Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture in Andhra Pradesh

Andhra Pradesh has the dubious distinction of being the home for ‘Farmers’ Suicides’ in India. Out of the 2 districts identified by Planning Commission and the Prime Minister’s Relief scheme as districts being under serious agrarian distress, 16 are in Andhra Pradesh. Since, 1987-88 farmers’ suicides are reported from various parts of the state. Among various reasons for the crisis higher dependency on external inputs contributing to economic and ecological distress are important issues which need to be addressed.


Faced by increasing input costs, degradation of productive lands, and increased sense of farmers’ helplessness in face of multiple constraints the NGOS the Community Based Organisations have responded with important agricul- ture production initiatives to reduce input burdens, develop sustainable agriculture methodologies in where farmers play a central role in the development process. With State Government Stepping in the movement has been scaled up to a larger scale.

Fig. 1. Agriculture Cost of Production for Small & Marginal Farmers in AP

Source: NSS Report No. 497 (Income, Expenditure and Productive Assets of Farmer Households) 2003

Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture in Andhra Pradesh:

Centre for Sustainable Agriculture works with small and marginal farmers in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Chhattisgarh in establishing locally adapted farming sys- tems based on sustainable agriculture practices through community based on organisations.

While several such models remain as islands of suc- cess, CSA worked with Humboldt University, Germany to assess scaling up potential of sustainable agriculture and designed a scaling up model and worked with Rural Development Department of Andhra Pradesh through its Watershed Programs and Women Self Groups.

Do Andhra Pradesh Rural Poverty Reduction Project (APRPRP): The APRPRP is implemented through Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP), a society under the state Rural Development Department, under the umbrella of the state Indira Kranthi Patham (IKP) program. In APRPRP areas, households have very low endowments of physical and human

capital, which limits their ability for gainful self- employment. At the same time, agriculture is the main source of livelihood though there were very few non-agricultural livelihood opportunities (see box on individual household loans). The resulting seasonality of available employment, as well as the likelihood of periodic droughts, not only makes investment risky but also meant that the wage labour has become more constrained. This has led to much hidden unemployment and distress migration which further under- mined livelihood opportunities. Given the limited access to irrigation, agricultural income has been exposed to the weather risks, in particular periodic droughts, which affected not only persons who owned land but also users of common property resources and wage earners (Galab and Reddy, 2010).

Genesis & details of the Intervention:

During 2004-05 when the poor in Andhra Pradesh experienced a period of serious livelihoods crisis, the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP), under the livelihood initiative of the Government of AP working with Federations of Women Self Help Groups, identified increasing costs of cultivation due to heavy dependency on external inputs as one of the main reasons for the growing indebtedness. Learning from the experiences of villages like Punukula and Enabavi in AP, SERP initiated pilot scaling up of Non Pesticidal Management (NPM) in collaboration with a consor- tium of Civil Society Organisations in 2005-06 (Ramanjaneyulu et. al 2008, Vijay Kumar 2009).

  1. Farmer Field School approach originally designed and promoted by FAO was suitably modified and establish to train farmers (both women and men) regularly on the NPM and other ecological farming practices.
Non Pesticidal Management (NPM)

The ecological and economical problems of pests and pesticides in agriculture gave rise to several eco- friendly innovative approaches which do not rely on the use of chem- ical pesticides. These initiatives involved rediscovering traditional practices and contemporary grass root innova-

tions supplemented by strong scientific analysis main- ly sup- ported by non-formal institutions like NGOs. Such innova- tions have begun to play an important role in development sector.

Non Pesticidal Management which is an ‘ecological ap- proach to pest management using knowledge and skill based practices to prevent insects from reaching damaging stages and damaging proportions by making best use of local re- sources, natu- ral processes and community action’.

  • The program is implemented using experienced farmers as ‘Community Resource Persons’ (both women and men) and the Federations of Women Self Groups at the Mandal level (Block level) managed the entire program. The program was supported by experienced local NGOs and Centre for Sustainable Agriculture as the nodal agency for technical support and project management till 2007- 08.
  • The initial success with NPM, SERP has cast its net wide across the country to identify best practices from the suc- Ecological/Natural cessful ecological farming models. Farming Master farmers like Sri. Bhaskar Save, Sri. Subash Palekar, Sri. Nammalwar have provided inspira-

tion and necessary support to promote ‘Polycrop’ models, Organic soil management practices, soil and water con- servation, and In situ water harvesting practices.

