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We all have seen roads in cities and villages named after some famous persons. But do you know that in Chitoor district, Vemur block in Andhra Pradesh there is a road named after a vegetable?

Yes you have read it right- a vegetable. The road and entire the village is called as Brinjal Street. The village is so famous that locals in and around the region as well as many vegetable vendors in Chennai wholesale market know the village only as Brinjal Village. Nobody seems to know the real name of the village.

So how did this village get to be named after a vegetable? That too labelled after a poor man’s produce?

Gangadharan(in blue shirt)

We need to travel some 20 years back for that. The village, like hundreds of others in the country was into chemical intensive agriculture. Since the soil was ideal for growing vegetables the farmers as usual were growing brinjals and other vegetables. But marketing was a problem. The buyers demanded tonnes instead of small quantities. So the farmers’ got together and grew the vegetable. By morning the produce was despatched through lorries to Chennai, which was a major consumer. But the shelf life of the vegetable was short. The farmers were able to get only Rs 6 per kg. It took some five hours for the produce to reach its destination.

But the amount the farmers got in return for the produce they sent was not able to break even their labour costs.

“We used to spend Rs 20,000  buying chemicals and spraying on our crops. Plus additional labour was employed as and when required. For a three-month crop we spent close to Rs 35,000 and we were able to get around Rs 18,000 to 20,000. The cost of fertilizers was eating 70 per cent of our money,” says Muniratnam Naidu, a progressive farmer in the village.

It was in 2000 when K Gamgadharam, General Secretary, WORD, Tirupati paid a visit to our village and things started to change for us. Today, after 20 years, all of us have converted into organic farmers and are growing the vegetable still but through our own inputs. We are able to save money by cutting expenses,” smiles Rangamma, a woman farmer.

Word is an NGO which is working on sustainable agriculture. K Gangadharam is the sole person who is engaged in training and creating awareness among hundreds of farmers in 40 villages today on need to manufacture their own inputs and the need to do organic farming.

“We have spoiled our environment, practically everything by chemical intensive agriculture. Added to it the farmers’ suicides’. Remember all the deaths happened only because of debts the farmers had accumulated because of buying from the market. No shopkeeper is ever going to give anything for free. Many farmers don’t realise it. They buy on credit and there is a small interest levied on that credit. The shopkeeper gets commission for the products he has sold but what does a farmer get?” he asks.

Brinjal street family taking a pledge to continue doing organic

“I had just attended and got trained on zero budget farming and was eager to share my knowledge with my farmers. As usual they were reluctant at first, dismissing my views as useless but I managed to rope in Muni Ratnam Naidu. I bore personal responsibility for his crop and trained him in making his own inputs like Panchagavya, Jeevamarutam, Ganajeevaamrutam, Neem astra etc.”

Though Muni Ratnam was sceptical at first, it appears he was willing to try this method since Gangadharam had taken responsibility that if his crop failed he would pay him the amount he would get in selling his produce. But when he realised that the zero budget methods worked, Muni  Ratnam was too happy because he was able to save money from buying from outside.

“It started slowly but today 40 villages and hundreds of farmers in Chitoor and we are going strong,” smiles Gangadharam.

Gangadharam is today a resource person for Andhra Pradesh government on organic farming.  “It is a great recognition for me,” he says, adding, “the brinjal is a lucky talisman for man. I started from it and am continuing my work on it.”

Another noteworthy feature about the village is all the four lanes and the 27 families in Vemur have built concrete homes. Not one home looks old, nor can you spot tiled homes. All of them have dish antenna, some have AC rooms. “All these have been possible only because of our brinjal. Brinjal is our god,”  smiles Muniratnam.

Dr. Gangadharam can be reached at 09849059573.

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