Does ‘No Pesticide’ Reduce Suicides?

  1. Lakshmi Vijayakumar

    1. SNEHA and Voluntary Health Services, Adyar, Chennai, India,dr_svk@vsnl.com
  1. R. Satheesh-Babu

    1. Mamata Medical College, Khammam, India

Abstract

Introduction: Ingestion of pesticides is the most common method of suicide, particularly in China, Sri Lanka and India. Reported pesticide suicides in India numbered 22,000 in the year 2006.z

Method: Four villages in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India that had stopped using chemical pesticides in favour of non-pesticide management (NPM) were visited to assess any change in suicide incidence before and after discontinuation of chemical pesticides. Four similar villages in the same region that continued to use chemical pesticides were used as controls for comparison.

Results: In the pesticide-free villages there were 14 suicides before introduction of NPM and only three suicides thereafter. The percentage of suicides not reported to authorities was 47%.

Conclusion: Restriction of pesticide availability and accessibility by NPM has the potential to reduce pesticide suicides, in addition to psychosocial and health interventions.

Tea companies commit to Non-Pesticide Management in tea; Unilever and Girnar lead the way

After 50 hours volunteers climb down the billboards

August 13th, 2014, Mumbai: In an encouraging turn of events, two of the leading tea companies have come forward in support of Non-Pesticide Management (NPM) in tea. Earlier this week, Greenpeace India released its report “Trouble Brewing”1 highlighting pesticide residue in tea samples. Since then, companies have been coming forward to engage with us. In response, Unilever2 and now Girnar Tea3 have both committed to support the NPM approach, which could lead to phasing out pesticides in tea cultivation. Pilot studies will be the first concrete step in this direction.

“It is very encouraging that the tea companies are taking steps to provide their consumers pesticide-free tea. Unilever and now Girnar Tea have taken the first step in this direction. Greenpeace will continue to urge the tea industry to move towards a holistic, ecosystem-based approach that will gradually phase out pesticides and clean our chai,” said Neha Saigal, Senior Campaigner, Greenpeace India.

To highlight the urgency of the issue, volunteers had climbed up seven billboards at the Bandra Reclamation Road urging the tea companies to “Clean Chai Now”. After spending 50 hours on these billboards, the volunteers today climbed down acknowledging the progress shown by tea companies.

“We are happy that our efforts are paying off and companies are coming forward to engage with us in a positive way. We look forward to a day when all our tea is free from pesticides,” said Bindu Vaz, one of the volunteers.

Notes to the editor:

1) http://www.greenpeace.org/india/en/Press/Greenpeace-calls-on-the-industry-to-save-Indian-tea-from-pesticides/

2)http://www.unilever.nl/nieuwsenmedia/persberichten/2014/UnileverstartonderzoekinIndianaarmogelijkheidtheetetelenzonderpesticiden.aspx

3) https://twitter.com/TeasAtGirnar

For more information: http://grnpc.org/cleanchai

Follow us on twitter: @GreenpeaceIndia

Contacts:

Shashwat Raj: Senior Media Officer, Greenpeace India, +91 9971110144sraj@greenpeace.org

Neha Saigal: Senior Campaigner, Greenpeace India, +917760968772nsaigal@greenpeace.org

A ray of farming hope: on non chemical approaches to pest management

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/278052/a-ray-farming-hope.html

Devinder Sharma, Sep 11, 2012 :

Farmers in Haryana villages have maintained insect equilibrium by pitting beneficial insects against the harmful.
In the great Indian epic, Mahabharata, there is a telling story of the valiant Abhimanyu who died fighting while trying to pierce through a Chakravyuah (seven rings).

Mahabharata tells us that Abhimanyu had learnt the art of smashing through the seven layers of the human chain of the Chakravyuah. In lot many ways, I find the Indian farmer is also like Abhimanyu. He has been forced to get into the Chakravyuah but does not know how to emerge out of it. Like Abhimanyu, he too is fighting it out valiantly but eventually whether he will meet Abhimanyu’s fate or come out unscathed remains to be seen.

In a country where 2,90,740 farmers have committed suicide between 1995 and 2011, I am always reminded of Abhimanyu. Pushed deeper and deeper into a Chakravyuah by a profiteering agro-chemical industry and an insensitive scientific community, Indian farmer faces a Hobson’s choice. He knows that sooner or later he too will become a victim of the serial death-dance being enacted on the farm or will be forced to quit agriculture.

Intensive farming systems in the name of increasing crop productivity has devastated soil fertility, contaminated the environment, mined the groundwater and turned agriculture into a losing proposition. Farmer is left to die.