  • By 2007-08 the program spread to more than 7.0 lakh acres across the state, largely through the support of NGOS. It became evident during this period, that resource conserving, regenerative, sustainable agriculture prac- tices which are largely based on local resources based solutions, farmers knowledge and skill in packaging them to suit their situations, bring in wide set of benefits that accrue to the practitioners and their farm ecology. In 2007- 08 a state level Project Management Unit was setup to take over the roles of providing overall technical support and project management,
  • As the scope of the intervention expanded it was named as ‘Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture’ (CMSA). CMSA represents a model of agriculture which is largely based on farmers’ resources, knowledge and skills and the institutional systems for learning are managed by the Community.

Role of Institutions of Poor and their functionaries: One of the main objectives of this initiative was to establish a com- munity managed learning and management system to build more accountability and ownership in the system.

  1. VO Sub Committee: at the village level, a practicing farmer is identified as a Village Activist who is responsible for organising and documenting FFS. The Village Organisation (VO) is the federation of the all women SHG groups in the village, and a subcommittee in the VO mon itors the progress every month. Five such villages are grouped into a cluster and is supported by a Cluster Activist.
  • MMS Sub Committee: At the Mandal level (AP equiva- lent of blocks) the cluster are reviewed on a monthly basis by the Mandal Mahila Samakya (MMS) sub-committee. MMS identifies the villages where the agriculture program would be implemented based on the response of the members from villages which can be grouped as a clus- ter. MMS subcommittee can also enter into an agreement with any Resource NGO for providing technical support.
    • Zilla Samakya Sub Committee: At the district level, the program is reviewed on a monthly basis by the Zilla Samkya Sub Committee. The District Project Manager (DPM, of SERP) provides the required administrative sup- port in monitoring and documenting. Zilla Samakya Sub Committee identifies Mandals where the program would be implemented.
    • Community Resource Persons (CRPs): Successfully practicing farmers are selected as Community Resource Persons who help in supporting and promoting sustain- able agriculture practices.
    • Non Governmental Organisations: Initially when the program was started NGOs played the important role of providing handholding support to the women’s SHGS for three years 2005-06 to 2007-08, both at grassroots and state level. In a process of gradual role change SHGS have taken over the project implementation and CRPS have taken over the capacity building roles.

The funds for the program are released to the MMS and CRPS, Village and Cluster Activists are paid by the MMS. Each participating farmers pays a registration fee of Rs. 30/ year which would be deposited with the VO.

Implementation strategy

The implementation process uses several important methods to ensure close community participation and learn- ing and management involvement:

Village Immersion: the villages are identified based on the expression of interest of the VO (Village Organisation) mem- bers in the MMS (Mandal Mahila Samakya) sub-committee meeting. A village immersion program is organised where CRPS (Community Resource Persons), Cluster Activist and DPMs (District Project Manager) discuss about the agricul- ture situation and share learning from CMSA from other vil- lages. The program identifies interested farmers, and organ- ises them into FFS (Farmers Field School) groups. During the processes of immersion village Resource Mapping is also done to identify locally available resources, cropping sys- tems, local knowledge etc.

Farmers’ Field School (FFS) forms the basic unit of learning. Each Farmers’ Field School is a relatively homog- enous group of farmers and the FFS meets every week in one of the members field to learn, discuss and take decisions regarding actions to be taken managing their crops. Village activist and cluster activist will organise these field schools. Sometimes Community Resource Persons may also join.

ICTs for information sharing and reviewing: Video Conferences to review progress are organised for every fort- night. The cluster activists, MMS and ZS leaders, District Project Managers attend and share information. Similarly Mobiles phones are used to disseminate important alerts and suggestions, TV channels were used to share information regularly on production practices.

Further there are key sub-interventions which directly assist farmers gain greater role in the production process: Community Seed Banks: In the identified villages, the seed requirements (both in terms of varieties and quantities) are mapped and breeder seed are procured for all the crops and farmers are trained to produce and use their seed. In crops like paddy, groundnut where seed requirement is high few farmers are identified at the village level to produce seed and make it available to other farmers at a price.

