Soora Munijanaki, 58, looks like any ordinary farmer. But when an interaction with her goes beyond pleasantries, one finds her knowledge on non-pesticide management (NPM) is akin to an experienced extension professional. She aptly mixes her learning in NPM with positive results from her own farming experience and presents a perspective which one must accept without debate.
Soora Munijaanki collecting organic manure to apply on her brinjal crop
In the course of our conversation, Munijanaki shared that untimely rains in November and December spoilt everyone’s crop in the village except hers. When the rains stopped, the vegetable plantation in her field had withstood the cyclone and started to yield fruit. “It’s only because of the NPM practices that my plants were strong enough to withstand a natural calamity like the recent cyclone,” she said confidently.
Munijanaki’s family has three acres of land in Diguva Guluru hamlet in Sirugurajupalem village, Puttur revenue block, Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, where her 40-year-old son, Soora Vijay, helped her, to cultivate paddy on it till three years back. Vijay said “we had been applying chemical fertilizers and pesticides on our crop. At the end of every harvest season, when we calculate, our returns barely made up for our expenses. We used to spend Rs 15,000 per acre on fertilizers and pesticides and get Rs 15,000 -20,000 rupees from selling the produce. Every year, it was more or less the same story. This continued till 2013.”
Srivani, a SERP-CMSA (Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty – Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture) extension functionary and cluster activist in Puttur block, learning of Munijanaki’s problems in agriculture, visited her field in 2013 along with G. Muniratnam, District Project Manager, SERP-CMSA, Chittoor district. Munijanaki recalled “Srivani initially suggested that we shift from mono cropping (practice of growing a single crop) to vegetable poly cropping (practice of growing more than one complimentary crop in the same field).” Srivani screened a Digital Green video (a localized community-based video) on vegetable poly cropping in a small plot of land to encourage adoption of this practice.
Soora Munijanaki (Center) Soora Vijay (Left) discussing egg-lemon extract with cluster activist Srivani in their bitter gourd field
“We started cultivating paddy in two acres of our land and vegetables in the remaining one acre. We immediately realized that by doing this we could also get a regular income – on a weekly or fortnightly basis – by selling our vegetables in the vegetable market nearby,” shared Munijanaki happily. “We started growing brinjal, ladies finger, bottle gourd, and bitter gourd. We also grew varieties of leafy vegetables as inter-crop in our vegetable garden,” she added.
Since Munijanaki was a member of the Self-help Group (SHG) that Srivani was in charge of, she got an opportunity to watch different instructional videos screened by Srivani on various NPM practices, based on the current agricultural seasons. Munijanaki saw videos on various topics ranging from nursery bed preparation for vegetable cultivation, organic manure preparation to bio-fertilizers. “Initially what we knew about natural farming is that it requires only cow-dung and organic waste. But, after watching videos, we have realized that it’s is much more than that. Every crop disease has a different NPM solution and each solution is different from the other,” Munijanaki shared.
Srivani screens videos twice every week on preparation of Pachichirotte yeruvulu (green leaf manure), importance of summer ploughing, Dravajeevamrutham (growth enhancer), Neem kernel extract, Egg-lemon extract, Neemastram, Brhamstram and Agniastram and other such organic fertilizers and pesticides in Diguva Guluru village. “She not only screened videos for the Self-Help Group members, but also visited our fields and observed whether we are following what they have shown in the videos correctly. She also clarified our doubts related to those practices,” added Vijay.
“Digital Green video dissemination has been quite helpful. It’s easy to convince farmers with video testimonials of other farmers and also to get the right technical information across about each practice,” said Srivani.
Information on practices like Brahmastram and Agniastram (organic pesticides) is not easily available to farmers otherwise. This is echoed by Vijay when he shared that “every brinjal crop inadvertently gets affected by stem borer (insect). But, nobody knew what suitable NPM method was available for that. Digital Green produced and screened a video on Brahmastram to SHG members here in my village. My mother also watched it and came home and discussed it. Now, we prepare and spray Brahmastram on our brinjal crop.”
Munijanaki’s family is now getting a regular income from selling their vegetable produce almost daily in the Putturu vegetable market. Their expenditure on farming has also reduced greatly. “Earlier we used to spend Rs 15,000 per acre on fertilizers and pesticides apart from labour costs. Now, we only spend on labour that is Rs 6,000 per acre. We prepare all kashayams and bio-fertilizers from the material available in our field,” shared Vijay.
Continuous follow-up and timely solutions from SERP-CMSA functionaries helped Munijanaki immensely. “I have visited this farm regularly. We have supported Munijanaki in all possible ways. More importantly, the Digital Green approach of using a short video on each practice helped to transfer appropriate information to beneficiaries in a timely manner. Munijanaki’s farm is among the best NPM fields in our district,” said G.Muniratnam, District Project Manager, SERP-CMSA.
On this, Munijanaki added that since we are growing vegetables using the NPM methods, we have become popular in and around my village. Everybody – doctors, teachers, and government employees, come to our field to purchase vegetables. We even get orders for vegetables for local functions. “A doctor in our neighboring village recommended his patients to buy vegetables from our farms because he himself buys from us. He said that generic ailments like diabetes and muscle pains can be prevented by consuming fresh vegetables and fresh food,” she added with pride.
Munijanaki’s success did not come in a day. “We learnt about NPM practices step-by-step by watching Digital Green videos. Each video has lot of relevant information. We discussed about the NPM practices during our video screening sessions and started practicing them in our field. It has now started giving us positive results,” she added.
Though Soora Munijanaki’s success might look small in nature, it is in fact a bright spot on a larger landscape of small subsistence farmers in rural India. One that we hope will fill up the landscape to shine the light of organic NPM practices in the rest of the country and the world.