Masanobu Fukuoka: The man who did nothing

By Malvika Tegta

More than 30 years after it was published, farmer sage Masanobu Fukuoka’s cult book, One-Straw Revolution, continues to inspire. On the occasion of his second death anniversary, DNA talks to Indian farmers whose lives were transformed by Fukuoka’s radical vision of farming, nature, and life. [Read one chapter from One-Straw Revolution here. ~Ed.]

Do-nothing or minimal interference is a radical idea. Especially for a civilisation obsessed with jumping from one complexity to another while simultaneously idealising simplicity. In 1983, a group of 20 farmers in Rasulia, a small village near Hoshangabad in Madhya Pradesh, was trying to find an alternative to chemical-intensive agriculture. Since 1978, they had been battling the legacy of the Green Revolution — hybrid seeds, pesticides, fertilisers — to redeem the promise of rishi kheti (farming as practiced by ancient sages), a practice that involves letting nature take its course.

They were successful. But there was more to be done, or rather undone. What that was, they weren’t sure. But they were open to learning.

It was no coincidence, then, that they attracted the internationally recognised Japanese spiritualist and Buddhist farmer Masanobu Fukuoka into their lives. One of the Rasulia farmers, Pratap C Aggarwal, came across a review of Fukuoka’s The One-Straw Revolution. Here he heard of the ‘no-till’ technique, a farming philosophy pioneered by Fukuoka. Aggarwal couldn’t wait to read the book, which was not published in India back then. So he wrote a friend in London asking her to send him a copy.

Read full post at DNA

15 responses to “Masanobu Fukuoka: The man who did nothing

  1. I read this book 30 years ago and I have it still somewhere. The single most important thing it told me when I read it, was to be an observer of your own particular farm and/or surroundings and place in the world and participate in it, locally and joyously; that you BELONG by just being yourself. Every place is unique, every place and being is special in the way that we are made, so called ‘highest’ human to ‘lowest’ little bug. And there is enough.

    I cannot even begin to tell you how much it hurts one like me (or any sensitive person) to be ruled and harmed continually by a bureaucracy that pays no heed to this truth and instead rules by some centralized NON-intelligence, usually calling itself, SCIENCE. This is force AGAINST nature, force or militarism and dogmatism at its worst, no matter what they call themselves. I don’t care if they call themselves GREEN PEACE or ‘organic’ or whatever…..they are against nature….and against LIFE and the meaning and wonder intrinsic to life and its unfolding…

    Thanks for bringing this book up again Rady, another really good book is Small Is Beautiful, by E.F. Schumacher.


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  3. On a list serve, we received these comments from people who knew him:

    Remembering Masanobu Fukuokasan

    Thanks to the DNA for the publishing an interesing story on Masanobu
    Fukuoka, promoter of ‘Do Nothing’ concept in agriculture’.

    Many memories of days/weeks of receiving and keepy among us in Mumbai
    shine out as brilliant stars in dark nights.

    Fukuoka San was invited by Ravindranath Tagore’s Vishwabharati
    University, Santiniketan to receive the Doctorate for his lifelong
    service to the soil (If I recollect well in 1988). After the function
    Prime Minster Rajiv Gandhi as the Chancellor of Vishwabharati asked
    Fukuokasan for his views on India and Her people. (The only university
    where the Prime Minister of India is the Chancellor. )

    Fukuoka told that this was his first visit to India. Ranjiv asked
    whether he would like to go round India. Fukuoka replied that he
    would like to visit Mahatma Gandhi’s lndia and meet Her people. Rajiv
    immediately organised a visit through main cities and for a
    Japanese national who could interprete from Japanese to Hindi.
    (Interpreter could translate in Hindi and no other language including

    Their travel programme was immediately embarked on the visit through
    main cities . Accompanying officials took him to Delhi and other
    cities showing him landmarks. Not a single Gandhi Memorial Centre was
    included in the programme.
    Fukuoka san arrived in Mumbai (then Bombay ) . He asked the escorting
    officers to take him to Mahatma Gandhi Centres and arrange visits to
    farmers in the villages. Officials could not meet with this peculiar
    demand. In Bombay Fukuoka repeated his wish to visit Gandhi Memorial
    and visit farms and so they contacted me somehow.

