Nanak Kheti: Guru Nanak Dev Ji and Natural Farming In Punjab

Guru Nanak Dev Ji is admired and well-known for his travels, for example, across South Asia and the Middle East by foot in an effort to begin the development of Sikh theology through engagement with others of different faiths and belief-systems. gurunanakfarming.jpgEven though I have always had great admiration for his travels and their significance, I always wished people would also give more focus to how he lived his life as farmer after he gave-up his Gurdadhi. As we know, Sikhi is a way of life so as a Sikh how did he farm why did he farm … what significance did it have for him as a Sikh?

Interestingly, there is a growing group of small farmers in Punjab who are taking up natural farming based on Guru Nanak Dev Jis teachings. These farmers have seen the destruction caused to the soil through chemical and mass farming resulting from the Green Revolution in Punjab. Umendra Dutt writes:

There is a silent and constructive revolution happening in Punjab to save the environment, regenerate ecological resources bring back soil productivity and re-establish ecological balance in the farms. This is the natural farming movement of Kheti Virasat Mission (KVM), a civil society action group headquartered in the Jaitu town of Faridkot district. The movement is led by experienced farmers who believe in Guru Nanak’s tenet of Sarbat da bhala (well being of all),” says Amarjeet Sharma, a farmer from Chaina village, district Faridkot who heads the village level Vatavaran Panchayat.

Along with the concept of Sarbat Da Bhala, KMV asks common farmers

to adopt the famous verse [by Guru Nanak Dev Ji], Pavnu Guru, Panni Pita Matta Dharat Mahat (air is guru, water is father and the earth is mother).

This verse helps inspire KMVs 100 formal and 800 informal members, to begin natural farming, also called Nanak Kheti, all in one go or in a phased approach. This notion of natural farming is being taken-up by other organizations in Punjab. For example,

The Pingalwara Charitable Society, Amritsar, a prestigious social service institute in north India, founded by Bhagat Puran Singh has joined natural farming and is supporting the movement with its resources. Pingalwara has established the Bhagat Puran Singh Natural Farming Centre in 37 acres at village Dhirakot near Jandiala Guru.

nanakkethi.jpgFurthermore, the backgrounds of natural farmers are not necessarily those from highly-educated, or activist-oriented mindsets, but that of a common farmer who most likely spent his childhood engaged in farming and knew that this was going to be his lifes bread-and-butter.

The article states that these:

Natural farmers of Punjab say that the land has witnessed the destruction of the environment and particularly the soil ecology in the last few decades as a consequence of chemical intensive farming. The soil has lost its nutrient pool. Burning of paddy straw has further destroyed the soil’s health.

You can see earthworm castings, which had completely disappeared in the fields, says a visibly happy and proud Hartej Singh of Mehta village in Bhatinda district. “Our farmers will offer you a handful of soil which you will find soft and with all the natural aromas that are associated with the infinite life of our earth. That is the kind of work we are doing,” he adds.

KMVs approach to natural farming:

defines soil as the ‘source of infinite lives’. “Yes, it is true and we have experienced it,” avers KVM chairman and a farmer from Rai Ke Kalan village of Bathinda, Harjant Singh. If the soil is rich in microorganisms, its texture is soft, full of natural essence and ample quantities of moisture are kept intact. Then the soil gives healthy crops, and there is a lesser need for irrigation.”

This approach to farming also includes a financial argument that advocates Nanak Kheti as being financially beneficial to farmers.

After adopting natural farming they are spending far less from earlier chemical farming days. Natural farming is more cost effective and input efficient says Amarjeet Dhillon a small farmer from Dabrikhana village, who owns only two acres of land. For example, farmers having sugarcane and black gram in their farms have to spend virtually nothing on inputs asserts, Dhillon. He cites several examples where farmer had spend only Rs.100-200 on inputs for one acre as against Rs.3000 by a chemical farming farmer. “Some of us had stopped cash out flow to cities any more to purchase Urea, DAP and pesticides and thousands of others have reduced this out flow of cash in a big way”, he adds.

