When you spend any time reading about sustainable and nature-based approaches to agriculture, you eventually come across the question of whether these small-scale approaches can be “scaled up” to larger contexts. Many agroecology projects and practices have been undertaken at the level of single plots, fields, and small farms and communities. Can these nature-based solutions be workable on regional, national, and global levels in order to replace the failing industrial agriculture model and reliably and sustainably feed the world? The state of Andhra Pradesh in the south-eastern coastal region of India says, “Yes!”.
The Andhra Pradesh Community-managed Natural Farming (APCNF) Initiative
The government of Andhra Pradesh has undertaken a state-wide agroecological transformation involving 6 million farmers, 8 million hectares of land, and 50 million consumers. The Andhra Pradesh Community-managed Natural Farming (APCNF) training program aims to transition all six million farmers in the state from conventional farming practices reliant on synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides to sustainable “Natural Farming” by 2031. It is currently the largest transition to agroecology in the world.
APCNF builds the capacity of farmers by providing training and sharing knowledge about Natural Farming, working with local women’s groups, and developing leadership among best-practising farmers, so that farming communities can sustain the nature-based practices in the long term.
Promoting Natural Farming methods through APCNF has already brought about many benefits in Andhra Pradesh. A recent study measured major economic, social, and health impacts of APCNF farms against conventional farming from 2020 to 2022. The results show strong evidence that agroecology offers a better alternative to the existing farm systems. The Community-managed Natural Farming approach is raising incomes, increasing crop yields, improving dietary diversity, increasing biodiversity, improving soil health, strengthening climate resilience, and building social capital (e.g. information sharing, mutuality, collective action, trust and support, community cohesion, and risk reduction), especially among women farmers.
The study shows that nature-based farming and agroecological transitions can be scaled up to comfortably feed communities with better yields and crop diversity than conventional farming methods. These compelling results should inspire and motivate policy makers, not just in India, but globally.
- Read this concise case study of the Andhra Pradesh Community-managed Natural Farming initiative for a good overview of what it is and how it works. (Provided by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation.)
- Watch this 2-minute video for an introduction to Natural Farming practices and this 10-minute video on how women farmers are helping the transition to Natural Farming in Andhra Pradesh.
- Visit the Andhra Pradesh Community-managed Natural Farming (APCNF) website and explore!