Indian Wisdom in Agriculture


Traditional wisdom relating to agriculture dates back around 12,000 years when the first plants were domesticated by  humans. Our ancient literature (including the four Vedas, the Upanishads, Ramayana, Mahabharatha and many more), contains deep wisdom on sustainable, organic agricultural practices.

Traditional farming exhibits important elements of sustainability.

They are well adapted to their environment, rely on local resources,  are decentralised, and, tend to conserve the natural resource base. Our ancient texts provide education on farm implements to be used, types of land, monsoon forecasts, manure, irrigation, seeds and sowing,  pests and their management, horticulture, etc. The fertile soil we enjoy in most parts of our country, is a result of the wisdom of our forefathers.


We need to maintain the health of the soil in the interest of future generations.

Civilisations like ours view soil as sacred, something that must be handed down to coming generations intact, if not improved. Over the years, the impact of traditional and indigenous knowledge  on agriculture has diminished due to the introduction of a synthetic, chemical  fertiliser system during the Green Revolution to attain so-called ‘self-sufficiency’  in food production. But the consequences of dousing the soil with deadly chemicals are being observed in the form of deteriorating soil fertility,  contamination of the natural resource base and an increase in crop pest and disease outbreaks. As a result, food producers and consumers are faced with an  array of environmental, ecological and health problems. Modern chemical-based agriculture has also given rise to socio-economic problems, due to the declining yield per hectare.

Farmers are highly dependant on expensive chemical fertilizers and government subsidies. Eventually, a revival of sustainable, ecologically safe and socially sound practices is being sought by recognising and retrieving traditional wisdom in agriculture. 

Soil is the basis of all human life.
Destruction of the soil has contributed to the fall of past civilisations, yet  the lessons of history are seldom acknowledged and usually unheeded. The only  hope for a healthy world rests on re-establishing harmony in the soil that has  been disrupted by modern methods of chemical farming and unplanned rapid industrial growth. These methods bring about serious problems through land degradation. Today’s cropland losses impair the wellbeing of the living as well  as of generations to come.

The ancient wisdom about sustainability
The idea of sustainable agriculture is a  response to the decline in quality of produce and of the resource base  associated with modern farming. The goal is to develop agro-ecosystems with minimal dependence on high agro-chemical and energy inputs, in which  ecological interactions and synergies between biological components sponsor their own soil fertility, productivity and  crop protection. The five objectives of productivity, security, protection,  viability and acceptability are called the five pillars of sustainable land  management, and they must be achieved simultaneously if true sustainability is  to be predicted. In fact, sustainability is not possible without  preserving the cultural diversity that nurtures local agriculture.

Adapted from Dr. Thimmaiahs article on

Dr A. Thimmaiah is an organic farming specialist with the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) and is a consultant to the government of Bhutan on organic agriculture.



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