On an average in Malwa’s cotton belt farmers are spending Rs.7000 on chemical inputs per acre annually in normal conditions. If there are more pest attacks, then there may be no limit to this amount. There is a rough estimate that every village is spending a large sum of money — from Rs.40 lakhs to Rs.6 crores — purchasing agro-chemicals, depending upon area of cultivation and cropping pattern. Natural farmers want to stop the loss of village wealth by bringing down farmers’ spending on agro-chemicals.

This spiritual, agricultural, and financial approach to farming also has the potential to be a practical approach to fight against farmer suicides in Punjab. Many farmers are committing suicide based on the emotional stress from financial indebtedness used to purchase farming machinery and pesticides. These pesticides have also harmed the soil and its productivity.

What does everybody else think about this approach to farming?

I know for myself, I am still questioning exactly how much of Sikhi, Guru Nanak Dev Jis teachings, and the meaningfulness he attributed to farming, are incorporated into this natural farming that allow it to be labeled as Nanak Kheti. However, I think it still has a lot of potential that should be explored to address specific social problems, such as farmer suicides.

Do others have any ideas on how this type of approach to farming can address social issues in Punjab?


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39 Responses to “Nanak Kheti: Guru Nanak Dev Ji and Natural Farming In Punjab”

  1. kprincess says:

    funny, i read about this a while ago. That they were promoting organic farming in Punjab.

    It makes common sense, organic farming is completely in line w/ Sikhi. We're supposed to keep our mind open, learn about the problems surrounding us and act on them. If you discover that pesticides, such as DDT and others are causing great harm, then why not discontinue their use?

    Most of the farmers in Punjab started using pesticides to increase production and sell on the national/global markets, and others were sucked in due to competition. If greed or ignorance (about the adverse impacts of the pesticides) drove them to use the pesticides, then maybe Sikhi will bring them back.

    Also, I'm pretty sure Baba Nanak Ji practice organic farming back then and many verses of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji call for respect for mother earth along w/ others. [reminds me of the shabad: –Man Hali kirsani karni, sharam pani taan kehth, naam veej santokh sohaga rakh gareebi ves.]

  2. kprincess says:

    funny, i read about this a while ago. That they were promoting organic farming in Punjab.

    It makes common sense, organic farming is completely in line w/ Sikhi. We’re supposed to keep our mind open, learn about the problems surrounding us and act on them. If you discover that pesticides, such as DDT and others are causing great harm, then why not discontinue their use?

    Most of the farmers in Punjab started using pesticides to increase production and sell on the national/global markets, and others were sucked in due to competition. If greed or ignorance (about the adverse impacts of the pesticides) drove them to use the pesticides, then maybe Sikhi will bring them back.

    Also, I’m pretty sure Baba Nanak Ji practice organic farming back then and many verses of the Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji call for respect for mother earth along w/ others. [reminds me of the shabad: –Man Hali kirsani karni, sharam pani taan kehth, naam veej santokh sohaga rakh gareebi ves.]

  3. Harbeer says:

    This is fantastic. I'm so glad to hear this–thanks for sharing. Too many people still don't grasp the link between The Green Revolution, the falling water-table, and farmer suicides.

    Check out "The Cuba Diet" for how Cuba's move toward organic farming after the fall of the Soviet Union.

  4. Harbeer says:

    This is fantastic. I’m so glad to hear this–thanks for sharing. Too many people still don’t grasp the link between The Green Revolution, the falling water-table, and farmer suicides.

    Check out “The Cuba Diet” for how Cuba’s move toward organic farming after the fall of the Soviet Union.

  5. manpreet says:

    its amazing that "Sikh" ..A far more complete & diversified religion and we can ever think about..

    Teaching us every movement how to live healthy , happy & holy life…

    and die a divine death..

  6. manpreet says:

    its amazing that “Sikh” ..A far more complete & diversified religion and we can ever think about..

