The farmer poet

Mahmood Futehally

On May 12 as Muttahida and Jamaat-i-Islami workers were busy attacking each other on the day of the by-elections, some citizens of Karachi gathered to honour Mr Mehmood Futehally for his “significant contribution to civil society”.

Mr Mehmood Futehally who is 89 and still active was presented the Citizen’s Award 2003. Mr Ardeshir Cowasjee, the first recipient of this award in 2001, was invited to make the presentation. As is his brusque style the first thing he demanded to know from Mr Futehally was which of them was older. Mr Futehally turned out to be senior by 10 years, though he hardly looks it.

But age was not the reason for the admiration given to Mr Futehally that evening. A self-employed farmer, he has made an outstanding contribution to low-cost farming by devising natural and indigenous methods that inspired the five-member jury to select him from about 20 or so nominees that evening.

Mr Futehally developed a windmill way back in 1973. A small sized windmill can pump 18,000 litres of water from a depth of 30 feet. Since the fields are irrigated by the drip system, very little water is used to cover a substantial area. He makes fertilizer with his own technology using organic waste and earthworms.

In the heart of Gulshan-i-Iqbal stands Suhana farm. Its lush green beauty is a living testimony to Mr Futehally’s ingenious farming methods. A short documentary by Nazli Jamil vividly captured the low-cost technology devised by this champion of organic farming. His goal? To form Kashtkar (Cultivators’) Trust and through that help small farmers learn his low-cost technology to grow food.

Mr Futehally is also a poet. He read out a poem he had written 35 years ago but which is still relevant. “I dreamt a dream,” said Mr Futehalley, “A man arose, equipped by nature herself to save our hapless globe.” His weapon was “human love” and “shining truth” because of which “human hearts began to thaw, love and brotherhood blossomed everywhere”.

“True, it was but a dream, but we can, we shall, make it also true,/ Though it was futile to wait for such a man, of a thousand times our stature,/ Yet a thousand of us can strive, and acquire each a thousandth of his power,/ And, joined each to each by steely bonds of faith, make the dream come true.”

What a pity, the students of the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture who had been expected to fill the hall and be inspired were absent because the administration had declared it a holiday because of the by-elections.

Karachian (Zubeida Mustafa)

Source: Dawn,17 May 2004