Custom Hiring Centres: Implements for ploughing, sowing, weeding etc are made available at the Village Organisation on a custom hiring basis. This improved the access of small and marginal farmers to such implements.

NPM shops: to promote micro enterprises which can supply ecological farming inputs NPM shops are promoted through PoP families. All NPM shop owners are trained on prepara- tion of botanical extracts and loan is facilitated from MMS to establish NPM shops. So far 1944, NPM shops were estab- lished across the project implementation area. The income from NPM shops ranges from Rs. 1500/- during the peak sea- son to Rs.500/- in lean season.

The Community Seed Banks, Custom Hiring Centres for Implements and NPM shops work as network to share surpluses with others when needed.

Reaching out to the pooresta

Often agriculture related interventions tend to naturally work mainly with those farmers owning land, and who have more resources and time, and less afraid to take risks. Based on the learnings from the CMSA, two initiatives were devel- oped to improve household food security of the poorest of the poor – who form 34.7 % of the SHG groups promoted by SERP

– and to address rainfed areas which form 58 % of the cultivated land in the state.

  1. Strategy to support Poorest of the Poor (POP): With poorest of the poor, who have very few assets and form the lowest rung of the poverty ladder, being the main focus of the State, SERP initiated to facilitate PoP to adopt CMSA in at least 0.5 acre of land. Land leasing is facili- tated for the landless. In this 0.5 acre land, SRI Paddy cultivation is taken up in 0.25 acre and a seven tier poly- A crop model (ranging from tuber crops to fruit crops, veg- etables, pulses, serials etc) in the remaining 0.25 acres (popularly called as 36 x 36 m model). During 2009-10, 251 models each of 0.5 acres (0.25 acre of multiple vegetables and 0.25 acre of SRI Paddy) were established under PoP strategy which gave an income ranging from Rs. 15,000 to 40,000 based on the cropping pattern and time of sowing. This model provides food and income round the year. Last two years data shows that a net income up to Rs.50, 000 in a year is possible along with improved household food and nutritional security. See Case study box below.
  2. Rainfed Sustainable Agriculture (RFSA) in conver- gence with Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS): To make the most of possible synergies between generating employment, sustainable land improvement, and drawing on existing government resources, comprehensive soil and moisture conservation works to improve the land of PoP were initiated converging with the MGNREGS from 2009-10. In the first year it covered 3.19 lakh acres of

1.46 lakh SC/ST farmers 2009-10. The works includes farm ponds, conservative furrows, trenches, compost pits,

and vegetable mini kits and fruit plants. The total amount to be spent in one acre of land is Rs.40, 000/-. Total out lay for the year 2010-11 is Rs.1630 crores covering 10 lakh acres in 22 districts. So far technical sanctions are accorded for Rs.804 crores and administrative sanctions are accorded for Rs.645 crores and RFSA works are grounded in 3,034 villages out of 3,332 villages. The final results are still awaited.

Scale of the Intervention:

CSA provided handholding support to the program till 2007-08. The program was built in a way that it would be man- aged by the SHG groups t

Currently this program is carried out in 36.00 lakh acres (1.44 million hectares) benefitting 17.07 lakh (1.707 million) farmers.



The Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture is a comprehensive package and bringing together of several eco- logical farming practices. The enabling strength of the Women Self Help Group institutional platform has facilitated rapid spread of these practices. There have been a range of impor- tant impacts to farmers and poor rural households:

