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How Videos Played a Part in Scaling a Farming Revolution
Kondabaridi is a small and beautiful tribal village in Kurupam mandal of Viziayanagram district in Andhra Pradesh. It sits nestled between 6 heavily forested hills, namely, Thotakonda, Pedda Konda, Tivvakonda, Pindigadda, Jangammettu, Koorikonda.
Of its 63 farmers, there is none that does not have an immediate response to questions about the benefits of natural farming. They respond with gusto: “Our yields have improved significantly compared to the previous methods”; “Input expenses have reduced drastically”; “The rice from the paddy cultivated in this method is aromatic and sweet.”
All of them adopted the Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) method in their rain-fed agricultural land, spread across 98 acres at the beginning of the Kharif season in 2017.
Over this interaction one afternoon, the community unfolds the story of a revolution that has become part of the lives of every farmer, every women’s group member, and every school-going child of this village. This collective appreciation of natural farming has made Kondabaridi the first village in Andhra Pradesh to have adopted 100% natural farming. The testimony of the farmers in Kondabaridi makes believers of natural farming proud and is enough to make a non-believer, believe in the power of this practice.
This initiative has received worldwide acclaim and was chosen as the top 10 projects at the Paris Peace Forum.
“I have been farming for the last 60 years. But it’s the first time in my life that my 2-acre paddy field yielded grains sufficient for my whole family to last three years. This is after I sold half of the yield,” shared 75-year old farmer Pattika Parsaiah whose farm depends on the rains. The conventional method of cultivation would yield 18-20 bags per acre (a bag is 50 kgs) that is 9-10 quintals. Last year after adopting SRI in the natural farming method, it yielded 40 bags (20 quintals).
“Traditionally, yields in tribal areas are found to be significantly less compared to the plain areas. But Kondabaridi farmers’ yields have completely debunked this perception,” shared D. Parinayudu, executive trustee of Jattu Trust, which used Digital Green’s video-based extension approach to scale their project among 8000 farmers in 8 clusters in Parvatipuram division in Viziayanagram district including Kondabaridi village. His organisation was entrusted with field implementation of natural farming method by the Government of Andhra Pradesh. “Several farmers have witnessed significant yield improvement after adopting SRI in natural farming, ranging from 40% to 110% increase,” he adds.
“Regular trainings, video dissemination through Pico (video-based agriculture extension) is a big reason in improving farmers’ knowledge on natural farming practices,” shared Community Resource Person (CRP), Pattika Naresh. “We would show videos before every input preparation (of organic pesticides and fertilizers) led by eight women’s self-help groups (SHGs) of Kondabaridi,” he added.
Not just paddy, but the cashew and red gram farmers too adopted natural farming practices. Even the Kondabaridi primary school now has two vegetable gardens developed recently with pro-active participation from students, women and farmers. The students’ mid-day meal will soon have vegetables grown in these gardens cultivated in this manner. Many farmers from the surrounding villages routinely stop by to ask about 100% natural farming practices. “Many of them inquire about buying paddy from our farmers for seed and rice,” shared CRP Naresh.
“All our efforts over the last three years has brought us tremendous joy. All the learning, sharing, video screenings, trainings, farmer-field schools, have borne fruits – the increased yields and farmers’ incomes… our village becoming the first 100% natural farming village in our state. All these fill us with great excitement… Our village feels like one family… Our people have proved it…” shares the village head, Thuyuka Manjuvani.
Standing at Kondabaridi approach road with a shiny new board declaring the village as the ‘First 100% natural farming village’ in the State, I feel blessed having been a part of this change. On taking a 360-degree view, we can see many small-holder farmers in the SRI paddy fields at harvest stage. There are no fields nearby that have not adopted natural farming to compare the yields. But the farmers can compare it with their previous yields. Kondabaridi farmers are confident that they can beat their own benchmarks.
One might be persuaded to believe that it’s easy for those living amidst nature to become champions and beneficiaries of natural farming. But it is not so. It’s a genuine effort from several people and organisations towards collective well-being. Kondabaridi farmers know it very well, as do the organisations and individuals who supported them all along the way. For this reason, CRP Naresh shares on behalf of the Kondabaridi farmers that they are indebted to Government of Andhra Pradesh’s respected advisor on agriculture, Mr.T.Vijay Kumar, A.P. Government’s Rythu Saadhikara Samstha, & Department of Agriculture, Jattu Trust, Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives (APPI) and Digital Green.
And for their effort in creating and sharing this lesson with the rest of the world, Kondabaridi Zindabad!!!
Post Script – A Silent Natural Farming Revolution
Many good things have taken place in the lives of Kondabaridi farmers. Kondabaridi has become well known all over the country as Andhra Pradesh’s first 100% natural farming village. Mainstream news media including BBC have featured Kondabaridi village natural farming success. Kondabardi farmers along with farmers who are cultivating paddy crop in natural farming methods in neighbouring villages collectivised themselves as Maa Bhumi Farmer Producer Organisation (FPO).
Maa Bhumi FPO is procuring paddy grown in natural farming methods from its shareholder farmers by giving them premium price. Maa Bhumi FPO is converting paddy grain into seed, packing it in 25 kgs and 30kgs bags and selling the seed bags to the paddy growers. In 2020-21 financial year, Maa Bhumi FPO sold 80,00,000 Rupees worth of paddy seed. The FPO is also buying Fox tail millets, Finger millets, Kodo millets and Banyard millets from the shareholder farmers, processing, packing and selling them in wholesale and retail markets. The FPO has also set up hand-pounding rice unit in the Kondabardi village. Paddy procured from farmers hand-pounded into rice, packaged, branded and selling in retail and wholesale outlets at a competitive market price. More than twenty-woman tribal farmers are getting employment in hand-pounding rice unit. From growing paddy in natural farming method, procuring it from farmers for a premium price and adding value to the produce by converting it into paddy seed and nutritious hand-pounded rice, creating a brand name for their product, Kondabaridi continuous to be an inspiration for small-holder farmers around the world.
Kondabaridi farmers have recently told me, “We are not able to meet the demand for our pounded rice from market” – simply sums up how far Kondabaridi farmers have come in their lives and what they have achieved.
Kondabaridi, I think, is a starting point in upwards and onwards of a new farming revolution in India.