Much of the destruction that we see on the farm is the result of unwanted and exorbitantly expensive chemical inputs. Take the case of chemical pesticides. It was in late 1970s that David Pimental of the Cornell University had said in his landmark paper that 99.9 per cent of chemical pesticides go into environment and only 0.01 per cent of the pesticides sprayed reach the target pest. Despite this warning, agricultural scientists continued to advocate the use of chemical pesticides. While the industry gained immensely, farmers as well as the gullible consumers suffered. This makes me wonder whether there is a way out. Can the Indian farmer ever emerge out of this?

In search of viable alternatives, I visited Nidana and Lalit Khera, two tiny and nondescript villages in Jind ditrict of Haryana. Farmers and village women in these villages have gone a step ahead. Not only do they not spray chemical pesticides on cotton, but they don’t even use bio-pesticides. They have allowed the insect equilibrium to prevail to such an extent that the harmful insects are taken care of by the beneficial insects.

Enterprising farmers

The amazing story of Nidana has to be told. For some illiterate and semi-literate women and some enterprising farmers around Nidana village, mealy bug poses no threat. Mealy bug is a sucking pest and is known to be devouring crops at will. The mere presence of the insect in the cotton fields sends a chill among the farmers. Meena Malik is a 23-year-old graduate, who along with some 30 women of the nearby villages, partakes in a ‘mahila keet pathshala’ (women insect school) every week, told me: “We have been able to identify 109 non-vegetarian insects (beneficial) and 43 vegetarian (harmful) insects in our cotton fields.”

An elderly lady Santosh Malik adds: “Mealy bugs are controlled by 16 kinds of beetles, 6 kinds of bugs, 7 kinds of flies and insects like praying mantis and chrysopa.” At her age, I was surprised when she brought some beetles and bugs for me to see. Explaining to me how the different insects adopt different mechanisms to kill, she told me how three insects, called angira, fangira and jangira, would lay eggs in the stomach of the mealy bug. One egg is laid per mealy bug. This eats up the stomach of the mealy bug which turns red in colour and eventually dies.

Among the bugs that feed on mealy bug are kala baniya, lal baniya and matku baniya. The bugs, very small in size, literally are blood suckers. The adults as well as the larvae of lady beetle feed on the crawlers (children) of the mealy bug on priority basis. In its life cycle of 30-35 days, each mealy bug lays on an average 400 eggs, which becomes a rich food source for the lady beetles and their off springs.

The most dreaded pest on cotton is the American bollworm, which is polyphagus in nature surviving on some 90 plant species. Dr Surinder Dalal, an agricultural development officer of the Haryana Agriculture Department, who is considered to be the moving spirit behind this remarkable initiative in preserving insect equilibrium so as to maintain ecological balance, says: “The moths of the bollworm lay on an average anything between 700 to 3,000 eggs on different plant leaves. Chips in Kuldeep Singh Dhanda, pradhan of village Brah Kalan Bahra in Jind district, “The beetles eat the eggs, and 9 different kinds of bugs — two of which are locally called katil burga, didar burga — suck the eggs, and the moths are eaten by robber fly and dragon fly.”

The Nidana experiment began in 2007. Certainly it wasn’t easy to convince cotton farmers that they can do without chemical and biological pesticides. But with each passing year, more and more farmers are now becoming aware of the ecological pathway. To me, the Nidana experiment is the way out of Chakravyuah.

Non-pesticide cultivation also a reason for moratorium on BT Brinjal: Ramesh

BS Reporter / Hyderabad August 07, 2011, 0:30 IST

Union minister for rural development Jairam Ramesh said that one of the reasons behind his decision to put a moratorium on commercialisation of BT Brinjal was the ongoing experiment of “non-pesticide” cultivation in Andhra Pradesh.

Ramesh told reporters here on Saturday that currently 10 per cent of the cropped area in Andhra Pradesh was under non-pesticide cultivation. “The proportion of this area would be doubled in the next five years,” he said, adding that the state accounted for 40 per cent of the total pesticides consumption in the country.

Under non-pesticide cultivation, farmers will use fertilsers but not pesticides for growing crops. It is not organic farming as there is utilisation of fertilisers. Sanctioning Rs 240 crore under the “Mahila Kisan Swashakti” scheme in AP for the promotion of non-pesticide cultivation during the next five years, Ramesh said that “one of the reasons for putting a moratorium on BT Brinjal is the Andhra experiment on non-pesticide cultivation”.