    Teaching us every movement how to live healthy , happy & holy life…
    and die a divine death..

  7. hardish singh sodhi says:

    Excellent work. Wish there are more organizations like this in Punjab to save soil from ill effects of chemicals.This is the urgent need of the hour. May Baba bless your organization with total success.

  8. hardish singh sodhi says:

    Excellent work. Wish there are more organizations like this in Punjab to save soil from ill effects of chemicals.This is the urgent need of the hour. May Baba bless your organization with total success.

  9. gurminderpal singh says:

    you dont know how delighted i am to see about nanak kheti on sikh net.you are going to save mata dharat mahat.This will save soil getting acedic aswell as save under ground water. wjkk wjkf

  10. gurminderpal singh says:

    you dont know how delighted i am to see about nanak kheti on sikh net.you are going to save mata dharat mahat.This will save soil getting acedic aswell as save under ground water. wjkk wjkf

  11. Kkaur says:

    Its a great step. May GOD BLESS all who have come forward in "Nanak Kheti". Charan sharan gur ek penda jae chal satgur kot penda agge hoai leit hai. and more "Sache marg chaldian ustat kare jahan. Its a need of the hour.

  12. Kkaur says:

    Its a great step. May GOD BLESS all who have come forward in “Nanak Kheti”. Charan sharan gur ek penda jae chal satgur kot penda agge hoai leit hai. and more “Sache marg chaldian ustat kare jahan. Its a need of the hour.

  13. Ranjeeta says:

    That is a move in the right direction.

    I think moving to natural farming would slowly reserve the damage done by earlier pratices.

    I think if the farmers move to organic farming, it would help generate more income for the farmers, thus improving their lives. Those that produce our food should not be living in poverty.

    The next step would be trying to get the organic stamp the naturally farmed products. If the Malwa district just has to look for alternatives to pest problems and alot of natural predators can be used and resistance will not develop unlike with chemicals.

    Also needed is the restoration of natural swamps, and forests of Punjab which would enable the recovery of the water table. Environmental groups need focus on this , educate the people so that the people themselves can force the local governing bodies need to restore and protect-

  14. Ranjeeta says:

    That is a move in the right direction.
    I think moving to natural farming would slowly reserve the damage done by earlier pratices.
    I think if the farmers move to organic farming, it would help generate more income for the farmers, thus improving their lives. Those that produce our food should not be living in poverty.
    The next step would be trying to get the organic stamp the naturally farmed products. If the Malwa district just has to look for alternatives to pest problems and alot of natural predators can be used and resistance will not develop unlike with chemicals.
    Also needed is the restoration of natural swamps, and forests of Punjab which would enable the recovery of the water table. Environmental groups need focus on this , educate the people so that the people themselves can force the local governing bodies need to restore and protect-

  15. Ranjeeta says:

    I am a supporter of organic products. I buy only organically farmed vegetables and try to buy organic clothes for my baby too. More and more people need to be educated. It is expensive but I feel that by buying only organic products I am supporting the farmers and saving the environment at the same time.

    Even ever possible I try to buy only fair trade products.

    I think more awareness is needed in the Sikh and asian communities about naturally farmed products and fair trade products. Even the cruel Walmart has organic baby products now.

  16. Ranjeeta says:

    I am a supporter of organic products. I buy only organically farmed vegetables and try to buy organic clothes for my baby too. More and more people need to be educated. It is expensive but I feel that by buying only organic products I am supporting the farmers and saving the environment at the same time.
    Even ever possible I try to buy only fair trade products.
    I think more awareness is needed in the Sikh and asian communities about naturally farmed products and fair trade products. Even the cruel Walmart has organic baby products now.

  17. what's in a nam says:

    "Furthermore, the backgrounds of “natural” farmers are not necessarily those from highly-educated, or “activist”-oriented mindsets, but that of a common farmer who most likely spent his childhood engaged in farming and knew that this was going to be his life’s “bread-and-butter"

    You know what is striking about this is that it was the 'educated' ones that introduced chemical assisted farming! and now us 'intellectuals' have realised the need to go back to nurtuting nature in order to preserve the source of our survival. The poor / uneducated have always respected their tools – their means for earning a living and more importantly 'mother earth'.