    Officials requested me and other colleagues to meet Fukuoka. In the
    meeting he conveyed his resire to visit Gandhi Memorial Centre where
    he could pay his respects to Mahatma Gandhi and meet farmers in their

    In the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi at Mani Bhavan in a special meeting
    organised by Dr Ushaben Mehta he declared: “I have not seen Gandhi
    nor have I read any book by him or or him in my life but I feel that
    Gandhi is the greatest human I can think of and I am convinced that I
    am the greatest follower of Gandhi. He would take me as his first
    disciple supporting his ideal work if he was alive at this time.”

    He further declared that the soil has the innate capacity to produce
    optimally to feed all living beings of the earth provided we left the
    soil to do its work on its own. (DO NOTHING concept). The human in
    his greed is killing the soil.

    We could take him the next day to Dahanu near Maharahstra State on
    the border with Gujarat to visit Shri Poonamchand Baphna’s Farm.
    Baphnas are following organic cultivation for over forty years. In
    the meeting of farmers held on the farm he expressed his satisfaction
    on the practices followed by Baphna.

    Fukuokasan made a practice of visiting Bombay whenever he stirred out
    of Japan. In the subsequent visit we took him on a two day visit when
    he visted Shri Bhaskarbhai Save’s farm at Deheri, Umargaon,
    Gujarat.He declared that he liked to visit India because he has more
    followers in India than even in Japan. He explained his way of
    greening the Earth by throwing Seed balls everywhere. During one
    visit he brought a colleague from Japan to demonstrate his idea of
    making earth balls containing a variety of seeds and throwing them in
    deserts to turn them into forests. He always talked of keeping the
    soil under constant and not let it remain dry and lifeless. Fukuoka
    felt that India is following his practices more sincerely than any
    country including Japan.

    Best wishes.

    Kisan Mehta



    In addition to the following mail, one incident of extreme humbleness
    of Fukukasan in which you and we are associated comes to my mind..

    During his stay with us in Bombay then, he showed keeness to meet
    farmers practising organic farming. We decided to take him to Shri
    Poonamchand Baphna farm in Dahanu. We knew that he was scheduled to
    leave by Deccan Queen to Poona by that date. While returning in car
    to Bombay, I reminded him that were running short for time for
    catching the train. Somehow he was in the desolete mood on the road
    to Bombay so I asked as to why in bad mood. “Are you feeling homesick?

    He promptly replied that I feel extremely sorry to see the top soil
    was being lifted for making bricks. He explained that it takes
    thousands of years to develop top soil suitable for the earth to
    produce food and this top soil is being plundered for making bricks.
    That land would remain barren for a century nos. I agreed but he was
    not happy. He asked whether we can stop the car so that he can
    explain the matter to the people workingreqos oilTop soil. I again
    reminded that we were running short of time and cannot afford to
    waste time. He felt further sorry and told please give me a minute to
    talk to these ignorant people. We stopped to enable him to explain
    the loss. It took more than 10 minutes to convey his thought and go
    further delayed. We practically rushed to VT Station but to our
    disaappointed ment the train left a minute ago without him.

    We some how accommodated in the Poona Mail leaving after a few mintues
    and I telephoned to you inPoona to receive him from the Poona Mail.
    Fukuokasan was so humblein his approach to life and all and full of
    sympathy for the living. The above incident took place during his
    first visit to India in 1988.

    Best wishews.

    Kisan Mehta Priya Salvi

  4. I recently got the book, though I haven’t read it yet.

    I’m not a farmer (though I sometimes dream of becoming one); I just have a small garden plot. But I’ve heard such great things about this book that I wanted to read it and see what it said to me.

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