On Farm Energy

L. Narayana Reddy

Agriculture for ages was self reliant in terms of inputs like seed, manure, tools, energy or fuel.  But during the past 80 years, the system of self-reliance gave away to dependence on high cost external inputs. I think the reasons are many. Firstly, after industrialization, people gave less prominence to agriculture due to economic reasons. Secondly, every one wanted the work to be done easily even if it costed them.  Unfortunately, farmers did not realize that the dependency on external inputs gradually dismantled the age-old culturally interlinked system of trees, animals, soil water, humans.  Such dependence on external inputs led to neglect of farm and local resources and the knowledge of their importance and use. For instance, chemical fertilisers replaced animal excreta as fertiliser; tractors replaced horses and bullocks for land cultivation and transportation of agriculture commodities. Transportation by horses and bullocks and even bicycles was not only very cheap but also safe and environmental friendly.  May be trains and public transport buses should have been necessary. Similarly, farmers used animals and manpower to draw irrigation water earlier but later, after the introduction of motor operated pump sets they discharged water enormously  resulting in groundwater scarcity, beyond their recharging ability.  For drinking purposes, the villages had a beautiful system of preserving cool water in mud pots kept on moist sand beds. They used to preserve their vegetables and fruits in the pots in moist sand beds, but now use of refrigerators has become prestigious.

Even small farmers started using power driven fodder choppers, which could be replaced with hand driven implements, owing to plenty of manpower availability. Blacksmiths, Launderers, Potters who were using charcoal have started using fossil fuels. Blacksmiths too, to burn their furnaces, are now using power blowers. Oil expellers and sugarcane crushers were being operated with the help of oxen or other draught animals, but the traditional power sources are replaced by power engines.  I still remember, in most of the houses in our villages, they used stone and wooden crushers mostly operated by women were used. Stone crushers were used to grind cereals and wooden crushers to process pulses. Similarly, paddy was pounded using heavy wooden pounders.  But now, even for a family of 3 or 4 persons pulses, cereals, spices are milled with power mills.

It is very strange to notice that the farmers who have enough cattle dung use LPG, a cooking gas, which is in short supply and very expensive. Excreta from 3 animals (Cow or buffaloes) is sufficient to produce plenty of cooking gas for a family of 6 persons, apart from producing very good manure. Rearing earth worms to produce vermicompost would enable farmers to discontinue using chemical fertilisers. These chemical fertilisers manufactured using fossil fuels, also save fuel in transporting to the field.

Low cost solar dryers during rainy season are very important to save the agriculture produce, labour and energy.  Usually coffee, cardamom, arecanut, pepper and vanilla growers face many problems in drying their produce during harvesting season owing to rains or cloudy weather Traditionally, they have built up vast drying houses, laid with complicated pipelines to carry heat all over the house and also to release the smoke from furnace.  Platforms made of wood and steel mesh are arranged at equal heights to dry the produce.  In Western Ghats where all the above said crops are grown, the traditional dryers have been replaced with simple plastic drying houses.  They erect little slanting houses with bamboo or wooden reapers and cover the whole structure with durable green house plastic sheet developed to withstand the weather and ultra-violet rays of the sun. It is better to leave a narrow space just above the land surface to encourage air circulation and similarly a narrow opening just below the top, to allow the hot air to pass.  Like in the traditional drying houses, 4 to 6 steps can be arranged to lay the trays.

Diggers, earth moving equipment and combined harvesters replace thousands of labourers. Besides, combined harvesters in paddy and wheat growing areas also harden the soil with compaction and destroy about two tonnes hay from each acre. The farmers are to be educated about the hazards of using external sources for fuel and motivated to use available drought animal energy, human power and their own renewable fuels or energies.  The government should provide a remunerative price for their produce so that they can employ local labourers with a handsome wage on par with the builders, traders and industries.  Otherwise, I am afraid that all the small, medium and marginal farmers will soon migrate to cities, create chaos leading to serious social unrest in the whole country, sooner or later.


L. Narayana Reddy


Via Maralenahalli

Doddaballapura Taluk

HANABE POST – 561 203


Phone : (C: 080) 27651360

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