Published: 20th February 2020
This Telugu prof is taking students to a village to do organic farming during vacays. How cool!
She was awarded the Indira Gandhi National Award for the Best NSS Programme Officer 2013. In 2014, she went on an exchange programme by the government of India to China
In 2018, Dr Chennamaneni Padma had an epiphany. She realised that the present generation is just not eating right. And as a huge advocate of 'You are what you eat', this Associate Professor of Telugu Literature at Sarojini Naidu Vanita Maha Vidyalaya, Hyderabad, knew she had to do something. So, from June to December 2018, she took a sabbatical of sorts and travelled to Guntur and parts of Maharashtra. What for, you wonder. She travelled with the purpose of not just learning organic farming but going forward, teaching it to others too. She even attended agriculturalist and Padma Shri-awardee Subhash Palekar's 20-day natural farming workshop in Guntur and came back with enough confidence to start out small with terrace gardening. In the 2,200 sqft space of her house's roof top, she now grows all kinds of vegetables. "We hardly purchased any vegetables in 2019, except for potatoes and carrots," says Dr Padma.
She even conducted a one-day workshop for an NGO called Seva Bharati. She distributed vegetable seeds to 200 of them
Last year, in the months of August, September and October, this professor spread the word around in her student circles that she would be organising natural farming workshops back on her farmland in the village of Jagtial in Telangana. She wanted to take students in batches and invite the contacts she had established through her own training to teach the girls, "Just so that they can learn from the best," she avers. This was a ten-day residential trip, during which she even provided food and accommodation to the participants. "When I was travelling to learn, Good Samaritans took care of my food and accommodation, so this time, I want to return the favour in a different way and focus on girls while doing so," the professor explains.
Dr Padma (the one with the umbrella) with her students | (Pic: Dr Chennamaneni Padma)
Starting from what kind of soil to select to how to mix it with organic manure, what types of pots are ideal and how to make one's own fertilisers that won't harm the environment — all the bases were covered during the sessions the 54-year-old professor organised for the girls. They even learnt how to make seed balls. She is now happy to report that, "these participants are so much more conscious of what they eat and are even spreading the word around among their family and relatives. There is one girl who even wants to start a nursery of her own after attending the workshop," she says with pride. Soon, this professor will start another batch soon and, if you are lucky, you might learn the importance of natural farming too.
"Women are the key when it comes to families, that's why I wanted to focus on them," says Dr Chennamaneni Padma
Lesser-known benefits of natural farming:
- Preventing algal blooms: Known to be caused by chemical-based fertilisers, these affect people's health and that of marine animals too
- Discouraging erosion: Studies have proved that natural farming is healthier for the soil and prevents soil erosion too
- Improving water retention: The capacity of the soil to retain water improves and the micro-climate around the plants becomes better
Scenes from the session
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