The people of Durdih village, in the state of Bihar, India, have a simple existence close to nature, but the encroachment of paved roads and merchants peddling plastic-wrapped snacks has led to some unwelcome changes.
The village has a long history of indigenous farming practices in which the cow is the centre of all agriculture. A significant amount of this knowledge is being lost as life in the village changes and adapts to new ways of farming.
Walking through a rural village such as this, you might not expect to see children with smart phones eating packaged candies and oily snack foods. But this is what you'll witness walking through the unpaved village roads of Durdih today. With a less than optimal waste management system you will find the small drainage canals of Durdih littered with used wrappers.
One man is trying to change all this. Kumar Neeraj is a fourth-generation farmer of the fields of Bihar, and he sees a new future for the lands that his great grandfather wrestled back from the hands of exploitative higher caste farmers almost 100 years ago.
These farmers were forcing the lower caste villagers into slave labor and stealing their farm land. Neeraj’s great grandfather, Bodhan Yadav, would not let this happen.
As the story goes, Bodhan, a well-known local wrestler, won a fist-fight and reclaimed the lands. Neeraj said: “My village would not be here today if it wasn’t for my great grandfather giving these lands back to the people.”
Neeraj is one of the many farmers reviving the use of the ancient natural fertilizer called Jiwamrita (jeev-amrita), which has been used for thousands of years in India.
The only ingredients in this miracle fertilizer are cow dung, cow urine, evaporated cane juice or raw sugar and water. Neeraj says this is all you need in order to cultivate healthy soil.
Neeraj treats his seeds with it before they are planted, treats the soil with it during planting and waters the plants with it as they are growing - and it works.
He has been cultivating his single-acre plot of land with this method for the past three months and his plants are thriving, while many of the surrounding plots of land have sick plants.
He says this is due to too many chemical fertilizers being used in the soil: “The main reason why this method of farming is so amazing is because you don’t need anything. Almost all farmers in India have a cow, and if they don’t they know someone who does.”
This method is part of a series of ancient techniques that have been forgotten in India and are now being revived by people like Neeraj. The practice is so old that it is even mentioned in one the oldest books in existence, the Vedas.
The Vedas says that producing healthy, nutritional food is easier than we think. Nature has its own method of cultivation that is even better than anything that man has invented. Nature has been creating bountiful amounts of food for far longer than humanity has walked the earth.
All we need to do is nurture this already existing system.
Neeraj’s project is called Khetee - which means 'farming' in Sanskrit - and is part of a group of many farms doing very similar things throughout India.
Neeraj maintains that he has not invented anything new, he is simply helping to revive a very old practice that he believes will stop global warming, help clean the streams and oceans of the earth and provide poison free food, water and soil to everyone on earth.
Neeraj is openly accepting volunteers and learners on his farm. He wants to spread this knowledge to whoever wishes to receive it.
I have much gratitude in my heart for the generosity Neeraj and his family showed me during my stay at Khetee farms and I can’t wait to come back in the future to see how the landscape of the fields or Durdih have changed.
Campbell Waldron is a freelance writer and traveling journalist interested in indigenous ecology and agroforestry. Campbell studied soil biology and botany at Mahirishi University of Management.