ancient Indian and Buddhist philosophy in the world of nature. You can turn grass, leaves and weeds into gold, you can turn rotting flesh into gold, and of course cowdung is manifest gold! Everything is interdependent in nature and we as humans should step back, practice restraint, simplify our lives and still get to enjoy the fruits of nature. Respect nature, worship it and you will live a rich, full, happy, fulfilled life!