Interviews_with_Community_Resource_Person_MEENAKSHI

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					Interviews with the Community Resource Persons (CRPs) of SERP (Society for Elimination of Rural
Poverty) at Hyderabad

Interview with Meenakshi
Community Resource Person

Meenakshi: I am from Patapatnam mandal, Srikakulam district, from a remote tribal village. I
have come here as a farmer. You asked how NPM ( Non Pesticidal Management) agriculture was
introduced. This was introduced into the villages through Indira Kranthi Patham and mahila
sanghas. It was spread in our villages through video programmes and kala jathra. First we
thought that NPM agriculture is not possible. Even when we were spending thousands of rupees
we were not getting any income. We were getting debt ridden and sick. When we heard about
NPM agriculture (through messages in the CDs, through dance programmes and kala jathra) we
doubted its feasibility. We wondered how it could be possible?


Earlier, it was thought that everything has become polluted except for mother’s milk. I heard that
now even mother’s milk has become 100% polluted all over the state. This has shocked me.
Imagine mother’s milk is also getting poisoned. If you see the newspaper you will find an
increase in number of deaths of the infants. Why is this so? Mother’s milk has become poisoned
because of the food we eat – this we came to know through NPM campaign.

With the advent of NPM programme, I was filled with enthusiasm. It was a challenge to grow
crops without pesticides. We were told that you have to grow crops using leaves of trees in the
surroundings of the village, tank silt, etc. We doubted whether this would be possible. Even with
an investment of thousands of rupees we were not getting good income and falling into debts.
Farmers were committing suicide by consuming the poison that they were spraying in their
fields.

To see whether NPM was possible I took up a trial in one acre. I wanted my husband’s consent
which he did not give. Then I threw a challenge to him – I said if you agree we will both
cultivate 50 cents each. I will not use pesticides and use green leaves and manure. My husband
said, “even with thousands of rupees of expenditure we are not getting good yields, how will you
cultivate with green leaves, tank silt, concoctions, etc?” I said, let us try and we both had our 50
cents plot each.

First I undertook summer ploughing. This (NPM agriculture) has some non-negotiables. The first
one is summer ploughing. This was done only in my share of land to test the efficiency. After
summer ploughing we had community bonfires. I followed these methods for the paddy crop.
After the community bonfire I used the leaves from the trees available in the neighbourhood –
neem, butea, cassia, custard apple, vitex, etc. and prepared the nursery. After that I undertook
seed treatment. I sowed the seeds after the rains. I gathered the leaves from the surroundings.
With my labour as investment I worked hard for two days to do this. Then I got the main field
puddle ready so that the green matter/leaves start decomposing. By the time final puddling was
done the nursery was ready. While transplanting, the tips of the seedlings were cut. Alleys of two
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feet were made at an interval of every 3 meters. The challenge between my husband and me was
that if I get lesser yield than him then I will pay him the loss. I agreed to this and was willing to
take loans, if necessary, to pay for the loss. When I made alleys my husband said that because of
this the yield in my plot would decrease. I did not agree with him and again reiterated that I will
pay him the loss.

There is a plant called Azolla. It is widely available in the tanks. If you cultivate it in your field
or near your house, it is like having a urea factory. If you apply Azolla, there is no need for urea.
I applied Azolla and did not use any urea. My husband used urea. With Azolla there is another
advantage – the weed growth is very less. Thus I saved the expenditure on weeding. I used
yellow plates, alleys, etc. On the borders of the plot I had castor and marigold. I also sowed long
beans around the plot. This has given me an additional income of Rs. 200/ after fulfilling the
vegetable needs of my household.

Like this I followed all the steps, which my husband did not follow. I did not use DAP; instead I
used Ghana Jeevamrutha, which is a mixture of cow dung and urine – 100 kg of cow dung,
sufficient quantity of urine, 2 kgs black jaggery, 2 kgs flour of legumes, all these ingredients are
made into balls. This is kept in shade for a week and used like DAP (diammonium phosphates
fertilizer granules).

Earlier we were not aware of Polam Badi ( Field School). After NPM started we were introduced
to Polam Badi. Earlier farmers would walk on the bund surrounding the field but not enter the
field. Farmer is not actually aware of the field situation. In Polam Badi farmers are formed into
four groups. Each groups goes to four different corners of the field and observe the situation –
whether the crop needs water, what stage the crop is in, are there any diseases or any pests. All
these can be known very clearly. Then my husband’s crop was infected by blast disease. I was
able to recognize this because I had seen the books and discussed these things with CA, VA and
others.

Because there was competition between us, I knew that if I told him anything about this he
would take it otherwise. So, I met CA, VA and told them to conduct the next Polam Badi in his
field (it is done in a different field each week). They told my husband. My husband did not
follow any (NPM) methods, there were no alleys. He had applied urea and DAP and chemical
pesticides of about Rs. 200. The crop was infected with blast disease. A concoction was prepared
with locally available vitex and negundo leaves and was sprayed in the field. After the Polam
Badi we sat beneath a tree and made a plan. The disease was identified and the concoction was
recommended.

The crop was nearing harvesting. My expense was only Rs. 700. This was on Ghana
Jeevamrutha concoctions. My husband spent Rs. 1500 on urea and DAP and Rs. 200 on
pesticides; the total expenditure was Rs. 1700. My expenditure was only Rs. 700 (as detailed
above). My crop yield without any chemicals was 15 bags, while my husband obtained 12 bags. I
obtained Rs. 11,000 for my produce; while my husband got Rs. 9000. I got Rs. 4000 more than
my husband. I understood that not only a male farmer but a woman also can take up this (NPM)

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agriculture. I got the confidence. I came to the stage where I could tell other women that we are
farmers and that we can take up this agriculture. I got Rs. 4000 additional than my husband and I
used this money for taking more land on lease.
  During this time I brought together all the poor, single women in the village (who were not in
SHGs) together and formed a sangha. I trained these sangha women on preparation of various
concoctions. I opened a bank account for them. Now, if anyone in the village needs concoction
these women sell it to them. After Polam Badi the farmers ask them to prepare various
concoctions for pests and diseases and they are able to earn an income of Rs. 30 per day. Like
SHGs for women, now we are also forming sanghas for farmers. We get an account opened for
them and train two leaders from each sangha. We are very much indebted to NPM agriculture.
Because of this we are able to take up agriculture with very little investment and realize high
yield. We are getting good and nutritious food for everyone. Similarly, we are in a situation
where we are able to protect the health of everyone.

Suresh (Q): What is the knowledge that you gained from the farmers? Jeevamrutham and others
are based on knowledge obtained from outsiders?

Meenakshi: Yes, from the farmers who earlier stored seeds we learned seed storage. Flowers of
nooru varahalu, pulla dabba leaves, markers nut, which are available locally in our area are used
for seed storage. We are not depending on the market for seeds. We organize vigyan melas
(science exhibitions) for farmers.

Meenakshi: NPM agriculture will provide a good future to those who practice it. Farmers have
used so many pesticides until now and everyone has acquired either one or the other disease.
Nobody is perfectly healthy. If you ponder over it, NPM agriculture is dependant on locally
available resources; it doesn’t need any investment. It gives good food, free of all toxic
substances. Thus several diseases will decrease. Because there is no need for investment it will
be continued forever. We are confident of this because we practiced it. We took it up and taking
us as role model several people are following these methods. These methods have been practiced
traditionally also. This is not something new. The word NPM may be new. This is what
traditional farmers did. This will continue forever.

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A low resolution copy is provided at CED. You can order for a DVD for your training programme from
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