Systemic transformation in agriculture must put the farmer at the centre

Arunabha Ghosh

I spent international women’s day in Mangalagiri, in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, with Usha Rani. As a single mother for 17 years, she has raised two children (now in second-year college and in high school). Three years ago, she switched to natural farming. On less than half an acre, she practises multicropping, growing maize, banana, moringa, turmeric, chilli, gourd and guava. The products fetch her a premium in Vijayawada, up to two-and-a-half times per unit compared to what she would earn if the crops had been grown with chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Her input costs have fallen by half to a quarter. Usha has also taken a loan of more than Rs 100,000 to build a store from where to sell her inoculants of natural fertilisers and pesticides. Her income (including from the shop) is nearly five times what she earned from conventional farming.