‘Rydhu rakshna dhesa rakshna rydhu rakshnay mana prathukku rakshna’ is a very popular Telugu proverb. It means, ‘when farmers grow the nation will grow and if farmers live well all organisms on earth will live well’. But if we ask, ‘Is the life of farmers in our nation prosperous?’, then the answer is ‘No’ in reality. As far as our country is concerned, the best way for the farmers is to raise themselves rather than expecting our country to take care of farmers. That too, in districts including Telengana where there is higher incidence of ‘suicide of farmers’ being self sufficient is the only best way.
As per the statistics there were 1,450 farmer suicide cases happened in Telengana district, last year. Many farmers commit suicide because of unanticipated drought and heavy burden of agriculture debt. Telengana is next to Maharashtra in terms of high incidence of farmers’ suicide in India. On 10th October, last year in Telengana, the opposition parties went on a strike at the state level to waive off agriculture loan of the farmers. That grave is the situation of farmers in India. There are no useful measures of revival of agriculture in the state where agriculture is so predominant.
That’s the reality of Andhra Pradesh even when it was an integrated state and now as a separated state of Telengana.
But there is a farmer who has been getting more than a salary honestly earned by a high government official in the State for the past 26 years, not at all relying on the benefits rendered by the government agencies. From the Chief Minister of Andhra to the President of America, everyone has been appreciating his innovative agriculture methods with wonderment. He is no other than ‘Gudiwala Nagarathina Naidu’, one of the great farmers of Andhra Pradesh. He participated in the ‘Agri Expo-2015’ in Erode organized by Pasumai Vikatan and gained the hearts of farmers of Tamilnadu. Immediately after his guest lecture at the exhibition, the readers of Pasumai Vikatan requested us to visit his farm and write about it.
Followed by this, we went to meet him at his farm. Ramojirao Film City lies on the Hyderabad-Vijayawada highways, traveling 25 km further. His farm is situated opposite to the Film City traveling 5km ahead. It was originally in Andhra Pradesh, the then integrated state and now included under Telengana state, Rangareddy district, Tharamathipetta village.
The grains of paddy were welcoming us with their green sheaths while the sun slowly warming up. We met Nagarathina Naidu amidst the noisy cackles of his farm geese. He started describing about his farm while taking us around.
“My native is Balakrishnapuram village, near Balasamudhram of Chithoor district. I was working in Chennai for two years after completing my Diploma in Electronics. I could speak Tamil well since then. Then we moved to Hyderabad and my wife and I were working at a private company. During that period, in 1989, I bought 12 acres of land. The land was barren, dry and filled with stones and mounds all over.
Then, I resigned from my job and got into farming as a full timer. My friends cautioned me not to get into agriculture, without knowing the business. They even advised me to go for it while continuing my job. But I was determined to get into agriculture uncompromisingly. He urged us to wait for sometime as he remembered to ensure if the farm laborers had arrived to harvest papaya and went inside his farm. Till his return we were happily looking around the beautiful flower garden meant for making bouquet.
Transformation due to hardwork
He came back after a while and continued. “As the soil is coarse in nature many declared that the land was unsuitable for agriculture. At first, I ploughed an acre of my land, gathering the stones away and cultivated it after leveling it. Likewise, I prepared 12 acres of my land completely. In those days, I paid rupees 50 for a load of stones to be removed. But at present, the landowners are paid rupees 3,500 to get a load of stones.
Mixed cropping helped to tide over
As we are a family of traditional farmers I ventured agriculture without chemical fertilizers and pesticides. In regard to Andhra and Telengana paddy, cotton and chilies are the primary crops. At the beginning I too cultivated paddy. I don’t think I would have grown to this extent had I contained myself only with paddy. I have come to grow to this extent only because of having opted for mixed cropping. I started farming with multiple cropping methods such as ‘bouquets’ using orchids, vegetables and orchards.
Daily income of rupees 7,000
Among the crops, orchids fetched higher returns. I sold the flowers, marketing them at private hospitals, textile shops and jewelries in Hyderabad. The orchids are used at the reception of those buildings. Besides, they are bought in high quantities during festivals and visiting of guests. Therefore I cultivated more number of orchids. I used to get rupees 7,000 per day by selling those orchids. My mother and I used to take care of the farm activities. Then I made my wife resign from her job and join with us. Even at that point I was criticized by friends not to make her resign. But I never yielded to them. I started cultivating mango and coconut along with paddy and orchids, besides growing corn, groundnut and tur dhal as rainfed crops.
Local market opportunity
At the beginning, there was a special value for my harvests when I claimed that they were grown organically. I started selling the produce with my relatives and friends. I have a habit that even they are my relatives and friends I will be very strict when it comes to pricing. But at the same time I would ensure that they are given the best quality products comparable with the price they pay for them. Therefore, no one would dare to expect anything free from me. By virtue of that there built a market locally formed by my friends, relatives and neighbors. So there was no chance for me to go in search of markets elsewhere. During the conversation he cut one of the harvested papaya fruits into pieces and distributed to us. It was so tasty as it was grown organically. He started describing about paddy cultivation while all of us were relishing the fruit.
92 bags of paddy per acre
“At the beginning, I was cultivating paddy in a conventional way.
After 2000, I learnt about SRI, System of Rice Intensification, a kind of single row planting method of paddy cultivation practiced in Madagascar. I gathered additional information about the cultivation from an agriculture scientist too. Since 2003 I have started cultivating by SRI method. During 2004-05, I got a yield of 15.4 tons per hectare (92 bags per acre) of paddy from my farm; that too, with a supply of only 60% irrigation required. I received the ‘best farmer of the state’ during that year.
From Andhra to America
During the same year, YSR Rajasekara Reddy, the erstwhile Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, visited my farm by helicopter. He spent a whole day at my farming witnessing the agriculture activities of the farm. It was a great occasion that the Chief Minister of the state had spent a full day at my farm. And it was possible only through my organic farming endeavors.
The Chief Minister asked me about how much I was earning through agriculture. I replied him that I could earn equal to what a high government official would honestly earn from his service. That’s because I reached a respectful feat through my agriculture endeavors at that time. The news of visitation of the Chief Minister to my farm spread all over the state and also to neighboring states. As a farmer it was a great honor for me. Then, having heard about my achievement in paddy cultivation, Dr Reid from the United States informed the same to the erstwhile President of the US, George W Bush. When he visited our country in 2006, he congratulated me personally about the SRI cultivation of method.
330 international, national and state awards
A 17-member team from Bangladesh awarded me after visiting my farm. Till now, I have received about 330 awards at the international, national and state levels. Even now, I continue to teach about SRI method of paddy cultivation and also about organic farming to school children and farmers. I would not have received this level recognition had I worked in any other field of occupation. He felt overwhelmed by his own achievement as a farmer and he took us for a lunch.
After lunch, what he discussed with us about the method of cultivation and about various crops will be shared with you in the next parts.
(Thia article originally written by Jayakumar in Tamil for Pasumai Vikatan in Dec 2015 has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)