  • Reductions in costs of cultivation due to NPM are report- ed by all the farmers. The savings in costs range from Rs. 3000/acre in paddy, redgram to Rs. 15,000/acre in chil- lies.
  • A quick survey by SERP in three districts has shown that the number of cases of hospitalisation due to pesticide poisoning has reduced from 242 cases/year to 146 cases/ year a 40 percent drop in a year. In the villages which have adopted NPM the drop is 100 per cent.
  Case Study of Smt. M. Bojamma: Journey of an ultra poor family from “wage seekers” to “net food producers” Smt. M. Bojjamma is a landless agriculture worker from Thadakanaplle village of Kallur mandal in Kurnool district.She hails from a poorest of the Poor family, her husband working in a stone crusher unit She got interested about the sustainable agriculture listening to the Cluster Activist in the VO meeting and wanted to try out.Village Organization provided a loan amount of Rs.7,000/- for leasing in 0.5 Acre of land with assured irrigation for one year (two seasons) in 2009.She attended all the training programs and enrolled for the farmer field school. She learned about Sustainable Agriculture methods, growing multistory cropping system and SRI – resulting in a diverse crop (see table below)During Rabi, 2009 she took up only vegetables. Her costs of cultivation were Rs. 3000 and earned Rs. 26,500. The combined net incomes were Rs. 28,800 (kharif) + Rs. 23,500 Rs.7,000 (Land rental) =Rs. 45,300.   Following is the income and expenditure details from June to December (Kharif season), 2009:
S.NName of the cropYield in KgsPriceGross income in Rs.Cost of cultivation in Rs. (excluding family labour)Net incom
 Leafy Vegetables      
1.Spinach beet300 bundles3900Paid out costsAmount in Rs.19500
2.Sorrel400 bundles31200
3.Fenugreek400 bundles2800Vegetable seeds500 
4.Amaranthus300 bundles3900Ploughing2000
 Vegetables   Farm yard manure500
6.Brinjal (Aubergine)400156000Dravajeevamrutam300
Botanical extracts200
7.Tomato150101500White yellow plates100
8.Onion150203000Pheromone Traps100
9.Bitter gourd80151200Paddy seeds200
10.Ridge gourd100151500Total4200/-
13.SRI Paddy in 0.25 Acres9qtls120010800  9300
    330004200 2880
* Ghanajeevamrutham and Dravajeevamrutham are preparations using cow dung and other locally available material.
  • Unlike the popular argument that pest outbreaks could happen, villages adopting NPM have not seen pest out- breaks caused due to ecological disturbance or pest re- sistance. Farmers could effectively manage rice blast using a fermented solution of asafoetida, cow dung and urine

(, and sucking pests in cotton and chillies using similar methods.

  • Where organic soil management practices are adopted, the increased soil moisture conservation has helped to tide over drought spells for about 10 days more. Encour- aged by this, integrated effort to physically con- serve water with in the field by adopting conservation fur- rows, trenches and farm ponds was initiated.
  • Efforts to internalise the seed production at community level particularly in crops like paddy, groundnut have shown positive results.
  • AP produces and exports most of the chillies in the coun- try. High pesticide residues often have led to the rejection of the exports chillies and products using chillies. The chil- lies produced in Guntur district adopting NPM prac- tices were tested for pesticide residues and were found to be in accordance with EUROGAP standards.
  • During 2009-10, more than 7638 farmers (in addition to the 251 who come under PoP strategy) were supported to establish Intensive Farming System model in 36 x 36 m which produce food round the year with a combination of seasonal and perennial crops. The net incomes from these models ranged from Rs. 4000 to 12,000 in addi- tion to meeting the family food needs.
  • The CMSA approach enables bundling of various relevant services to farmer families, including credit access on the doorstep. Ultimately, the approach involves facilitating de- velopment of micro-credit plans for sustainable agricul- ture and linking farmers to commercial banks, especially where this related to marketing needs. Access to banks for farming reduced as the focus shited to the poorest of the poor, who depended more on the group credit sys- tem. CMSA approach also facilitates the farmer’s access to high quality inputs through a network of community seed banks and agricultural implements from Custom Hiring Centers run by the Federations of Women Self Help Groups.

Ramachandrapuram: Land taken out from mortgage. Julurpadu Mandal, Khammam District

Ramachandrapuram is a small village in Julurpadu mandal of Khammam dist. Predominantly a tribal village was under severe distress in 2004 when the program began. A quiet vil- lage with about seventy five farm families cultivating about 400 acres of land had all the cultivated land mortgaged to money lenders. After the CMSA began in the village, slow- ly farmers repaid the loans and got back their lands. Today entire village could have their lands back. The village is now included under ‘Total Financial Inclusion’ (all credit needs are met through the bank linkages and other old high interest debts were also swapped against SHG loan) which will fur- ther help in improv- ing the village economy.

