Paani and Narayan Sonagara

Narayan Sonagara shares how with his wife Paani being the backbone of his farm and family, they have been able to successfully fulfil his dream of converting their land into a natural farm.
Interviewed and written by Kartik Joshi from AKRSP-I, Gujarat

Haripar Village, Kalyanpur block, Devbhumi, Dwarka Dist., Gujarat

My name is Narayan Sonagara. Growing up in a family of farmers, I started farming since I was 12 years old. While
applying synthetic chemicals, especially pesticides, I had always faced skin and eyes irritation. And at each of those
times I remembered the stories told by my dada about their traditional natural farming methods. So I always wondered
how these synthetic chemicals would react inside my body. The thought scares me every time.

As a young 16 years old boy I decided for myself that I will only do natural farming.

However my journey from conventional to organic farming was not easy. Initially, when I tried to convince my family to
practice natural farming, at least in a small portion of land to begin with, they would dismiss me saying, “tum toh chotte
ho, tumhe kuch nahi pata kheti baddi ka”. I couldn’t go against my elder brother and family, hence couldn’t do anything
much. So after many years, when our lands got divided between us siblings, is when I could finally start.

…When you drink tea every morning and one day when you do not get to drink tea, your entire day gets spoiled, the same way my land was addicted to the fertilisers…

In the first season of going fully natural, my wife Paani and I decided to start with wheat. As we had expected, not
applying any synthetic fertiliser resulted in a weaker crop. And Paani was a bit sceptical of our decision from the start so
when the crop was one month old and showed very little promise, Paani immediately suggested to act swiftly before we
loose the crop. But my conviction to do natural farming reminded me of the many stories my dada ji used to tell me.
Instantly I went to the nearby gaushala and brought a trolley full of cow dug. Paani and I started working in our field,
hoping everything will be alright. Eventually we gave 6 more trollies full of fresh cow dung with irrigation. Despite her
scepticism, Pani used to work on the farm the entire day and go home in the evening. She used to wait util midnight for
me to come home to have dinner. And after a few days, our crop started showing growth. We subsequently produced 20 quintals wheat per acre that season, which was equivalent to what the nearby farmers who used synthetic chemicals produced.

… Since then, Paani became my backbone in converting all our 12 biga’s of land (~ 4 acres) into fully natural…

Today we grow wheat, maize, groundnut, turmeric and have a small vegetable garden for our household needs. I used
YouTube videos and WhatsApp groups to learn about the different farming practices and discussed them with Paani.
Both of us together make all the decisions even on what crops to grow. Few years ago Paani started creating a small seed
bank to store desi seeds to diversify our farm.

Because Paani has taken the lead at our farm and she being the backbone at home, I have been able to teach and support
other farmers. With the support of AKRSP-I, we have been able to motivate and help 18 farmers to start organic farming. And since my farm got organic certification from Gujarat Organic Products Certifications Agency (GOPCA), I am now also part of a group that has assisted 33 farmers with the certification process.

Along with the team from AKRSP-I we are trying out demonstration plots of low carbon agriculture. Where many
varieties of crops and new methods of farming are being experimented. I am slowly getting into agroforestry and my dream is to grow different species of trees across my land.

I still remember how many years ago, my friends used to taunt me that I am behaving recklessly and I will put my
family on the streets. But little did they know that Paani and I are a strong team together, and this teamwork can make any dream a reality.