CSA wins Hivos Global ‘Best Green Entrepreneur Award’ for its work on Non Pesticidal Management

We are happy to share the joy of winning Hivos global ‘Best Green Entrepreneur Award’ for its work on Non Pesticidal Management. The work initiated by Mr. Quayoom and later by Dr. MS Chari in Centre for World Solidarity and Dr. Sanghi then working with Zonal Coordinating Unit ICAR with support from Oxfam in 1989 in partnership with department of Agriculture. From 1997 Hivos supported the program and it received national attention with Punukula declaring itself as Pesticide Free Village and later with Enebavi becoming complete Organic Village. The NPM success scaled new heights with Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) in partnership with Federations of Women Self Groups coming forward to take it to a large scale which is now practiced by more than 10 lakhs farmers in Andhra Pradesh under ‘Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture’

This could not have been achieved without active cooperation of all of you and the partner organisations and especially farmers who actively contributed for the growth of knowledge and SERP with Shri Vijay Kumar and Sri. DV Raidu taking it forward.

We thank one and all and look forward for being part of a big change in Agriculture in India

Read more on Non Pesticidal Management

Baba Ramdev demands a shift to Sustainable Agriculture

Swami Baba Ramdev is calling a fast from 4th June onwards against Corruption and Black Money Hoarding.  Sustainable Agriculture and related matters are in his major demands ( in his main letter to the Prime Minister).  Today, Swami, Acharya Balakrishna and Devinder Sharma along with others in his team was invited for a discussion with Cabinet ministers led by Pranab Mukherjee.  Kapil Sibal, Pawan Bansal and Subhodh Kant sahai and the Cabinet Secretary was also there for the discussion.  Today Swamiji’s team presented the demands.  Devinder presented the demands on agriculture.  The following are broadly the demands on agriculture

Land Acquistion

1. No Agriculture Land should be acquired for non-agri purposes
2. No Land should be acquired without the permission of the Grama Sabhas

GM and Seeds
3. A 10-year moratorium on Bt-Brinjal and all field trials and commercial release of all GM crops
4. Price regulation on Seeds
5. Every district to have a Community Controlled Seed Centre with a gene bank for traditional seeds

6. Liability in case of contamination of non-GM crops

7. BRAI Bill to be jointly drafted in consultation with civil society
8. Ban on import of all GM food products and allow imports only if they carry a GM free label

 

Pesticides
6. A ban on all the 67 pesticides that have been banned in other countries but still used in India.

Sustainable Agriculture
7. 12th Five Year Plan to have 25% of total agriculture area brought under Non-Pesticidal Management as in the CMSA in Andhra Pradesh (the NPM has been repeated in 3 places in the demand annexes)
8. A Land Conservation fund for farmers to the tune of Rs. 5000 crore to be allocated each year

Other farmers issues
9. A Farmers Income Commission to be setup and income guaranteed to the farmer through a Farmers Income Guarantee Act (FIGA)
10. MSP to incorporate the farmers contribution as a Skilled Labour and not as General Labour and the MSP be calculated after fixing at 50% higher that the C2 Cost.
11. 24-hr water and electricity supply to be given to farmers
12. Community grain banks in every panchayath

Education in the Agriculture, Health and Engineering Sectors to be in Hindi and other State languages.

Andhra to promote chemical free cultivation

Author(s): Savvy Soumya Misra
Issue: May 23, 2011

State’s rural development and agriculture departments to work together to encourage organic farming

Taking note of the Non Pesticide Management (NPM) technique, the Andhra Pradesh government issued an order on May 16 that the agriculture department will work in collusion with the rural development department to reduce the cost of cultivation and move towards pesticide-free cultivation in the state.

According to the order, the agriculture department’s Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA) will now collaborate with the rural development ministry’s Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) to promote sustainable agriculture and move towards organic agriculture through Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture (CMSA).

SERP had initiated CMSA in 2004 and under the project promoted NPM. The technique does away with the use of any synthetic pesticide in agriculture. Instead, homemade concoctions like those made from neem, garlic, chillies, plant and herb extracts, cow dung and cow urine are used along with other traditional methods of pest control.

The term NPM was coined in 1998 by M S Chari, scientific adviser to Centre for World Solidarity, a non-profit that helped to solve the problem of the red hairy caterpillar that was ruining red gram crop in the Telangana region. After a series of tests, the non-profit concluded pesticides were not required in cultivation.

