Organic farming takes root in AP – The New Indian Express


Express press service

GUNTUR: As India recently celebrated the 75th anniversary of independence, as many as 10,778 villages in 3,000 Andhra Pradesh panchayats are witnessing transformational changes through natural farming, thanks to PA Community Managed Natural Farming (APCNF).

A 36-year-old farmer from Jonnalagadda, A Rami Reddy, is among many others for whom natural farming has changed their lives. After suffering a heart attack at the age of 32, he was suggested to eat healthy. Later, he discovers the APCNF program.

Recalling his first encounter with natural farming, Rami Reddy said, “In 2018, officials from the agriculture department visited our village and explained natural farming and its benefits. Since then, there has been no stopping. Although we had to work hard, I decided to completely switch to natural farming. With more benefits, I am very healthy and I feel satisfied to provide healthier food to people,” he added.

Following in his footsteps, around 230 farmers are now practicing natural farming in Jonnalagadda and another 400 are set to join the team. This statewide agroecology program has been implemented by Rythu Sadhikara Samstha and the state government since 2016. So far, 1.6 million farmers are practicing natural farming on 4.60 lakh hectares of land in the state.

Speaking to TNIE, Vice President of Rythu Sadhikara Samstha, T Vijaya Kumar, said current farming practices driven by the green revolution of the 1960s were collapsing due to changing weather conditions. These practices have also become a major cause of soil degradation, loss of organic matter, food scarcity, food with chemical residues, reduced nutrients and global warming, increased cost of cultivation, crop failure frequent occurrences and market uncertainties.

In response to the current decline in agricultural productivity coupled with the low resilience of agricultural production systems, the state government turned to natural farming and launched the APCNF, he added. It is a holistic land management practice that harnesses the power of plant photosynthesis to close the carbon cycle and boost soil health, crop resilience and nutrient density.

The main principles of the APCNF are to cover the soil with 365-day crops, minimal soil disturbance, use of biostimulants as necessary catalysts, diverse crops, including 15 to 20 different crops on the same land, the integration of animals in agriculture, increasing the diversity of organic residues, pest control through better agronomic practices, botanical extracts, which help farmers grow nutritious food and increase their profits.

Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are replaced with home-prepared kashayams and jeevamruthams. These act as biostimulants, soil microbial activators and bio-inoculants, which help to increase soil fertility, said APCNF Guntur District Project Manager Raja Kumari.

Biostimulants prepared from cow dung, kitchen scraps and other natural materials improve soil fertility and provide necessary nutrients for plants, she added. The main advantages of the APCNF are the reduction of cultivation costs and risks, thus generating regular income.

Women are the main driver of the success of this initiative. Knowledge dissemination and uptake support is consistently provided through a farmer-centric architecture, led by trained community resource people who are also farmers. They organize meetings for local women and farmers and train them in the preparation of kashayams and jeevamaruthams, and encourage them to create vegetable gardens and eat healthy, chemical-free and nutritious foods.

Venkayamma, a 35-year-old farmer from the village of Jonnallagadda is also a scientist in her own way, “inventing” several concoctions. “I mix the same ingredients in various mixtures and various amounts to test their effectiveness. If I get the desired results, I will check with the resource person and use it later in my field. The use of these homemade fertilizers helps us to reduce investments,” she added. Venkayamma who received the best farmer award also distributes his kashayams to others.

Natural farming also consumes less water. Farmers in semi-arid and rainfed regions are more interested in natural farming. Pre-monsoon dry seeding, a method used to provide green cover 365 days a year, allows farmers not only to grow a single variety but also intercrops. Another farmer, Srinivasa Reddy, who grows paddy as his main crop, intercrops seven varieties on his seven acres.

“Natural farming is nothing but a way of life,” he said and added, “I have been doing pre-monsoon dry seeding for three years and the results are amazing. Not only do I get a consistent monthly income, but it also improves soil fertility. Plants are healthier in natural agriculture. I made 80,000 profit per acre of chili, which is more than several chili growers who suffered severe losses due to pest infestations. But thanks to natural farming, we didn’t suffer much,” he explained.

