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The truth behind "Natural Farming"

A sustainable mode of food production is very important for addressing the problems we face today. PCD visited and talked to Mr Kawaguchi Yoshikazu, who practises and advocates Natural Farming. He explained to us the four principles set down by Mr Fukuoka Masanobu: no ploughing, no fertilisers, no weeding, and no chemicals. Mr Fukuoka was the first Japanese agricultural thinker who advocated Natural Farming. His bestseller, The One Straw Revolution, published in 1975, was highly acclaimed in the west. "If we do not change the mode of agricultural production, the imbalance in nature will deteriorate to such an extent that it might become revocable. By the 21st century, human beings will be faced with unprecedented environmental catastrophes. Practising natural farming that does not weed nor use pesticides and fertilisers does not mean leaving the land unattended. Instead it means observing the ways living things in nature interact, and allowing natural forces to help crops grow healthily and steadily under appropriate human management," Mr Fukuoka wrote.

Do not do anything unnecessary

Kato Sadamichi writes: "Kawaguchi himself converted from conventional farming to Fukuoka's famous 'do-nothing' techniques around 1979. Perhaps he should have called them 'grow-nothing' techniques because he failed completely, harvesting almost no crops for two years. However, he persisted with Natural Farming, not as a 'technique' but as a set of principles, and after struggling for ten years he finally succeeded in finding his own way of farming. He did so by observing the four principles laid down by Fukuoka: no ploughing, no fertilisers, no weeding and no chemicals. Kawaguchi has said that at first he was not fully convinced by Fukuoka's do-nothing theory, but once he understood that the aim of Natural Farming was to cultivate the land as it must have been in the earliest days of cultivation, some ten thousand years ago, rather than to let it go totally wild, he saw the light."

Natural Farming is "…to 'do nothing unnecessary', which reflects the traditional view of benevolent nature in East Asia as well as philosophical traits derived from Taoism and Buddhism…… Fukuoka practised a 'direct seeding' method in his paddy fields using his unique 'clay pellets' technique, which involves scattering the rice seeds, covered with a clay coating, directly into the paddy. Kawaguchi, on the other hand, does not use such 'direct seeding' methods; instead he uses nursery beds to raise the rice seedlings and only plants them in the paddy when they have established themselves……Indeed the concept of 'gentleness', which was developed from the awareness of vulnerability, may be the key to understanding Kawaguchi's thought. He says he was much relieved to have accepted human vulnerability, his own vulnerability in particular which, while young, he had hated and groped in the dark for ways to overcome. He also argues, juxtaposing humans with crops, that all you need to do is give a little care and support to your crops in their infant stage when they are vulnerable; after that you should just trust the life force of Nature to do the rest."

Health is when humans and the earth are connected

When a human has done what needs to be done, "……the life force of his/her body and the earth will do the rest. He now finds his body experiences delight when he works together with the myriad living things in his paddies and vegetable gardens where no chemicals are sprayed, and where the soil is fragrant and spongy with the many layers of vegetable and insect remains which have accumulated in it over the years. He has come to see that the human body and the earth are not different. He now knows that it is the intrinsic power of nature alone that can restore and maintain good health, both in the human body and in the earth."

"……Kawaguchi's book, Taenaru Hatake ni Tachite (Standing in the Exquisite Garden), repeatedly recounts……that if we do that then nature will do the rest. He says that 'All lives converge into One Life', and that 'Man lives within the activity of that One Life'. Therefore, he believes that 'Everything necessary for man already exists in nature.' "

Excerpts taken from "Body and Earth Are Not Two": Kawaguchi Yoshikazu's Natural Farming and American Agricultural Writers by Kato Sadamichi.