Observations on benefits and strengths of the program

  • Getting out of pesticide poisoning is seen as a major ben- efit for the farmers. They clearly recognise and acknowl- edge that their health has significantly improved and the health costs have come down after adoption of NPM.

Scheduled Tribe Farmers, Land Mortgage Status and Adoption of NPM This is a confusing table, try to make the labels more clear

YearLand Mortgaged prior to 2004*Land recovered Mortgage after 2004Land Leased In for Cultivation
 No. of FarmersArea in AcresNo. of FarmersArea in AcresNo. of FarmersArea in Acres

*Mortgaged to Moneylenders / input dealers

Source: Case Study of Ramachandrapuram Village in Julurupadu Mandal of Khammam District in AP., CMSA, IKP, Hyderabad, 2007.

While there is considerable scope to generally increase wider awareness on the benenfits of appropriate use and correct application of pesticides and fertilizers, the NPM interventions have demonstrated the effectiveness of using local resources and preventive

  • The ecological farming practices like NPM, organic soil management, multiple cropping models, SRI etc., have been adopted by the farmers to a considerable extent. The Farmer Field School approaches to build the capaci- ty and the confidence being part of the group have proven to be very useful in promoting such practices. The risk of failure of such practices is also very low which make them easy to try. Even partial adoptions give benefit to the farmers.
  • Community management with FFS, CRPS, VOS and Mandal federations, has built in more ownership on the program – as explained above under the roles of the insti- tutions of the poor.
  • Practices involving heavy earthen works like farm ponds, conservative furrows and trenches need more capacity building for the staff and labour involved. As the risk of failure of such models being high, more adaptation to local situations is needed and have a good capacity building plan for the people involved.
  • Convergence of various interventions of IKP such as mar- keting, dairy along with CMSA will provide additional ben- efits. From this year IKP are to be planning this.
  • Convergence with line departments (Department of Agriculture, Department of Animal Husbandry) still seems to be a distant possibility due to rigid compartmentalisa- tion of their working. However discussions have with agencies have been undertaken to increase integration and linkages.
  • The Community Resource Person based extension is working well for horizontal expansion of the program. Involving some more experienced resource organisations at state and district level will be important to strengthen the program.
  • Till now the program is implemented through the Women’s Self Help Groups and their Federations. These institu- tions which are formed for thrift and credit, have shown that they can form an important platform for farming fami- lies. They can also then potentially form the springboard where by farming families can be organised into coopera- tives for more focussed work along the value chain.
  • There has been a range of impacts of considerable impor- tance to poor rural households in AP, summarised as fol- lows:
Economic BenefitsEcological Benefits
Lower cost of production & substan- tial statewide savingsYield maintained or increasedHigher household incomeLower DebtHigher cropping intensityLower risk perception and higher investment in agricultureBusiness innovation and new livelihood opportunitiesBetter soil health, water conservationConservation of agro- biodiversity Fewer pesticide related health problemsSmaller carbon footprint as a result of reduced use and production of inorganic fertilisers
  • AP s the only state which showed the reduction in pesti- cide use in the country in the last five years. Even when compared with the states growing Bt cotton or using low volume insecticides.

THE LAST FIVE YEARS 2005-06 TO 2009-10

1.Andhra Pradesh19971394154113811015
4.Jammu & Kashmir143382912482679.271640
7.Madhya Pradesh787957696663645
12.Tamil Nadu22113940204823172335
13.Uttar Pradesh66717414733289689563
14.West Bengal4250383039454100N/A
 Total in India (in round fig.)3977341515436304386041822

Cotton yields and economics per ha from CMSA 2010

Yield and IncomeCotton with NPMCotton Conventional
Total Cost of Cultivation38269.8442711.6
Lint Yield (in Quintals)3231.37
Gross Returns112000109795
Net Returns73730.1667083.4

Average Yields and Economics from all locations 2004-10

CropCost of Cultivation (Rs/Ac.)  Yield (Q/Ac)  Gross Returns (Rs)  Net returns (Rs.)
 Organic NonOrganicNon OrganicOrganicNon OrganicOrganicNon Organic