The Sri Sri Institute of Agriculture (SSIAST), which has spearheaded the Sri Sri Natural Farming project borrows from the ancient technologies when India was primarily agrarian. Natural farming methods weave farming into pre-existing symbiotic relationships in nature.
For example, pulses and cereals can be grown together on the same land, because bacteria on the roots of the pulses fix atmospheric nitrogen in the soil, an essential nutrient for the cereal.
Concoctions like the Jeevamrut made from the indigenous cow’s dung and urine contain microbes that help break down nutrients present in the soil for easy consumption by the crop, in return for a longer lifespan for the microbes.
Prabhakar Reddy, a trustee of SSIAST says, “It is our commitment to help the farmer throughout the crop cycle. We give them personalized inputs based on the region and the season. We are able to do this because we have created a social ecosystem for the farmer. We don’t just take up agriculture projects. The Art of Living has engaged with the community on many levels through Youth Leadership Training Programs (YLTP) and meditation workshops for the community. YLTPs have created large groups of yuvacharyas (volunteers) who work towards social projects that are locally relevant.”
He adds, “Yuvacharyas focus on specific tasks like making Jeevamrut or bio-pesticides like the Neemastra, Brahmastra, etc., enabling the farmer to sustain natural farming.”
Along with the Art of Living yuvacharyas, agricultural trainers and SSIAST, several government authorities have supported the movement.
Mr. Prabhakar Reddy from SSIAST says, “We have created natural farming trainers from within the community itself. Villagers are also gathered once a week to meditate and sing bhajans. It is this community support that has made it easier for the farmer to adapt.”
Natural farming is a chemical-free way of sustainable eco-friendly integrated farming system which uses natural resources.
Sri Sri Natural Farming has primarily trained small and marginal farmers, who own less than 5 acres of land.
Typically they spend up to Rs. 10,000 per acre on seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. However, the cost is further reduced to Rs 1,000 per acre with the help of the Indian cow.
They require less than one-fifths of the water they previously needed for cultivation.
Despite drought-like situations, when crops of other farmers in the region have failed, these farmers yield healthy, disease-free, chemical residue-free crop.
Land is rejuvenated
Biodiversity is maintained
Environment is protected
Initially having received permission to take up a pilot project only for 3 months, Sri Sri Natural Farming is now being extended for five years by the Government of Andhra Pradesh.
1,550 farmers trained, 500 of whom have taken up natural farming in Kurnool
1,800 acres have been brought under organic cultivation
Not only is training provided, but also a mentor to guide them over a long period of time
In 2016, Mahaboob Basha, a farmer from a small village called Lakshmapuram, Kurnool district in Andhra Pradesh harvested 8,000 kg of green chili every 15 days in a mere 1.5 acres of farmland. The Chief Minister, Chandra Babu Naidu, even felicitated him with a “Best Farmer” award for the year of 2016. During the same year, his district was hit by severe drought. All the farmers in Lakshmapuram received drought compensation while Basha continued to make profits.