Agriculture
Today, G N Naidu lives in a duplex house, and earns more than some engineers.

"Just a little further ahead. Take that left," says GN Naidu, as he points at a small mud track, off the side of a road.

There is a certain stillness in the air as one drives through Taramatipet village in Telangana's Abdullapurmet Mandal, broken only by the sound of approaching lorries carrying massive amounts of stones.

The landscape is barren, and huge rocks jut out from the ground. It is hard to believe that any crop can be grown in this area.  

"A lot of stones used in construction projects in and around Hyderabad go from here. This area has several stone quarries," Naidu adds, as we pass one, on the way.

More than 25 years ago, Gudivada Nagaratnam Naidu bought over this barren land, and took a big gamble. He decided to convert the wasteland into a lush, green farm.

Today, with natural organic farming, he grows several crops on his 17-acre land.

Without using a single drop of pesticide or insecticide, and using organic farming, water management techniques and mixed cropping, Naidu not only beats drought, but also takes home a good yield every year.

For context, Naidu lives in a duplex house in Hyderabad's Dilshuknagar area, and says that he earns more money and is 'much happier', than an engineer working in an MNC.

"Even when I met former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy, and he asked me how much I earned, I told him that I earn more than the highest paid government official can, without corruption," Naidu adds, with a chuckle.

History

Naidu, a native of Balakrishnapuram in Andhra Pradesh's Chittoor district shifted to Hyderabad in 1981 along with his wife, Satyavathi.

"We had comfortable jobs, and we were earning a decent salary. I had studied electronics, and was working for this company called Associated Marketing Agencies. My wife was working as my assistant," Naidu narrates.

However, the couple wanted to get back to their roots, and become farmers. In 1989, Naidu purchased 17 acres of land in the outskirts of Hyderabad with family savings.

It was an unconventional idea, and an even more unconventional location. Most of our friends dissuaded us, and told us that we were giving up everything that we had built. The land was unfit for cultivation and it was a wasteland," Naidu says.

Following this, Naidu, his wife, and his mother began the process of converting acre by acre, and making the soil fit for cultivation.

"We spent hours pulling out stones from the ground. Over the course of the next one or two years, we even sent out 385 trucks full of stones. There were also some large stones, which we buried deep in the ground, after digging a hole with the help of a JCB machine," he adds.

Gradually fertilising one acre with manure, and starting cultivation, Naidu says that full-fledged cultivation occurs on 12 acres of the land today.

"Because of the chemicals we use, we are poisoning our land, water and air.  Even a portion of the food that we eat, have chemical residues in them, because of the pesticides and insecticides," Naidu explains.

"We need to find sustainable methods that give us the food, nutrients, and good health we need, without damaging the environment. It is possible to grow these crops, with nature's help alone," he adds, as he pulls out a chunk of mud, to show a lively eco-system of earthworms and other small insects. 

The farm

Naidu's farm is a healthy mix of agriculture, horticulture, floriculture and animal husbandry.

"Who says coffee can only grow in Ooty? I have plants on my farm. Even though the temperature goes up to 40 degrees in the summer, I can grow crops that require 30-35 degrees, because of the techniques I use," Naidu says.

As far as horticulture is concerned, Naidu grows papaya, mango, chiku, jamun, guava, custard apple, sweet lemon, coconut and almond, among others.

Under floriculture, besides common flowers, and a few medicinal plants, Naidu's farm has some rare ornamental varieties like heliconia hanging, ornamental ginger, heliconia golden torch, and 'lady' heliconia.

"A farmer needs to make money as well. I also made my daughter study in a corporate school, like any other person. Therefore, it is necessary to grow some commercial and ornamental crops and plants," he says.

Naidu also rears cattle, besides dogs and geese, and even sells milk, with loyal customers flocking to his Hyderabad home every morning.

However, it is his agricultural techniques which have won him accolades.

"I was one of the first farmers to adopt the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in India. Because of this, I can get a high output by using lesser water," Naidu says, as he points at his paddy fields.

The SRI practice involves keeping the soil moist, and keeping rice plants spaced out. Additionally, Naidu says that it is better not to bury the seedlings too deep, as shallow burial forces the plant to spread its roots more, thereby growing up stronger. 

(Naidu's paddy fields)

For his contributions, Naidu has received almost 300 awards, at a local, national and international level, including the from world wildlife fund (WWF) and International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT). 

(In 2006, Naidu even met ex-US President George Bush, and showcased his crops)

The future

Naidu stresses that there is an urgent need to revert to organic and natural methods of farming, while also utilising the technology available.

According to him, there are four main objectives for India to develop - national food security, national health security, national wealth security and environmental security.

"Today's farmers do not want their own children to follow their footsteps. We need to change that. We should encourage more educated youngsters to take up agriculture and use their skill and knowledge of technology, and put it to good use," he adds. 

However, Naidu is not just a man of words. Several times a month, he encourages schools to get their students to the farm for a field visit, where he talks to them about the importance of farming, and the need for organic agriculture.

"If we educate children and youngsters about the importance of agriculture and farming, tomorrow they will come to the fields, and ensure that the country continues to grow and develop," he adds.