HIGHLIGHTS

  • Although its high-technology agriculture feeds millions with apparent efficiency, MASANOBU FUKUOKA warns that by disturbing the self-balancing processes of nature, it is also creating weak, chemical-dependent plants and poisoning the land, water, and air.
  • In FUKUOKA’s rice and barley fields, sturdy grains share their habitat with white clover, insects, birds, and small animals.
  • FUKUOKA points out that his “do nothing” farming completely contradicts modern agricultural techniques. Yet his untidy farm yields grain and fruits just as abundantly as high-technology farms, often more so, and a rich mix of hearty vegetables besides.
  • The RMAF board of trustees recognizes “his demonstration to small farmers everywhere that natural farming offers a practical, environmentally safe, and bountiful alternative to modern commercial practices and their harmful consequences.”

 CITATION

In Japan, as in other developed societies, industrialization has transformed farming. Japan is today among the world’s most prolific users of insecticides and herbicides. Although its high-technology agriculture feeds millions with apparent efficiency, MASANOBU FUKUOKA warns that by disturbing the self-balancing processes of nature, it is also creating weak, chemical-dependent plants and poisoning the land, water, and air.

Trained in plant pathology, FUKUOKA spent his early years as a plant inspector for the Yokohama Customs. On the side, he conducted his own scientific research but concluded ultimately that “an understanding of nature lies beyond the reach of human intelligence.”

At the age of twenty-five, following a life-changing spiritual awakening, he abandoned his job and drifted home to his father’s orange groves. There, in the town of Iyo on the southern island of Shikoku, he began living out his newfound insight that “in the world there is nothing at all.” As a simple farmer for fifty years he has pursued a near effortless concord between himself and the land.

“When you get right down to it, there are few agricultural practices that are really necessary,” says FUKUOKA. He does not plow his fields, nor weed them by tillage or herbicides. He does not plant seeds in tidy rows but casts them randomly upon the ground. He uses no machines, no insecticides, and no chemical fertilizers or prepared compost; he strews his rice and barley fields with straw instead.

In FUKUOKA’s rice and barley fields, sturdy grains share their habitat with white clover, insects, birds, and small animals. In his orchards, unpruned orange trees rise prolifically above a profusion of grasses, herbs, and vegetables. They all thrive together naturally.

FUKUOKA points out that his “do nothing” farming completely contradicts modern agricultural techniques. Yet his untidy farm yields grain and fruits just as abundantly as high-technology farms, often more so, and a rich mix of hearty vegetables besides. His method offers farmers extra leisure. It requires no expensive inputs. It creates no pollution. Moreover, it is profitable: FUKUOKA’s chemical-free produce is highly prized by health-conscious consumers.

Despite his publicized success and several books, seventy-five-year-old FUKUOKA’s philosophy has been slow to catch on in Japan. But the 1978 English edition of his The One-Straw Revolution awakened interest elsewhere. Students, scientists, and agricultural workers from around the world now beat a path to his farm. He has spread his message personally to North America, Europe, and Africa. India received him as a prophet. His low-technology, nature-sensitive practices offer hope to India’s poorest farmers and, as FUKUOKA feels strongly, are in harmony with its Gandhian spirit.

The earth is a generous provider, says FUKUOKA, but a fragile one. Governments should take heed and act. For healing the land will also heal the human spirit; and the land will heal, he assures us, if we remember that “natural farming exists forever as the wellspring of agriculture.”

In electing MASANOBU FUKUOKA to receive the 1988 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service, the Board of Trustees recognizes his demonstration to small farmers everywhere that natural farming offers a practical, environmentally safe, and bountiful alternative to modern commercial practices and their harmful consequences.

 RESPONSE

I have never dreamed of being conferred such a prestigious award as yours, and it is indeed the greatest honor for me to be here today. While overwhelmed with joy, I am bracing in anticipation for the heavy responsibilities of the days to come.

If, as an expression of my deep gratitude, I may take this opportunity to share my long-cherished thoughts with you, I should be deeply honored.

One day, while still a youth, a certain chain of events set me out on the path to farming. I started walking my road to natural farming. Being born dull-witted, however, I regret that I have failed to advance along this road as far as I should have.

On the other hand, the kind of natural farming I advocate has only just begun and will never be perfected. I have never doubted the basic idea underlying natural farming—the green philosophy. Nor have I ever encountered any evidence to contradict it.

