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,
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
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
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.