The pioneer of organic farming.
  • Dr.G.Nammalvar (16 April 1939 to 30 Dec 2013)

    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 1969.

    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 farmers.

    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.