Techie-turned-farmer Binay Kumar. 
Snapshot
  • A walking Wikipedia on agriculture, Binay Kumar conducts training in permaculture and other natural farming practices.

    He also teaches urban Bengalureans how to grow their own food within their spaces.

By Art of Living

“When you tie a string to your plastic garbage bag and put it outside, where do you think it goes? To the moon? No! It remains on the earth.” An impromptu video of him talking to a group in a bus has become viral and has seen 13 lakh hits and earned him a sobriquet The Man on the Bus. He is seen extolling an unsuspecting crowd in a bus to examine their actions, importance of the farmer, to go back to roots, and how, as a generation, we Indians are making sure that the problem of food security remains under discussion. This has hit people right in the conscience. But what is his story and who is the man on the bus?

Meet Binay Kumar, an MBA and a software engineer-turned farmer. A walking Wikipedia on agriculture, he conducts training in permaculture and other natural farming practices and teaches urban Bengalureans how to grow their own food within their spaces.

The native of a small village in Bihar, he spent his childhood bathing buffaloes in the Ganges, playing in the fields, helping his farmer-parents sow seeds and other farm activities. After graduation, he was encouraged by his teachers to go Bengaluru and learn computers. He was, however, reluctant as he could not speak English.

Cut to 1988. He completed his Masters in Computers from Bengaluru, learnt to speak English and landed a job, where he continued to work for the next 10 years.

A man of the land, Kumar felt stuck with the unbearable monotony of corporate life. “After 10 years of corporate life, I had the realisation that life is more than just earning money,” says Binay Kumar, “That is when I thought of going back to my roots. I thought of doing farming, which was one of my childhood pastimes. In 2013, a perfect opportunity knocked at my door. The Art of Living International Center needed a project coordinator for a permaculture project. They needed someone who could speak English, operate computers, drive, dig, plant and water. I got through and life couldn’t have been better.”

Kumar, since then, has come a long way. Today, he goes around speaking at important fora, gets invited at thought leadership conferences, meeting experts, academicians and field workers who are working to establish sustainable agricultural practices, ensuring food security and creating awareness about environment-friendly ways of living.

He has to his credit, the accomplishment and satisfaction of turning some of the most difficult and barren pieces of land into lush green vegetation, thanks to his Permaculture training.

Explaining the technique of permaculture, he says it is a system of sustainable, self-sufficient farming based on patterns and features seen in nature. There are three ethics of Permaculture: Earth Care (“enabling all life-systems to continue and multiply”); People Care (Humans should have access to Earth’s resources) and Fair Share (Taking only what we need and conserving resources to take care of the first two ethics).

He holds workshops each week in teaching people to grow not just green cover within their homes, using the wet waste generated at home, but also to grow their own food in the simplest ways and in the shortest time. His workshops have become popular by word of mouth and run houseful, attracting people from all backgrounds such as garden enthusiasts, urban farmers, corporates sending their employees for a day- long training. His sharing is personal and thought-provoking to many and it has forced many to make a conscious shift.

A businessman with about 90 acres of land near Hosur, inspired by his workshop, has turned to sustainable agriculture, giving up chemical farming and the use of plastics in his land. He has started milk production with a 5,000-litre capacity chiller. He sells the milk in recyclable glass bottles.

In another instance, an engineer decided to leave his job and setup something similar in his village after he spent some time at the Art of Living’s permaculture site. He is now the sarpanch of his village.

The vegetables grown in Binay’s permaculture farm serves to feed thousands at the free kitchen of the Art of Living ashram and in turn the kitchen sends tractor loads of vegetable waste, peels and other organic waste to feed the permaculture farm.

“The earth does not keep anything; it returns everything multifold. You put one seed and it gives you 70 – 80 seeds in three months,” Binay says, adding, “No business in the world can give you this much return in such a small period of time. The same thing with water. You give it to the land and the earth gives it back to you. That is why we call her mother.”

Pioneered by Australians Bill Morrison and David Holmgren, permaculture is emerging as a system of food-production that can help us grow chemical-free food, and also save the planet from further degradation by addressing the concerns of soil, water-availability, ecology and climate change. It is suitable for India as it has low investment costs and enables even small farmers to have food and livelihood security while doing agriculture in a sustainable way.

“I don’t think big environment projects need the government to put in crores of rupees,” shares Binay. “They, rather, need individuals taking action on an individual scale. Such collective action becomes contagious as more and more people want to follow it when they have experienced the benefits and seen it succeed on the ground. Farmers come from all around, both from rural and urban areas and see my farm as a model farm, which can work for them too.”

Binay’s purpose is to enable people to become self-sufficient or self sustained in growing their own food and managing their own waste wisely. “Every house, every vicinity, every city, every town, every Metro is becoming nothing but a garbage dump. My objective is that everyone should make a self-initiated earth friendly shift in their lifestyle. We should not wait for the government to put a ban and take action.”

Leaving a corporate job and returning to agriculture had upset his family, his father and uncle the most. It was hard for them to accept this change. But his best moment was when his father sold all his jersey cows and bought a desi breed. “He started telling everyone in the village to use cowdung and not chemicals. The villagers have, now, asked me to arrange 10 Bos Indicus cows for them. It has become a revolution in my village - a place where even Google has not reached.”

To get in touch with Binay to learn more on Permaculture and sustainable living call: 7204236309

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