While his district was reeling under the effects of drought, Mahaboob Basha, a farmer from a small village called Lakshmapuram in Andhra Pradesh, India harvested 8,000 kg of green chili every 15 days in a mere 1.5 acres of farmland, winning himself the ‘Best Farmer’ award! As of 2017, Basha and 1400 other farmers from 33 villages in Kurnool District are reaping the benefits of switching over to natural farming with mentoring from the Sri Sri Institute of Agriculture Sciences and Technology (SSIAST) – an affiliate of the Art of Living Foundation. 

Again, it is the engagement with the community on many levels through Youth Leadership Training Programs (YLTP) and meditation workshops that have helped build synergy. The YLTPs have created large groups of yuvacharyas (youth volunteers) who integrate with the local communities.

“It is this community support that has made it easier for the farmer to adopt natural farming. We merely enabled individuals to become agents of transformation, and have made it easier for them by simultaneously working on so many verticals,” said senior leaders from SSIAST. 

Yuvacharyas focuses on specific tasks like making biopesticides like the Neemastra, Brahmastra, etc., enabling the farmer to sustain natural farming. Natural farming trainers are created from within the community itself. Villagers also gather once a week to meditate or have a Satsang (community singing).

Strengthening with the systemic support

The energy of a leader and a community can be sustained long-term if integrated with systemic measures like using government infrastructure, funds, the administrative services, etc. This combines the best of both worlds – the entrepreneurial energy of the change agents and the structural stability of an established ecosystem. 

Smitha Murthy is vice president - AOL corporate programs and formerly, Principal for Organization Development, Infosys.