Express News Service
VIZIANAGARAM: In the Covid-hit world, natural farming has taken a center stage in Vizianagaram district as graduates as well as software employees are enthusiastically taking it up.
In 2016, a total of 3,161 farmers in 50 villages were cultivating crops organically in 1,328 hectares whereas in 2022, more than 40,000 farmers in 242 villages, including 93 bio-villages, have taken up natural farming in 16,000 hectares.
Around 28,468 farmers grow paddy in 25,581 acres, 4,256 cultivate millets in 6,202 acres and another 3,828 farmers grow fruits in 8,191 acres through natural farming in the district.
Vizianagaram is a rainfed district, which means farmers are dependent on rains instead of other water resources like rivers and canals. Many farmers incur huge losses due to floods, cyclones and other natural calamities every year. Sometimes, they use pesticides and fertilisers in high proportions hoping to get a good yield within a short period. However, it affects the health of soil, and in the long run, impacts the farmers’ revenue.
Additionally, people across the globe are shifting to healthy eating after the pandemic breakout. Therefore, they are making a switch to buy produce that is cultivated through organic and natural farming methods. Taking note of these issues, youngsters, with an interest in agriculture, have taken up natural farming.
Hundreds of engineering graduates, software engineers, foreign returnees, and business persons have been adopting this method in the district. They have also been making good profits with low input cost.
They have become successful farmers with the help of Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF), AP community managed natural farming (APCNF), Rythu Sadhikara Samstha, agriculture and horticulture officials.
“Farmers make a good income with less expenditure as they need not purchase any pesticides and fertilisers for natural farming. They also get a high price for paddy, millets and fruits as the consumers are preferring naturally cultivated products,’’ K Prakash, district project manager for natural farming told TNIE.
With the efforts of farmers and officials, the district recently bagged the prestigious Skoch Award for natural farming. L Shankar, a young farmer from Bhogapuram said, “After I quit my software job, I began natural farming in 30 acres. I also market my own products through Rythu Mitra app after value addition. I make good profits as there are no middlemen involved and also there is a huge demand for our products in the market.’’
Though several businesses faced problems due to the pandemic, Shankar said he did not have such issues. Instead, he was unable to supply products due to the high demand.
“I hope natural farming has a bright future. We must have a plan for farming as well as marketing the produce. I feel happy for providing employment to at least 20 people daily directly and contributing my bit to soil conservation. However, I feel this technique needs some automation (usage of machinery in farming) as there is a shortage of agriculture labour,” he added.
A businessman-turned-farmer, GVV Giri, of Mentada mandal told TNIE, “Though I own a medium-scale company in Visakhapatnam, I bought 30 acres in Mentada mandal for cultivation. However, the land was not fertile when I started cultivation. I switched to natural farming on the advice of ZBNF and agriculture officials. My family members and I cultivate sugarcane and paddy using natural farming. I am yielding good profits with low expenditure.’’