GUNTUR: As India recently celebrated the 75th anniversary of independence, as many as 10,778 villages in 3,000 Andhra Pradesh panchayats are witnessing transformational changes through natural farming, thanks to PA Community Managed Natural Farming (APCNF). A 36-year-old farmer from Jonnalagadda, A Rami Reddy, is among many others for whom natural farming has changed their lives. After suffering a heart attack at the age of 32, he was suggested to eat healthy. Later, he discovers the APCNF program. Recalling his first encounter with natural farming, Rami Reddy said, “In 2018, officials from the agriculture department visited our village and explained natural farming and its benefits. Since then, there has been no stopping. Although we had to work hard, I decided to completely switch to natural farming. With more benefits, I am very healthy and I feel satisfied to provide healthier food to people,” he added. Following in his footsteps, around 230 farmers are now practicing natural farming in Jonnalagadda and another 400 are set to join the team. This statewide agroecology program has been implemented by Rythu Sadhikara Samstha and the state government since 2016. So far, 1.6 million farmers are practicing natural farming on 4.60 lakh hectares of land in the state. Speaking to TNIE, Vice President of Rythu Sadhikara Samstha, T Vijaya Kumar, said current farming practices driven by the green revolution of the 1960s were collapsing due to changing weather conditions. These practices have also become a major cause of soil degradation, loss of organic matter, food scarcity, food with chemical residues, reduced nutrients and global warming, increased cost of cultivation, crop failure frequent occurrences and market uncertainties. In response to the current decline in agricultural productivity coupled with the low resilience of agricultural production systems, the state government turned to natural farming and launched the APCNF, he added. It is a holistic land management practice that harnesses the power of plant photosynthesis to close the carbon cycle and boost soil health, crop resilience and nutrient density. The main principles of the APCNF are to cover the soil with 365-day crops, minimal soil disturbance, use of biostimulants as necessary catalysts, diverse crops, including 15 to 20 different crops on the same land, the integration of animals in agriculture, increasing the diversity of organic residues, pest control through better agronomic practices, botanical extracts, which help farmers grow nutritious food and increase their profits. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are replaced with home-prepared kashayams and jeevamruthams. These act as biostimulants, soil microbial activators and bio-inoculants, which help to increase soil fertility, said APCNF Guntur District Project Manager Raja Kumari. Biostimulants prepared from cow dung, kitchen scraps and other natural materials improve soil fertility and provide necessary nutrients for plants, she added. The main advantages of the APCNF are the reduction of cultivation costs and risks, thus generating regular income. Women are the main driver of the success of this initiative. Knowledge dissemination and uptake support is consistently provided through a farmer-centric architecture, led by trained community resource people who are also farmers. They organize meetings for local women and farmers and train them in the preparation of kashayams and jeevamaruthams, and encourage them to create vegetable gardens and eat healthy, chemical-free and nutritious foods. Venkayamma, a 35-year-old farmer from the village of Jonnallagadda is also a scientist in her own way, “inventing” several concoctions. “I mix the same ingredients in various mixtures and various amounts to test their effectiveness. If I get the desired results, I will check with the resource person and use it later in my field. The use of these homemade fertilizers helps us to reduce investments,” she added. Venkayamma who received the best farmer award also distributes his kashayams to others. Natural farming also consumes less water. Farmers in semi-arid and rainfed regions are more interested in natural farming. Pre-monsoon dry seeding, a method used to provide green cover 365 days a year, allows farmers not only to grow a single variety but also intercrops. Another farmer, Srinivasa Reddy, who grows paddy as his main crop, intercrops seven varieties on his seven acres. “Natural farming is nothing but a way of life,” he said and added, “I have been doing pre-monsoon dry seeding for three years and the results are amazing. Not only do I get a consistent monthly income, but it also improves soil fertility. Plants are healthier in natural agriculture. I made 80,000 profit per acre of chili, which is more than several chili growers who suffered severe losses due to pest infestations. But thanks to natural farming, we didn’t suffer much,” he explained.

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