Published: 01st September 2020
How this youngster in AP gave up his software job and transformed his village into an agro-paradise
What Yazali, a small town in Andhra Pradesh, has achieved is because one youngster decided to ditch his corporate job, get youngsters involved and go back to his village to help its farmers
What we have today is because of the collective contribution of the society we live in. So, when you give back to society, you are not doing it a favour, it's your responsibility. These are the immortal words of Lakshmi Narasimha Ikkurthi's grandmother and we thought this is the first and the most important aspect you should know about this 36-year-old who hails from the town of Yazali in the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. Mostly because when you read about his story and struggles, every step of the way, you will wonder, 'Where does that steely resolve to give back to Yazali come from?' It will do you good to go back to his grandmother's words, because that's exactly what he does, day in and day out.
He pursued Computer Science from VRS & YRN College of Engineering & Technology, Chirala
"I want to see Yazali-branded rice in your house and every other house. See, this is the tragedy of agriculture in India, you don't know where the food on your plate comes from. The consumer needs to know, perhaps only then will they respect and express gratitude not just for the food on their plate but also for the hands that grew it," says Narasimha. This youngster started the Yazali Farmers Producer Company in October 2018 which helps farmers in four aspects — supplies to grow the produce, uniformity and quality in production, procurement and processing and branding and marketing, the last of which they are still working on. About 400 farmers of this village, which is predominantly dependent on agriculture, are part of the company. In some more good news, the company has earned a profit of seven crore since the lockdown began. They grow paddy, maize, pulses, black and green gram, groundnut and green chili, informs Lakshmi Narasimha, who received the Rural Achiever Award 2018 from Prime Minister Modi. But behind the current success of, is the story of a man who left behind a lucrative software job in Hyderabad and gave himself to the service of his village.
Lakshmi Narasimha Ikkurthi | (Pic: Lakshmi Narasimha Ikkurthi)
Time for a flashback
Let's go back to 2010. As fate would have it, Lakshmi Narasimha had to go back to Yazali to get certain certificates from home. You see, the company he was working for, CSC India, Hyderabad, wanted to send him to the US and for an H1B1 visa, he needed the document. "When I was there, my mother informed me about a drunk-driving accident very matter-of-factly and when I became alarmed, she hushed me saying this has been the norm for many months now. I inquired with the senior village leaders and they only confirmed what my mother told me,” he shares. So he decided to forgo his plans of going to the US, but he went back to Hyderabad and with the help of all the people who had migrated from his village to the City of Nizams, started Yazali Na Janmabhoomi and gathered over Rs 10 lakh in funds for village development activities. The local school was given a total makeover, complete with labs, a 500-seater dining area, boundary wall and so on. "In 2013 we realised the youngsters are making use of this facility and moving out anyway. That's when I shifted my focus to agriculture," he informs.
From the school they renovated, about 200 plus students have been placed in defence and as constables. About 30 of them have been selected for various district-level sports
Ambitiously, Lakshmi Narasimha initiated a partnership with Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University in Guntur and every second and fourth weekend of the month, 40 PhD students and professors would visit the village to educate farmers about the best case practices. "But not even 40 farmers would come to listen to them," recalls the youngster. Then his travel escapades began. He travelled across the state, met all kinds of farmers and soon realised something, "The information I gathered is good for writing a book, not transforming a village." Instead, he decided to transform a few acres of barren land near Shamirpet that Yazali Na Janmabhoomi collectively acquired and use all the best case practises he had learnt via his travels. "I cultivated grapes, watermelon and different types of vegetables and in six months, the land was flourishing," he shares happily.
Lakshmi Narasimha Ikkurthi | (Pic: Lakshmi Narasimha Ikkurthi)
When you fail, try again
Desirous of implementing the successful agricultural practices in his own village, Lakshmi Narasimha attempted to do this and failed because the soil structure was very different. That's when it occurred to him, "Who am I to tell the farmers how to do their job? I will use my education and capabilities to streamline the production end-to-end." He resigned, came back to his village to hire two young graduates who helped him conduct a massive survey about everything that the farmers were growing, where they sourced seeds and fertilisers, and where the produce was being sold. And with the help of former Additional Director General of Police in Mumbai JD Lakshmi Narayana, he visited Vilas Shinde's Sahyadri Farms (popular for transforming the life of farmers there) in Maharashtra to learn more about farmer-producer organisations. It is after this that he established Yazali Farmers Producer Company and their success story is still being written. "There is a certain romanticisation when it comes to rural India. But now, due to the COVID-induced lockdown, there is reverse migration and this is the best opportunity for us to create livelihoods for all in their own village," Lakshmi Narasimha says passionately.
Milestones he achieved
Receiving the prestigious Yuva-Kalam Excellency Award from Principal Secretary Jayesh Ranjan in the year 2018 | (Pic: Lakshmi Narasimha Ikkurthi)
He received the Young Achiever Award from Quality Council of India (QCI) from yoga guru Baba Ramdev in the year 2017 | (Pic: Lakshmi Narasimha Ikkurthi)
Lakshmi Narasimha received the Youth for Development Award from Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Modern Farmer category | (Pic: Lakshmi Narasimha Ikkurthi)
For more on him, check out facebook.com/narasimharao.ikkurthi.9