    Funny isn't it that the more we learn the less we understand. But anyway – great initiative – though I agree about the lack of necessity of the chosen labelling 'Nanak kheti' but if it insppires people then no harm done.

  18. what's in a name says:

    “Furthermore, the backgrounds of natural farmers are not necessarily those from highly-educated, or activist-oriented mindsets, but that of a common farmer who most likely spent his childhood engaged in farming and knew that this was going to be his lifes bread-and-butter”

    You know what is striking about this is that it was the ‘educated’ ones that introduced chemical assisted farming! and now us ‘intellectuals’ have realised the need to go back to nurtuting nature in order to preserve the source of our survival. The poor / uneducated have always respected their tools – their means for earning a living and more importantly ‘mother earth’.

    Funny isn’t it that the more we learn the less we understand. But anyway – great initiative – though I agree about the lack of necessity of the chosen labelling ‘Nanak kheti’ but if it insppires people then no harm done.

  19. It's really great thing for us. I m sure about that'll be a right sign to forword in a natural thing with God's blesses. well done….

  20. It’s really great thing for us. I m sure about that’ll be a right sign to forword in a natural thing with God’s blesses. well done….

  21. Tarlochan Singh Cana says:

    IT'S A STEP TOWARD'S NANAK KHETI. MAY WHEGURU BLESS ALL THE FARMERS WITH GREAT HAPPINESS,PROSPARITY AND HEALTH WHEN THEY ARE RAEDY TO CUT THE NEXT FASAL. I HOPE ONE DAY ALL OF US WILL UNDERSTAND WHAT WE ARE DOING WRONG. WE HAVE TO FOLLOW GURU'S MESSAGE TO SUCCEED IN THIS LIFE AND AFTER THIS.

    WAHE GURU JI KA KHALSA WAHE GURU JI KI FATEH.

  22. Tarlochan Singh Canadian says:

    IT’S A STEP TOWARD’S NANAK KHETI. MAY WHEGURU BLESS ALL THE FARMERS WITH GREAT HAPPINESS,PROSPARITY AND HEALTH WHEN THEY ARE RAEDY TO CUT THE NEXT FASAL. I HOPE ONE DAY ALL OF US WILL UNDERSTAND WHAT WE ARE DOING WRONG. WE HAVE TO FOLLOW GURU’S MESSAGE TO SUCCEED IN THIS LIFE AND AFTER THIS.
    WAHE GURU JI KA KHALSA WAHE GURU JI KI FATEH.

  23. sonny says:

    amazing! thanks for this.

  24. sonny says:

    amazing! thanks for this.

  25. This is good news, this movement needs to grow a log bigger!

    Maybe further in the spirit of Nanak the farmers can organize together (i.e. forget castes/divisions and get along with each other) and then make a strong stance against the GOI. If they all collectively decide to with hold grain from the central government, then the Punjabi people and the Sikhs will have regained their sovereignty. The GOI will be on it's knees to please the farmers. It's a non-violent revolution in the spirit of Sikhi.

    Guru Nanak was a farmer so associating his name with his style of farming is cool.

  26. This is good news, this movement needs to grow a log bigger!
    Maybe further in the spirit of Nanak the farmers can organize together (i.e. forget castes/divisions and get along with each other) and then make a strong stance against the GOI. If they all collectively decide to with hold grain from the central government, then the Punjabi people and the Sikhs will have regained their sovereignty. The GOI will be on it’s knees to please the farmers. It’s a non-violent revolution in the spirit of Sikhi.
    Guru Nanak was a farmer so associating his name with his style of farming is cool.

  27. Inderjit singh says:

    Great!!!!!!

    but we should do it slow and study,because we have chosen the wrong path of increasing yields and it can't be stopped immediately.

