Often, only those who experience scarcity adopt conservation. Very few think beyond the present into the future. One such person is G.S. Gidde Gowda, whose unconventional ideas keep his "Suvarna" farm the picture of prosperity and promise.

Gidde Gowda, a teacher by profession, has effectively employed various structures for water percolation in his ‘Suvarna Farm’. This doesn’t mean he has water scarcity; he can afford to feed his 11-acre land through flood irrigation. The nearby lake, though silted, keeps water level high in the farm. For better utilisation of soil and water, Mr. Gowda has constructed 8 ft wide basins along the coconut trees in a row. These basins which have percolation ponds between every two-coconut trees preserves water underground. The coconut trees are each separated by a distance of 27 x 27 ft. Sapota trees have been planted between two coconut rows in a straight line with the percolation pond. According to Mr. Gidde Gowda, such a structure conserves both soil and water and also helps to preserve the moisture of the soil in the base of the coconut trees.

As Mr. Gowda says, this has protected the coconut trees against mosquito menace. Though few trees have been attacked, the condition is much better than on neighbouring farms that stick to fertilizers and pesticides, he feels. Mr. Gidde Gowda observes that each time the mite attacks a different tree, and in a tree too the mite menace shifts from one bunch to the other, it rarely strikes the same tree continuously. Among the trees that have been attacked, younger ones are the worst affected. This time each tree has yielded 150 to 200 nuts in his farm. Further, he has not allowed pepper crops to incline against coconut trees; according to him this weakens the tree.

While coconut is the major crop in Suvarna farm, mango, arecanut, cashew, plantain, teak, pepper, sapota and jackfruit are planted as intercrops. Recent additions are vanilla, gliricidia, cardamom and cherry. He grows rice by dry-land cultivation in half acre of his land. A small portion of the farm is devoted to grow vegetables. Alternative crops like toor and beans are also grown. Cow-pea (a type of vegetable) plants are seen in plenty all over the paddy growing area, which in turn act as manure.

Gidde Gowda was practicing chemical farming till 1997 (he purchased the land in 1990) when he came in contact with Mr. Vijaya Angadi, who is a strong supporter of organic farming. Everything has changed since then; Mr. Gowda's farm is now a wholly organic one, whose practices inspire his fellow farmers. The yield was low in the first two years, but quickly picked up. For coconut trees, he doesn’t add any external compost. Coconut tree leaves themselves, 10 to 12 in a year, are the compost, which is more than enough, he says. Plants like peuroria and parthenium (this is generally considered as a weed plant) that are used for mulching, cover a major portion of the farm. Silt is also used as a fertilizer.

He spreads neem and toor seeds around the entire farm, which in turn nourish the soil. He prefers neem seeds to neem cakes because of the risk of adulteration in neem cakes, while seeds are pure. He refutes the general feeling that white ant harms the soil; instead he asserts that it makes soil porous and fertile. He mixes 1 unit of cow dung with 10 units of water to use as nutrient. Instead of pesticides Mr. Gowda uses a concoction containing 16 liters of water and 50 ml of neem oil.

In marketing the produce, he plans carefully so that there will be no regrets later. Instead of selling coconut, he sells copra, which has greater demand in the market. "“The attitude of the consumers towards their food habits should change," he says. "They should search for proper sources. Marketing agricultural products, especially the organic ones, has become difficult, and it can be tackled only when both growers and consumers come together,” Mr. Gowda feels.

G.S. Gidde Gowda
Suvarna Farm, Brahmadevara Halli
Nittur Post, Hassan – 573 219
Karnataka State, INDIA
Phone: 08172 - 42565

Route: ‘Suvarna farm’ is situated at a distance of 20 km from Hassan in Hassan - Nittur road.
Mr. Gidde Gowda has a great passion for birds; bird-watching is his favourite hobby. He also takes his students bird-watching on the bushy hills nearby. He is also the President of Parisara Vijnana Kendra (Environmental Science Centre) in Hassan. Being an acclaimed herbal doctor, Mr. Gidde Gowda maintains a medicinal plant garden, which has many plants that provide cures for common illnesses. Most of the plants here are the native varieties, of which a few are endangered.

The entire family is involved in the farming and their attitudes towards nature are similar. Gidde Gowda’s wife Jayamma maintains the Vanilla and Pepper nurseries. Their three sons want to fill every inch of the farm with plants; they remember the days when they used to plant even at night. Every day is nature'’s day in the Gidde Gowd Jayamma family.