Sunday, April 20, 2014

Cherkady Crop - Feeding a family of five with one man's labour for 3 days in a season

Cherkady Ramachandra Rao was from Karnataka, a Gandhian and a farmer who had expired in 2010. He was a great man and his greatness can be seen from these words.

"I don't want you to think I am a poor man in money terms, either. My bank account is as rich as this land. And it grew without any clever skills. I have more than what many salaried people have at the end of long careers. The term, 'impoverished farmer' bothers me.

There are some articles in net about him.

Here is an interesting information about how he started rice cultivation and how his family of five was fed for forty years with minimal labour. The method is similar to Fukuoka's method, but Ramachandra Rao had developed this independently out of his own need.

I couldn't meet this great man, but would like to hear from people who had interacted with this great man and any other information about 'Cherkady Crop'.

Message on a straw:
"One morning, I stopped in my tracks. A sturdy plant of rice, ripe with grains stood in my way. How had I missed it all these days? Where had it come from? Where it stood was no wetter than other parts of the farm and my land was by means abundant in water. I had certainly, not planted it. It was unlike any paddy I had known. It had buxom grains on 16 strands, all on one stem. It stood alone glistening in the morning sun. 

"I was overwhelmed. I took it home and shook it. There was close to a kilo of grains from that one plant! And so began my rice harvest year after year. I scattered the seeds on unploughed land, spread leaves and manure and watered it by hand. There was no attempt at flooding the patch. Slowly, the patch grew wider but it was never more than a tenth of an acre. All it called for was one man's labour for three days in a season. That was enough to feed our family of five continually, for forty years. 

In another article it says..

He used to grow paddy without tilling the land or using other common farming practices; the land didn't even need irrigation. The method named "Sarvodaya paddy cultivation" became popular in the area as the "Cherkady crop".


Recently talked to Aroor Manjunath Rao elder son of Cherkady Ramachandra Rao. He was working as a bank manager and took voluntary retirement and is into herbal farming. Talked to him about the Cherkady crop and he says it is not practiced by anyone now  and was popular in Cherkady Ramachandra rao's time. Doing paddy in  upland needs much care against birds, animals since it is cultivated in isolated place. There is a book about Cherkady's methods, but it is in Kannada and he offered me to send one, since I don't know to read kannada, I just didn't take it from him.

An article about him.


A friend Shravyak Patil has written the biography of Cherkady Ramachandra Rao...interesting to read

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Summer 2014

Summer is very hot this year at 40 degree centigrade. So far no summer rain, hope to receive some rain in next week.Watering is the only major activity now.I use flooded irrigation and it wastes lot of water, but other solutions like sprinkler, drip irrigation being costly, still sticks to this method. I have some plans of trying trench method which is suggested by Bhaskar Save and Subash Palekar.Digging trenches against the slope of the land, will also preserve water. I also have heard that the plants near the trenches never gets affected by summer. In any case plans to small rain pits throughout the farm.
Ground cover and mulch has improved, water retention, but still a long way to go. I can see earth worm castings throughout the land and hence water retention of the soil has improved. In areas where watering was done, once in a while, that area remains really green. Open well has some water and I love the taste and smell of it.

Neighbour wells has dried and some of them take water from this well for drinking and I was so happy to see that. Since well is deep and it is stored in earth, water is very cool.

Banana area is under stress, since this area hasn't been irrigated for 3 weeks now.  Mangoes have fruited reasonably well..but lot of fruits are falling down because of heat? I could see that the local varieties of mangoes are yielding much better. for e.g the small 'chandrakkaran' another variety has good amount of mangoes.

As usual, in the summer, white ants are there in full swing and do a good job..

Coconut harvesting is done person single handedly did this task using a long pole, his wife and another boy collected and kept it at 4 different places...2700 coconuts in total..he charged 1 rupees per coconut for plucking and keeping it at one place..Coconut prices are good, one big coconut is sold at 15/- and per kg with water price is 26/- while in the open market it is sold at 34/-.

Harvested turmeric which I had cultivated in 3 raised bed. I did all the harvesting and maintained the bed so that it can be reused in the next season.
Vegetable area is being mulched and dried cowdung is put on this bed.

Cows are not having green grass..the hybrid one has become skinny but the local variety is eating even the dried grass and keeps healthy..both of them survived foot and mouth disease
House is almost ready for occupation except that there is no electricity..

Meanwhile some planning is going for next rainy season..last season's rice cultivation gave me 23Kgs of rice and it tasted very good and hence planning to go for 0.5 acre cultivation in the next season.

Interplanting of coconut still not happening, still lot of gap between coconut trees. so planning to put mangoes, cashew nuts, sitaphal, moringa and glyricedia etc.

                                                                Earth worm castings

                                         Chandrakkaran mango

Rice field

                                             Rice field
                                          Rice field with heavy straw mulch

                                           Rice field with cow pea grown as cover crop
Turmeric raised bed after harvest

                                                Local cow
                                                 Hybrid cow

                                          Banana under water stress

                                          Open well

                                         Still have some water - last time it  dried up in February

                                         Small mango tree started fruiting

House back side view

                                        House front view

                                        Coconut area

                                           Coconut area with no watering

                                         Coconut area with watering

                                           Tree with good yield

                                           Tree without any yield..summer affects some trees very badly

                                            white ants doing good job