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Case study: The experience of the Andhra Pradesh Community managed natural farming

Andhra Pradesh Community-managed Natural Farming (APCNF) is the world’s largest agroecology program in terms of number of farmers enrolled. The program began with 40,000 farmers in 2016 and grew to 700,000 farmers and farm workers practising natural farming in 2020. 

APCNF’s success lies in its innovative farmer-to-farmer scaling strategy, identifying “Champion Farmers” who train participants in agroecological and regenerative practices. Since the trainers are themselves practising farmers, their credibility is very high and they are able to motivate farmers to change. 

The APCNF program has one farmer trainer per 100 farmers and provides intensive accompaniment by farmers, peer support, and agricultural extension to participants. Women’s self-help groups play a similar critical role in collective action, knowledge dissemination, supporting each other during transition, financing members to purchase the inputs required for natural farming, and monitoring and managing the program. Agroecological and regenerative approaches are knowledge intensive (rather than input intensive). To support participants making the change, APCNF has established long-term knowledge-sharing programs. 

The objective of the program is to get all farmers in a village to become natural farming practitioners, which takes 5 to 6 years. APCNF does this by focusing on smaller farmers in a given community, who make up more than 85% of the farmers. Seeing other farmers reaping the benefits of increased productivity and income of natural farming typically draws the remaining farmers to gradually transition in this direction.

Preventive and adaptive strategies

Increasing droughts as a result of the climate crisis are an ongoing challenge for farmers in India. To counter this, Andhra Pradesh Community-managed Natural Farming (APCNF) farmers deploy a variety of preventive and adaptive strategies. One of these strategies is the atmospheric water vapour. The practice allows farmers to plant crops without waiting for monsoons to set in, prolongs the growing season, and enables farmers to grow crops throughout the entire year. Other strategies include the use of high quantities Ghana Jiwamrutam (a cow dung soil fertility preparation) and mulch to maintain adequate moisture levels in the soil for seeds to germinate and establish themselves before the rains.

A study conducted by World Agroforestry (ICRAF) determined that APCNF produces an average of 70% fewer emissions than conventional farms, with yields that are similar or even higher. APCNF techniques are based on low-input needs and innovative approaches, thereby mitigating climate change and adapting to its effects, all while increasing production and incomes for farmers in this region.

Scaling out and up in the face of systemic barriers

Deep social processes like farmer-to-farmer and woman-to-woman methodologies are integral to the program. The support of the state Agriculture Department in the transition process has also been a vital factor. APCNF’s success demonstrates that natural farming is not only highly beneficial but also scalable in a reasonable period of time when there is a community-specific strategy in place. 

The 2021 enrolment target for APCNF is 1.05 million farmers and farm workers. Ultimately, they envision enrolling all estimated 6 million farmers and 2 million landless farm workers in Andhra Pradesh in the program and having the entire cultivable area in the state under natural farming.

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last update
20 December 2021

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