SERP took the programme forward with aid from the World Bank and the Centre. The society started NPM on a 162-hectare land in 2004. It is now being practiced in 10 lakh hectares in the state. “This is a positive step. We will use this opportunity to spread chemical-free sustainable agriculture to all the non-CMSA villages as well,” says D V Raidu, director, CMSA. Though CMSA has spread to all the 22 districts of the state, it is yet to go to each village, which Raidu points out will become smoother with the agriculture ministry coming in.

The agriculture ministry has taken the plunge going by the past record of the performance of the CMSA. The ministry acknowledges the fact that income of the farmers have increased substantially and they get better price for their pesticide-free produce.

“NPM is just a stepping stone. We are aiming at becoming chemical-free,” says Raidu. He adds that in the last three years, fertiliser consumption has come down by 50 per cent, biodiversity in these fields has increased and the so have the number of trees.

Now, both the ministries will work together in the state. The rural development ministry will train the ATMA staff on the CMSA model, which after due training will work with self-help groups to popularise the low cost and high return agriculture. SERP will continue to working at places they have already started their work and will be instrumental in the formation of self-help groups, the most important component of the CMSA. The agriculture ministry agency will provide infrastructure for backward and forward linkages to farmers practicing the NPM method of farming.

Back to the roots for Andhra Pradesh farmers

Back to the roots for Andhra Pradesh farmers

By: Udit Misra/Forbes India

Traditional practices can revive tired soil and pull small farmers out of debt. Andhra Pradesh shows the way

Nineteen-year-old Meenakshi was sure about the way forward, but she had to convince her husband. She tore a sheet of paper and asked him to sign it. It was an unusual contract. They would split the land they had leased for the season about one-fourth of an acre. They would farm it in their own ways and see who makes more money at the end of the season. If Meenakshi won, her husband would shift to her way of farming.
It was summer of 2004 and Meenakshi, a landless tribal girl from Koduru village in the Srikakulum district of Andhra Pradesh, was convinced that the only way for her to change her debt-ridden life was by changing the way her family practiced agriculture. She was part of a women’s self-help group and had seen positive results of a cheaper, more sustainable way of farming that the group had been promoting.
As was the case with many farmers in Andhra Pradesh, Meenakshi’s family was always in debt. Farming was no longer remunerative and their meagre earnings were spent paying back the interest on the loans taken to purchase chemical pesticides and fertilizers, which accounted for over one-third of the total cost.

That summer, under the guidance of her self-help group, she used locally available resources like cow dung and traditional knowledge of controlling pests. She reaped a profit of about Rs 15,000 which was Rs 5,000 more than her husband.
A Small Revival

Meenakshi’s stunning success was part of early experiments in a revolutionary approach to farming in Andhra Pradesh, called Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture (CMSA). Launched formally in 2005 by the Ministry of Rural Development in Andhra Pradesh, CMSA presents a bold alternative to conventional input-intensive agriculture in a state that has the highest consumption of pesticides and fertilizers in the country.

For example, Meenakshi uses Ghanajivaamrit, a mixture of cow dung, cow urine, jaggery, gram flour and microbes-rich clay. Over a one-acre farm, such a switch could bring down costs from Rs. 2,200 to just Rs. 200.

The need for such a programme was clear. Over the years, indiscriminate use of pesticides and fertilizers had degraded soil health. As a result, yields began to stagnate through the 1990s. Coupled with high cost of inputs, that spelt doom for small and marginal farmers in the state. Such farmers own less than 10 acres of land and account for roughly 85% of all land holdings. Incidence of farmer indebtedness continued to rise; agricultural woes have made Andhra Pradesh one of the hotspots for farmer suicides in the country. An estimated 1,688 farmers committed suicides between 1997 and 2004.
So far, CMSA’s results have been heartening. The cost of cultivation has come down by 30% to 40%. According to one estimate, net incomes on per hectare (or 2.5 acre) basis ranged from USD 2,520 to USD 4,032 per annum, a remarkable increase given the fact that earning of the landless poor in India is less than USD 1 per person per day.
Today, CMSA is being followed by over 3 lac small farmers spread over 3,000 villages in 21 of the 23 districts in Andhra Pradesh. It is no surprise then that it has caught the attention of agriculturists and politicians alike. M.S. Swaminathan, who led India’s Green Revolution in the late Sixties, likens the CMSA initiative to an ‘Evergreen Revolution’ since it focuses on sustainability of the soil and profitability to the farmers. Buoyed by the possibility of reducing environmental damage, environment minister Jairam Ramesh suggested the agriculture ministry take a close look at CMSA practices. From the Union Agriculture Ministry to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, many are trying to understand how CMSA made it happen.

