Devotees visiting Tirupati will soon get naivedyamladdu prasadam and annaprasadam made of grains that are free of pesticide and residue and are grown using Zero-Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF).

It’s not just pilgrims to the Tirumala temple who will enjoy ‘organic’ prasads – the AP Marketing Federation (Markfed) will procure and supply pesticide-free agri-produce to 12 other temples, including Annavaram, Srikalahasti and Srisailam.

Farm to Shrine

The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) has placed an order for 22,000 tonnes of 12 types of chemical-free agri-produce from 25,000 farmers this year.

To help farmers prepare ZBNF formulations, the TTT will give livestock from its goshalas. It has so far supplied 1,350 cows to farmers in six districts.

The TTD will source the produce from about 5,000 self-help groups (SHGs).

After testing a small pilot with 1,500 tonnes of Bengal gram last year, the TTD has decided to scale up the initiative to meet all its cooking needs.

AP’s Markfed will work with SHGs to procure the produce and deliver it to the temple authorities. The ZBNF initiative, which took off in 2016 in Andhra Pradesh, was kept on the backburner for a while after the new Government took charge in 2019.

The State encouraged about 6.25 lakh farmers to adopt natural farming, making it one of the largest natural farming programmes in the world.

Community effort

Rythu Sadhikara Samastha (RySS) is working with village entities to promote and procure the agri produce. It has created an army of 8,000 Community Resource Persons (CRPs) who help farmers adhere to chemical-free farming, using naturally available products such as neem leaves for pest management. Each of the CRP works with about 100 farmers.

“The ZBNF farmers who opt for pre-monsoon dry sowing use nine kinds of seeds suggested by RySS, and those who plant intercrops and border crops are eligible for procurement,” T.Vijay Kumar, Executive Vice-Chairman of RySS, said.

The RySS has begun a process to ensure all of the produce is certified according to the norms prescribed by the Centre.

Asked whether the process can be sustained considering the strict certification process, G V Ramanjaneyulu, Chief Executive Officer of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, said it was possible to sustain and replicate the model in more districts.