Ground report from Gurrampanuku: This Andhra village ditched chemical fertilisers for cow urine

Ideation by an NGO, a little funding, collective labour help farmers in Vishakhapatnam go natural

By Shagun
Published: Friday 08 April 2022
Photograph: Shagun Kapil

K Kamraj smiles as he narrates the process through which he would collect cow urine two years ago. “We kept a log to track the time when our cows would urinate and at that hour everyday we sat with a bucket and waited. Busy through the day, we collected it at night,” said the resident of Gurrampanuku, the first village in Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam district to shift to chemical-free farming.

Today, almost every drop of cow urine from the village is hygienically collected and converted into jeevamrutha, the natural fertiliser that has enabled all the eight farming households in the small tribal village to completely ditch chemical fertilisers in August 2021.

The transition started in 2020 when the residents interacted with the non-profit Watershed Support Services and Activities Network (WASSAN), whose members were on a field visit to the district to understand the difficulties faced by farmers in giving up chemical farming.

The non-profit suggested replacing the clay floors of the cattle sheds with cemented floors laid at a slight gradient to ensure that the urine does not soak into the ground but funnels into a pipeline connected to a common tank. The eight households immediately agreed to the idea and the non-profit arranged partial funding for the project. The families paid Rs 6,000 each and offered labour to renovate the cowsheds.

Now, the village has a 500-litre tank that collects urine and a larger 1,000-litre tank that is used for storing it. “There is a filter in between the two tanks, which sieves the debris that gets washed with the urine from the floor and the pipeline,” said Kamraj, who is responsible for the upkeep of the system. “I regularly stir the mixture for aeration and oversee the sale of jeevamrutha, for which I get paid separately,” he said.

The families collectively make jeevamrutha, a mixture of cow urine and dung, dal, jaggery, ant hill soil, and water, and use it on their farms. The surplus is sold to farmers in neighbouring villages. “We started selling in January 2021. By December, we had collected Rs 13,545 from selling jeevamrutha alone,” said Kamraj.

The farm yield has almost tripled since the village went organic in 2021. “My paddy yield has increased from 1.2 tonnes to 18 tonnes now,” said K Nagrajan, a Gurrampanuku resident. “We are also saving Rs 5,000 a hectare because we do not need chemical fertilisers,” he said.

ML Sanyasi Rao of WASSAN said the project is spreading to other villages. “We presented the model to the Integrated Tribal Development Agency. They are supporting the renovation of 21 sheds in different villages,” he said.

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