How the Model Works
The CMSA model has broken the myth that small farms are not remunerative,” says T Vijay Kumar, an IAS officer who spearheaded the CMSA initiative as the CEO of the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty or SERP, a non-profit entity set up by the state government. “When we started out, our key concern was to make farming remunerative by reducing the input costs without compromising on the yields,” he adds. He has recently joined as joint secretary in the Union Ministry of Rural Development and hopes to assist scaling up CMSA at the national level through the National Rural Livelihood Mission.
Rural livelihood programmes under SERP, like CMSA, are financed by the World Bank. CMSA is additionally financed through community savings and other state and central level programmes like Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana and Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana.

The key to CMSA’s success is the community participation. The model’s approach is ground up; in any village CMSA starts by the formation of a farmer self-help group (SHG). Here, the existing women SHGs of SERP come in handy. Each SHG typically has 10 to 15 women. Each member pays a small registration fee which adds to the overall corpus of CMSA for internal credit purposes.
Once part of the system, farmers receive extensive guidance by more experienced farmers like Meenakshi. SERP too provides them with knowledge and capacity building services.
“We subsidise knowledge instead of fertilizers and pesticides. Teaching Meenakshi and letting her teach others like her is the best extension service model [which helps extend knowledge to more and more practitioners],” says DV Raidu, the state project advisor for CMSA.
Today Meenakshi is one of the 63 state-level Community Resource Persons (CRPs), the highest rung of extension workers. “I teach from my own experience and that is why I can address the doubts and problems of the farmers,” she says in Telugu.

Meenakshi’s success story best captures the change being brought about by the CMSA initiative. Six years on, her husband has stayed true to the contract and together they now lease and farm 2 acres. The next step is to own a piece of land for which she is saving.

Like Meenakshi, many farmer households have been able to come out of their chronic indebtedness thanks to CMSA.
According to one survey of five districts, quoted by Om Rupela, a former principal scientist with Indian Crop Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics, 386 out of 467 (83%) farmers have reacquired their mortgaged lands by using the savings after two years of practicing CMSA.
CMSA is not only helping subsistence farmers come out of their debt trap, but is also showing them the benefits of a market which pays a premium for better quality.
Rajshekar Reddy Seelam, managing director of Sresta, a Hyderabad-based company that sells organic food products both in India and abroad, is another such believer. By the year-end he is set to roll out a new brand selling products out of CMSA farms, conforming to international standards.
“We believe that in 10-15 years, the market for such products would be around $5 billion just within the country,” he says.
The Bigger Picture

The story in Andhra Pradesh is not too different from what happened to agriculture in the rest of India, especially areas like Punjab, where Green Revolution was implemented in the largest measure.
By the start of the 1990s, agriculture in the country had started choking on its initial success, giving rise to two broad sets of problems: Stagnant agricultural yields and increasingly un-remunerative farming.

Over the 1990s, almost imperceptibly, the whole system became lethargic. The extension services of the government started to fall apart. The key function of such services is to bring the farmers up to speed with the new technologies being perfected in the labs and guide them in adopting these. Meanwhile, farmers, influenced by local moneylenders and pesticide sellers, resorted to indiscriminate use of chemical inputs. Every passing year, the soil became progressively less responsive, all the while raising the stakes to a point where even a single crop failure tipped the farming household into chronic indebtedness.

Today, rural indebtedness in Punjab, one of the best agricultural performers of India, is three times the national average.
The importance of this issue can be gauged from the fact that the National Policy for Farmers (2007), the main agricultural policy document in the country, states, “There is a need to focus more on the economic well-being of the farmers, rather than just on production. Socio-economic well-being must be a prime consideration of agricultural policy, besides production and growth.”
On the other hand, the decadal growth rates of yields for the two most widely produced crops have continued to fall since 1980s. For example, Wheat yields grew at 3.10% during the 1980s, 1.83% during the 1990s, and just 0.58% during the 2000s. The story is largely the same for most of the other crops.

Official data shows how these stagnant yields affected India’s increasing population over time. The net availability of rice has fallen from 81 kg per capita per year in 1991 to 53 kg in 2008 while that of wheat has fallen from 60 kg to 53 kg per capita per year over the same period.
The distinction between the two broad problems is important since the very policies and tools that were supposed to increase yields were also responsible over time for aggravating farmer indebtedness. But there is no doubt about which is the bigger problem for those promoting CMSA.
“We believe that until agriculture becomes remunerative, even the food security concerns cannot be met,” says Kumar.