    I am a professional Agricultist based at Ludhiana, following EUROGAP and GLOBALGAP, Serving the Domestic as well as International Markets,

    Although I understand the need of organic culture.

    As we had chosen a wrong path and all of us want to go through the right way as practised by Guru Nanakji it is much important to start doing in small areas and slowly explore to large ones.

  28. Inderjit singh says:

    Great!!!!!!
    but we should do it slow and study,because we have chosen the wrong path of increasing yields and it can’t be stopped immediately.

    I am a professional Agricultist based at Ludhiana, following EUROGAP and GLOBALGAP, Serving the Domestic as well as International Markets,
    Although I understand the need of organic culture.
    As we had chosen a wrong path and all of us want to go through the right way as practised by Guru Nanakji it is much important to start doing in small areas and slowly explore to large ones.

  29. king singh says:

    Great News, but how the farmers are going to survive if they will not use chemicals for vast production. If they will be paid enough for natural production,its ok. Even today the suicide rate in Punjab farmers is the highest in country,what u think will happen if they go on natural farming. Moreover the water conditions in Punjab is no longer same. Where is our PUNJ+AAB now. its broken ans suckedup by Gandhi and Nehru family. May be Punjab farmers should do Nanak Kheti for their families[relatives] but for business just grow with chemicals. Atleast farmers and their families should maintain good health. Leave the rest of India on their fate.

    KING SINGH

  30. king singh says:

    Great News, but how the farmers are going to survive if they will not use chemicals for vast production. If they will be paid enough for natural production,its ok. Even today the suicide rate in Punjab farmers is the highest in country,what u think will happen if they go on natural farming. Moreover the water conditions in Punjab is no longer same. Where is our PUNJ+AAB now. its broken ans suckedup by Gandhi and Nehru family. May be Punjab farmers should do Nanak Kheti for their families[relatives] but for business just grow with chemicals. Atleast farmers and their families should maintain good health. Leave the rest of India on their fate.
    KING SINGH

  31. Jaswinder Singh Gill says:

    It is about time some people started understanding Guru Nanak Dev's phillosphy. That is the only way we can save this beautyfull earth and nature ( so called KUDRAT ).

  32. Jaswinder Singh Gill says:

    It is about time some people started understanding Guru Nanak Dev’s phillosphy. That is the only way we can save this beautyfull earth and nature ( so called KUDRAT ).

  33. Bandana Kaur Malik says:

    Waheguru blessed local communities all over the world with a profound knowledge of their environment. Punjabi farmers have nurtured the land for thousands of years. We should preserve and nurture this wisdom; and not destroy it with chemicals and agricultural inputs that poison the land and our farmers. Nanak Kheti will move us away from exploitation to preservation and sustenance – this is truly what will bring Sada Punjab back to life.

    Kheti Virasat Mission is doing a wonderful job preserving Nanak Kheti for the wellbeing of all. We should support what they are doing!

  34. Bandana Kaur Malik says:

    Waheguru blessed local communities all over the world with a profound knowledge of their environment. Punjabi farmers have nurtured the land for thousands of years. We should preserve and nurture this wisdom; and not destroy it with chemicals and agricultural inputs that poison the land and our farmers. Nanak Kheti will move us away from exploitation to preservation and sustenance – this is truly what will bring Sada Punjab back to life.

    Kheti Virasat Mission is doing a wonderful job preserving Nanak Kheti for the wellbeing of all. We should support what they are doing!

  35. […] I enjoyed the promotion of Nanak Kheti, I do believe that this is an interim solution. The economies of the world have moved towards […]

  36. […] coverage: “Nanak Kheti”… and Natural Farming, The Rights of Punjabi Farmworkers, Asian Americans and Rural Development, Farmer suicides […]

  37. […] Trinjan. Two organizations in Punjab recently teamed up to begin this. The Kheti Virasat Mission (KVM), working towards sustainable agriculture, conservation of natural resources, environmental […]

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