“Free” Fertilizer is Saving Rural Farmers

by Jessi Gowan

Revitalizing dead soil can be done in just one planting season, thanks to Shivansh farming. Rural farmers can use whatever materials are available to them to restore their livelihoods – lowering their costs and increasing their yields.

The majority of the world’s poorest farmers use a nitrogen fertilizer called urea. The chemical was initially produced to serve industrial agriculture, but many small-scale farmers were swayed by the fertilizer’s promise of increased productivity. However, the fertilizer begins to wreak havoc once absorbed into the soil, destroying the precarious balance of microorganisms the soil needs to provide plants with enough vitamins and minerals. The ecosystem is destroyed.

As a result, crops are left vulnerable to disease, produce lower yields, are less nutritious, and even require more water. This kicks off a chain reaction that leads to farmers using more herbicides, and pesticides in an attempt to remedy these issues. Producers begin investing more money in chemicals and have to start purchasing seeds to replant their failing crops – resulting in farmers earning only a 2 percent profit, intensifying their food insecurity and ongoing poverty.

Shivansh fertilizer can allow farmers to break this cycle and reduce their dependence on the chemicals that are doing more harm than good. To create their own free fertilizer, farmers need only gather whatever they have lying around – fresh grass, dried plant materials, animal manure, or crop residues – and incorporate an easy layering technique to create a shoulder-high mound.

The rest is all up to nature. After 18 days, the pile has reduced down to a nutrient-rich fertilizer, full of the microorganisms that soil needs to grow healthy crops. This powerful fertilizer can bring damaged soil back to life within the very first planting season – meaning it has the capacity to completely revolutionize the farming industry for impoverished producers worldwide.

This technique helps bring farming back to basics, using natural materials to improve the most fundamental element of agriculture – the soil. With healthy soil, producers can grow healthy plants with sturdy immune systems, plentiful and higher-quality yields, and even more viable seeds. Farmers will see increased revenues, reduce their dependence on chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, and generate more nutritious outputs to combat the pressing issue of food insecurity and malnutrition.

In 2016, 50 farms in India began field-testing Shivansh fertilizer – and over the course of just one year, the practice had spread virally to nearly 40,000 farms. Almost immediately, farmers have started seeing results. After reinvigorating their soil using their homemade Shivansh fertilizer, producers are able to make a living again.

The benefits extend beyond just financial returns, however. With producers using farm waste to create fertilizer, they’re not burning it off, which reduces the amount of pollution in the air. As producers start earning more revenue, they’re able to send their children to school, purchase basic necessities, and even begin to experience an increased quality of life – none of which would be possible if they were still dependent on damaging chemical fertilizers.

Permaculture Research Institute