Necessary, but not Sufficient
So can the CMSA model ease the agricultural distress in a country where 60% of the population, roughly 700 million, is still involved in largely un-remunerative agriculture?
The short answer is yes.
But there are still some doubts whether CMSA can solve the other riddle of raising yields.

Not even the chemicals company representatives deny the inherent wisdom of the CMSA approach. However, there are a few qualifications.
SK Khosla, advisor, CropLife India and Rajen Sunderesan of the Agrochemicals Policy Group agree that there has been excessive use of chemical inputs by  farmers. However, they blame it on the failure of the extension services which has allowed “a gap of 20 years between the technological frontiers and the farm.” With India’s extension system in tatters, farmers continue to implement obsolete technology and methods.

Matching yields in the short term is one thing but “Will this system allow for higher yields in the years to come?” asks Sunderesan. “If it can, only then should it be promoted,” he says.
What he means is that more output cannot be achieved without more inputs. At present, there is an imbalance in the soil that needs to be restored and CMSA is doing just that. However, once this is done, newer varieties of seeds would need more nutrients to give better yields. The way seeds technology functions is that every new variety is capable of taking up more nutrients from the soil and converting it into food. Without any assistance in the form of chemical fertilizers, newer seed varieties will not be able to produce more from the same piece of land.
Agrees Suresh Babu, senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, “Without increasing inputs, it is not clear whether yields will continue to increase in the longer term.” Swaminathan too feels that once the imbalance in the soil is addressed, it would be best to make use of chemical inputs.

Babu believes that while CMSA resolves the indebtedness problem, there is no guarantee that the farmers will not rush back to using pesticides in case of a major pest attack.
“Organising people is the key to CMSA’s success but that is also the main hurdle in replicating this initiative in other states,” says T. Nand Kumar, a former Indian agriculture secretary and currently the chairman, Commission on the Optimum Use of Fertilizers.
In his budget speech this year, the finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee, announced the extension of “green revolution to the eastern region of the country … with the active involvement of Gram Sabhas and the farming families”. Irrespective of whether CMSA can be replicated elsewhere in the country or not, one thing is certain: It will provide some key markers to ensure that the second green revolution in India is more sustainable than the first.

A Bug’s Life

How an understanding of the life cycle of pests helps protect crops

It’s easy enough to spot a CMSA field. As you approach the small handkerchief plot nestled among swathes of lush fields, you first notice the buzz. As you get closer, you see the source of the buzz: Dragonflies and birds the little plot is teeming with them.

You also notice that unlike the other farms, the crop lengths here are varied. It almost looks like an oasis surrounded by regular fields. For instance, in Kurnool district in Andhra Pradesh, a typical CMSA farm has every two or three rows of red gram (tur) interspersed with one row of castor, unlike a non-CMSA farm which has a mono-crop of red gram. The whole plot has a hedge of corn plants, and if you look closer, it is only on a CMSA farm that you will find ladybird beetles, cosily ensconced in the leaves of the corn plants.

The reason for these varied crops is simple: The ladybird beetle feeds on the pests that attack red gram and castor. Besides, the corn plants provide protection from pesticides used on adjoining farms. “Castor attracts the pests that would have otherwise attacked red gram,” explains Meenakshi. So instead of spending a lot of money on repeated sprays of pesticides, farmers just spend some time every week plucking castor leaves where the pest has laid eggs.
So for crop protection, CMSA relies more on understanding the behaviour and life cycle of the pests attacking a particular crop.
No mechanisation, no health hazards due to pesticides, no side effects for the soil and the environment, zero costs for the farmer and a more nutritious yield of red gram. For the same volume of rice the CMSA produce weighs more. So if a jar full of conventional rice weighs 1 kg, a jar full of CMSA rice weighs about 50 grams more.
The second important aspect of CMSA consists of a comprehensive strategy to improve soil health. “Plants don’t eat chemical fertilizers by spoons. It is an organic process which must be respected otherwise the soil will stop responding, as indeed it has,” says D.V. Raidu, the state project advisor for CMSA.

But CMSA is not merely the replacement of a few chemical pesticides and fertilizers by cheaper options. CMSA isn’t organic farming either. Essentially, its appeal lies in its practicality in a country where landholdings get smaller with each passing generation.

“Frankly, we do not teach anything that is not already a part of the Integrated Pest Management and Integrated Nutrient Management techniques accepted by the government. The trouble is, nobody cares to follow it,” adds Raidu.

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