Natural farming may be said to have its roots in the biblical insight: “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” I do not know much about Christianity, but I take myself to be Christian. Nor do I know much about Buddhism, but I take myself to be Buddhist.

I accept Gautama Buddha’s idea that “all is nothing.” Human knowledge that deviates from the wisdom of God is useless. There is no value whatsoever created by human desires, although modernization may make it seem otherwise. Based on the conviction that genuine truth, beauty, and pleasure can be found only in nature, I have pursued a “do-nothing,” natural way of farming—with no tilling, no fertilizer, and no chemicals.

Fundamentally, I believe farming exists to serve and to approach God. Natural farming is the way. For God is nature, and nature is God.

However, since modern agriculture is based upon the flawed concepts of Western philosophy, which put man in conflict with his environment, we now selfishly exploit and destroy nature for our own ends. Agriculture has degenerated into an industrial and commercial process driven by human desires, making us slaves to money and to oil. During the past few centuries, monoculture has created a bogus blanket of green that exists only for man.

It took only two hundred years for the fertile soil of North America to become dead soil; 80 percent of Ethiopia was covered with forests only eighty years ago, but now only 3 percent of Ethiopia is green. Somalia has become a semidesert. India lost its green during the past forty-five years, Nepal during the past seventeen; these in turn caused the Ganges to flood and led to a food crisis in India. Observing this, I could not help but realize that modernized agriculture and the life of each individual are both linked ultimately to the destiny of the earth itself.

The scientists of the world are now in agreement that “while it took 4.6 billion years to make this earth—the only green and beautiful planet in the universe—it is now on the brink of destruction because of modern civilization, which has developed in just 100 years.” Is there any way to put a stop to this?

The only way is for man to return to his proper position within nature as one member among all living things. Then, he can recover his soul and resurrect the green.

Why did man go astray? He has been deluded by a distorted Western view of the world based on concepts of relativity and dialectical materialism. Religion and science have kept pace. Sooner or later, however, these bankrupt ideas are destined to scatter away and vanish, leaving confusion and chaos behind.

What we need in their place is a view of the world that embodies the Buddhist truth that “our existence is nothingness” and that is in accord with the Christian teaching that the world and all that is in it are one.

The Philippines was once a Garden of Eden. Trees of all kinds flourished, yielding hundreds of different kinds of fruit. To make it into a paradise again should not be just a dream. Imagine a paradise of vegetables and flowers, rich grain crops, trees laden heavily with fruit, and of beautiful green hills and plains. If by our effort the Philippines can once again become a Garden of Eden, you will be the pivot of Asia and a light to the world shining throughout the twenty-first century.

In these increasingly chaotic modern times, we must show that will to walk the other way, to serve God by restoring nature. If your country will do this, scattering seeds on its semidesertized earth and showing the world a determination to turn it into a green paradise again, then people will become aware of the true wellspring of human joy. And they too will turn around and strive for peace and happiness.

Tomorrow will be too late. I beg you to join me in my ardent and earnest prayer and start to take new action today.

 BIOGRAPHY

MASANOBU FUKUOKA was born on the Japanese island of Shikoku on 2 February 1913. Iyo, his birthplace, is a small town on the west coast, sixteen miles from the city of Matsuyama. His family had been settled there for hundreds of years. On Iyo’s hillsides overlooking Matsuyama, his father, Kameichi Fukuoka, cultivated mandarin oranges (tangerines). These orchards, combined with extensive rice lands below, made Kameichi the largest landowner in the area. Kameichi was an educated man, having completed eight years of schooling, which was exceptional for his day. Repeatedly the local leaders selected him mayor.

FUKUOKA’s mother, Sachie Isshiki, was of Samurai descent and also well-educated. She was gentle, whereas his father was strict and permitted no luxuries in the household. Even so, FUKUOKA remembers a childhood of ease. Tenants tilled the family rice lands. As the second child of six and eldest son, his only chore was to gather wood after school each day.

The family was Buddhist but was tolerant toward Christianity, which had penetrated the Iyo region long before; as a boy FUKUOKA was accustomed to seeing Christian symbols incorporated into household Shinto shrines. Years later he would send two of his daughters to missionary schools.

(For the complete biography, please email biographies@rmaf.org.ph)