Natural farms change drought-hit areas

Deccan Chronicle.

Lifestyle, Environment

In 2010, Parvathi and her husband took training in natural farming after incurring loss by cultivating 3 acres with fertilisers

Parvati's three acre land stands out with greenery all over in Gantapuram village. — DC Image

ANANTAPUR:  Anantapur, referred to as Rajasthan of South India, is known for severe summers and a short cold season, with both seasons being harsh on farmers. The average annual rainfall in this drought-prone district is mere 560 mm.

However, despite such odds, farmers under the AP Community-Managed Natural Farming (APCNF) programme are thriving even in arid summer, thanks to Pre-Monsoon Dry Sowing (PMDS).

One of the APCNF and PMDS success stories is that of Parvathi in Gantapuram village. In her one acre of land, she has been growing 24 varieties of vegetables, green leaves, fruits and millets without using a single drop of water.

Even during the hot summer, when temperature goes up to 42 degree Celsius, moisture in the air is enough for all crops to grow. Quality of the produce is also good. Parvathi has succeeded in earning more than Rs 1 lakh annually, producing vegetables throughout the year.

Interestingly, all other fields surrounding her area resemble a desert while only her one-acre orchard stands like an oasis.

In 2010, Parvathi and her family had three acres of land, which they cultivated using chemical fertilisers and pesticides but suffered huge losses. That is when she and her husband Peddanna took training in natural farming.

Initially, their yields were low, but they were not at a loss. This is because their input costs had drastically reduced. By 2016, Parvathi had become an expert in natural farming. Her fields were healthy and thriving, providing increasing yields. Her savings too had increased. In 2020, she earned about Rs 1 lakh from one acre.

“Having no water source nearby, we do natural farming using cow dung, cow urine and crop waste. I am also proud and happy that a number of people have got inspired and trying the same system in their fields,” Parvathi said.

Former IAS officer Vijayakumar, in-charge of prestigious APCNF project, told Deccan Chronicle that concept of natural farming essentially avoids dreadful chemical pesticides and fertilisers. Hundreds of farmers have now opted for natural farming and are benefitting. Anantapur district project manager Laksh-man Naik said their system of farming has spread far and wide and reached other countries too.

The once a harsh ground is now soft beneath the feet and cool to touch. Dig but one inch and there are plenty of earthworms. Pest attacks on crops have reduced thanks to plant diversity.

There are many species of birds that make a happy meal of unwanted bugs. In 10 years, Parvathi has watched her field transform from hard, rocky red soil to fresh dark organic rich nutrient soil.