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Andhra Pradesh: Rythu Sadhikara Samstha (RySS) Launches Farmer Scientist Course: An initiative to make AP climate resilient

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Rythu Sadhikara Samstha (RySS), Govt of AP is implementing the Andhra Pradesh Community managed Natural Farming. In 2022-23, it had enrolled 8,50,000 farmers for transitioning to natural farming. It is the largest initiative in the country. In 2023-24, the plan is to enrol more than 1 million farmers. RySS has set up the “Indo-German Global Academy for Agroecology Research and Learning (IGGAARL).  The Academy has been set up by the State Govt, with the support of Govt of Germany and Govt of India.

The IGGAARL was established with the purpose of furthering research and development, training and capacity building, learning and education, and up-scaling of agroecology (natural farming). In doing so, the Academy hopes to create spaces in the system, for tabling discussions on agroecology more seriously, with research that would drive policy and decision-making, legislation, and institutional change. It aims to ensure that research is not just a top-down approach, but rather, is more de-centralized, with farmers at the centre of this research and also farmers at the centre of disseminating research findings. The key tenets are farmer-centric and farmer-driven research.

IGGAARL aims to introduce ‘farmer scientists’ into society, for the rural and peri-urban agricultural landscapes, so as to develop Climate Resilient Villages. Farmer scientists are youth, who are the best practising natural farmersfrom the APCNF (Andhra Pradesh Community Managed Natural Farming) program, who are practicing NF (Natural Farming) for the last 3 years and have completely transitioned to natural farming.

With an educational background and a significant proportion of their income from farming, farmer scientists are expected to become better farmers, contribute to important research questions and provide insights from their agroecological zones. Farmer scientists will enrol at IGGAARL for a 4 year, Under Graduate Program, which has theoretical and practical components, with field management, research, and experiment as a key part of the curriculum.

This unique programme is being inaugurated by the Hon’ble Minister of Agriculture, Govt of A.P, Shri Kakani Govardhan Reddyon the 22nd of July. The inaugural function is being held at the IGGAARL Academy Campus, Pulivendula, YSR District.

The Farmer Scientist course is a 4-year programme, and during this time the studentswill gain exhaustive knowledge on the science of natural farming, agroecological impacts on biogeochemical cycles and the water cycle, soil health, role of soil microbes, pest management and disease control, farm management (cropping patterns, types of farming, weed and soil management), productivity, health, carbon sequestration and footprint, enterprise creation, etc. In all, they will have 20 modules, across different thematic domains.

The pedagogy is designed to impart critical thinking skills and hone technical skills in research and extension. By the time, they graduate, the enthusiastic young farmer scientists, would possess knowledge on various subjects, key for agricultural transformation. They will also be taught how to develop A-grade farm models, which incorporate all the 9 principles of natural farming and generate a continuous source of revenue all year round.

In fact, their graduation is dependent on them successfully grounding the A grade model in their field in the 1st year and improving it every year. The farmer scientists will also be trained to become farmer trainers using participatory methodologies, like the Farmer Field schools.

And as trainers and as model farmers they will be responsible for transforming around 50 farmers as Model A grade farmers, as part of their course requirements. They will conduct field experiments on their own plots of land on priority issues under the guidance of the mentors and the faculty and the research results will be part of key publications in journals of repute.

The farmer scientists, can and are expected to continue their research even after graduation and are expected to be beacons of knowledge and catalyse the transformation of village ecosystems. During their enrollment at IGGAARL, they will also be expected to pilot different models for the implementation of Climate Resilient Villages, keeping in mind the sustenance of these models. After graduation, farmer scientists, are expected to ensure that they transform at least one village ecosystem per one Rythu Bharosa Kendram.

Thus, it is a rigorous but a very rewarding course. Rewarding to the Farmer Scientists, their fellow farmers in the village, and rewarding to other scientists and other farmers through their publications and sharing the results of their own fields. Their success will enable the scaling up of natural farming across the state and the country and outside. And, most important, through the positive environmental impacts of their farming demonstrate to the whole world that farmers can not only feed everyone on the planet sustainably, but more important contribute to the mitigation of the biggest crisis of our times – the climate emergency.  

Students’ Intake. In the first two years, the course will enrol 1000 farmer scientists each year, and from the 3rd year onwards this number will increase to 2000 farmer scientists each year. From the 3rd year it is planned to enrol interested farmers from other states and other countries. 

The FSC is a key foundation for creating the necessary momentum through a multi-pronged approach (community-driven research, publications, and decision-making) for Institutional transformation to agroecology (naturalfarming).

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