Indo-German Global Academy for Agroecology Research and Learning Launches India’s First Farmer Scientist Course in Natural Farming: Rythu Sadhikara Samstha

Business Wire India

IGGAARL, also referred as Academy, is a collaborative institution set up by the Government of Andhra Pradesh, India with support from the Government of Germany on the 7th of July 2022. Now, after a year, it has geared up and launched a four-year Farmer Scientist Course (FSC) in Natural Farming. A first of its kind in the world, the course builds a practicing natural farmer to become a participatory Farmer Scientist, a model farmer, a participatory learning facilitator, an entrepreneur and a climate-resilient village developer. It meets the knowledge gaps in agroecology and builds capacities of NF domain with 1,000 Farmer Scientists graduating every year. Apart from building knowledge-skills-tools for A-grade natural farming, FSC imparts technical, research and experiential knowledge and skills on science, value chains, community, ecology, and leadership. Farmer Scientist earns Rs. 25,000 – 50,000 per month from A-grade NF farming during the course itself from the first year.
Recently, the FSC has been launched at Pulivendula, Andhra Pradesh, India, by Sri Kakani Govardhan Reddy, the Hon’ble Minister for Agriculture & Cooperation and Food Processing, Government of Andhra Pradesh. Addressing the Farmer Scientist students, Sri Kakani Govardhan Reddy said, “APCNF is the largest agroecology programme in the country. It requires best practitioners with a curious mind, conceptual clarity, and learning facilitation abilities to scale up NF. The Farmer Scientist graduates of the FSC course will contribute to NF Global movement at local levels.” Further, he indicated their plan to give all the students of this batch a modest monthly living stipend during the entire 4-year period, as a token of recognition of them being the first batch of pioneers; first-timers in the world.
Shri Vijay Kumar Thallam, the Executive Vice Chairman of Rythu Sadhikara Samstha (RySS) said, “What we have learnt in the past 7 years is that through the adoption of Natural Farming, it is possible for a small or marginal farmer to earn Rs. 50,000 per month from one-acre land, and Rs 10,000 per month from a 0.2 acre anytime money kitchen garden.” He informed that 365 day green cover natural farming provides nutrition diversity to the family, and improves the health of the consumers, soil and the planet. There would be significant savings in fertilizer subsidies and electricity subsidies.
In a virtual address to the gathering, Dr. Pavan Sukhdev, the Founder-CEO of GIST Impact informed that their recent study concluded that farmers using natural inputs achieved equal or higher yields up to 11% compared to other farmer systems and the net incomes averaged 49% and witnessed more women participation in the workforce. He feels the Farmer Scientist course launched today contributes immensely to strengthening ongoing work and influencing policies.
Farmer Scientist students are youth, who are the best practising natural farmers for the last 3 years and have completely transitioned to natural farming. During the course itself, they practice A-Grade model from first year and earn monthly farm incomes. They become participatory researchers and keep their farms as learning-living landscapes. They train 10-15 cadre and 50 farmers in the village to become A-grade natural farmers. They transform their villages climate resilient. 75% of the learning in FSC is through practical and experiential learning through their own field, own experiments, and conceptual inputs via classroom and digital learning. Farmer Scientists receive intense mentoring. This apprenticeship-mentorship is the fulcrum of the FSC. According to G. Muralidhar Sr. Advisor, APCNF, “A mentor is a qualified graduate and an accomplished NF practitioner. She mentors and handholds about 5 Farmer Scientists, apart from being an online-offline-on field-in situ instructor. Mentor visits and stays with her mentees, and invites mentees to her field, landscape and models.” One such FSC student, C. Usha, from Rompicharla village in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, says that she was happy to be shortlisted and finalized for the course as it would help her innovate with various agroecology models and generate knowledge for others to replicate in their fields.
Intake in FSC is about 1,000 per batch. The instruction is in 25 Research and Learning Centres in districts. Initially, these students would come from AP and gradually, FSC expects to start enrolling students from outside AP. Iris Harder, Principal Portfolio Manager, Natural Resources & Climate – Asia, KfW Development Bank, said, “We are proud to cooperate with IGGAARL and its launch of the Farmer Scientist course. A combination of theory and practice is important. Underlying Natural Farming is knowledge-intensive and knowledge is the only resource that will increase only when it is shared.”
The Government of India has announced National Mission on Natural Farming in its Union Budget 2023-24 to take NF to 10 million farmers over the next three years. RySS is one of the key members guiding the work of the National Mission for Natural Farming in India. Speaking from Australia over Zoom Eminent soil scientist, Dr. Walter Jehne, Regenerate Earth, said that everywhere, we see the intensification of climate change, and the good news is, the solution is in Agroecology. He congratulates RySS for initiating FSC for not only expanding Natural Farming but offering solutions to global problems. Academy has already established research partnerships with the University of Reading (UK), World Agro Forestry (ICRAF, Nairobi), TUFTS University (USA), University of Edinburgh (UK), CIRAD (France), Global Alliance for Sustainable Planet, UN Environment Program and FAO. These are in addition to growing numbers of interns, mentors, Farmer Scientists and their learning-living landscapes and in-house research architecture.