Dr.G.Nammalvar (16 April 1939 to 30 Dec
G. Nammalvar (or Nammazhwar) was an Indian organic farming
scientist. Hailing from the agro-based Thanjavur district of
Tamil Nadu, he was involved in preaching the farmers to get an
edge in organic farming.
Nammalvar was born in 1938 in Elangadu, Tanjore District, and he
graduated from Annamalai University with a B.Sc degree in
Agriculture. In 1963, he began working for the Agricultural
Regional Research Station, a government organization in
Kovilpatti, as a scientist, conducting trials on spacing and
manure levels of various chemical fertilizers in cotton and
millet crops. During his tenure there, the government had
conducted various experiments in rain fed land, using expensive
inputs like hybrid seeds, chemical fertilizers and chemical
pesticides which Nammalvar considered futile as the rain fed
farmers were resource poor. Based on his experience, he felt very
strongly that it was imperative to totally reorient the research
work being undertaken. But his peers at the institute paid little
attention to his advice. Frustrated, he left the institute in
For the next 10 years, he was an agronomist for Island of Peace,
an organization founded by the Nobel Laureate Dominique Pire. His
focus was on improving the standard of living through
agricultural development in the Kalakad block of Tirunelveli
District, Tamil Nadu. It was at this time that he realized that
in order to get optimal results in farming, farmers should rely
only minimally on external inputs. All inputs should come from
within the farm. So called wastes should be recycled and used as
input. This revelation was a turning point in his life. He
completely lost trust in conventional farming practices and began
experimenting with sustainable agricultural methods.
In the late 1970s, Nammalvar became greatly influenced by Paulo
Freire and Vinoba Bhave and their theories on education. The
purpose of education should be freedom. Freedom is essentially
self-reliance. Self-sufficiency means that one should not depend
on others for one's daily bread. Secondly, one should have
developed the power to acquire knowledge for oneself. And last
but not the least, a man should be able to rule himself, to
control his thoughts and feelings.
Eager to propagate these new theories on education, specifically
to aid farmers in becoming self-sufficient, he started a Society,
Kudumbham in 1979. "Participatory Development" was the way
forward. There can be no education without action. Nor can there
be any action without education. Both go hand in hand. Nammalvar
interacted with local farmers, understood their needs, and based
on their input, evolved farming practices suited to the local
In 1987, Nammalvar attended a 4-week training course conducted by
the ETC Foundation, Netherlands, on ecological agriculture. In
1990, he founded a network called LEISA (Low External Input and
Sustainable Agriculture) to promote the concepts of ecological
farming, specifically the importance of self-reliability and low
external inputs. During the same year, he started an ecological
research centre for rain-fed cultivation in Pudukottai district.
Nammalvar was also greatly influenced by Mr. Bernard de-Clerk of
Auroville fame, whom he had worked with since 1984. In 1995 he
was nominated as the Tamil Nadu state coordinator for ARISE
(Agricultural Renewal in India for Sustainable Environment).
Concurrently, Bernard was the coordinator at the national level.
During his tenure he travelled widely across India promoting the
principles of sustainable agriculture.
When the Tsunami hit India on December 25, 2004, Nammalvar was
actively involved in the rehabilitation process. In 2005, he
helped farmers across various villages in Nagapattinam district
to rehabilitate. In 2006, he left for Indonesia and assisted in
reclaiming several farms in Tsunami affected areas.
Recognizing his extensive work in the field of agriculture, the
Gandhi Gram Rural University, Dindugal honored Nammalvar with a
Doctorate of Science degree in 2007.
Nammalvar travelled widely across the world, observed the
agricultural practices in various different ecological systems
and based on his findings, trained several farmers and NGO
workers. He has written several books and articles in the Tamil
language. He had a wide readership across different sections of
society. His works may soon be translated to the English
language, making his writings easily accessible.
Nammalvar spent a substantial part of his time actively touring
the south and conducting training classes on ecological farming.
He was in the process of setting up several research cum training
centers across South India. The first was at Surumanpatti,
Kadavur in Karur district. He was also actively involved in
linking different farms and institutes around the world so as to
accelerate the process of ecological development.
Nammalvar was the Chief Guest for the practical session conducted
on organic farming titled "iniyellam iyarkai" (Now all natural)
on July 20 & 21 2013 by the Ramanathapuram district collector.