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AP: Natural Farming for Good Health and Ecological Balance

Study commissioned to find the health benefits of natural farming

Health outcomes to be studied include diabetes and kidney disease, child growth and development.

Other outcomes to be studied include pesticide exposure, diet, crop yield, household incomes

Guntur: In an endeavour to address the growing concern of climate change and rising health concerns, the Rythu Sadhikara Samstha (RySS, a not-for-profit set up by the Government of Andhra Pradesh focusing on farmer’s empowerment) has commissioned a study to explore the health and environmental benefits of natural farming. To take this forward, RySS has signed a MoU for a four year study with the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and The University of Edinburgh (UoE).

The BLOOM (Co-Benefits of Largescale Organic Farming On HuMan Health) is a cluster-randomised controlled evaluation of the health effects of AP Community-managed Natural Farming (APCNF).

APCNF is implemented through RySS and is the world’s largest chemical-free agroecology and regenerative agriculture programme. The study will undertake the following aspects: Carry out a community-based, cluster-randomised controlled evaluation.

Baseline assessments of over 2,000 households across two districts (Kurnool and Visakhapatnam) in AP will be conducted to coincide with Kharif (monsoon season). Follow-up assessments will be conducted 1 and 2 years later.

A wide range of outcomes will be explored including pesticide exposure, diet, crop yield, household income, diabetes and kidney disease, and child growth and development.

Sri K. Kanna Babu , Hon’ble Minister for Agriculture , GoAP, said, “We see the partnership with the University of Edinburgh and the Public Health Foundation of India as a unique opportunity to establish the health benefits of natural farming, since it eliminates the need for synthetic pesticide usage.

They have chosen A.P because the AP Community Managed Natural Farming ( APCNF) is the largest natural farming programme in the world. As an organization that is responsible for implementing the State wide transformation to natural farming, we value the establishment of the health benefits scientifically as it will help us to motivate more farmers to take up the transformation.

We believe that this study will provide some of the most conclusive evidence to date on health benefits of reducing pesticide exposure. The results of the study will also help us to educate citizens about the health benefits of consuming food produced through Natural farming.

In addition to the direct human health benefits, we also would like to establish other attendant benefits like larger number of pollinators and other insect biodiversity and soil microbial biodiversity.

Natural farming is a win-win-win for farmers, the citizens and the planet. This study is important not only for Andhra Pradesh, but the entire country”

The Grant of Rs. 15.70 crores over a period of 4 years is awarded by UK Research for Innovations – UKRI, Govt of U.K to The University of Edinburgh (UoE) for conducting this research.

Prof. Pankaj Pankaj, International Dean for South Asia, UoE said, ‘We are grateful for this opportunity to learn from the pioneering sustainable agriculture programme being implemented in south India. The study is being conducted to benefit farmers. With this new partnership with RySS, the researchers will ensure that the outcomes are farmer-centric. The co-production of knowledge through this strong collaboration will result in novel insights, immediately relevant not only to India but the rest of the world as we aim to achieve net zero and preserve biodiversity whilst also promoting public health.’

Prof. K Srinath Reddy, President, PHFI said, ‘Nearly 3 billion people are unable to afford a healthy diet and poor-quality diets are linked to 11 million deaths per year. Sub-optimal diets are associated with a wide range of serious health risks.

Regular agricultural practices put very different demands on earth’s natural resources , which implies dietary patterns in one region can be different to another due to usage of natural resources. Food systems need to be modified to achieve the goal of sustainable, healthy diets for all. Agricultural practices and related food policies which support healthy diets are the primary building block of a healthy food system.

The long-term viability of food systems depends on the transformative change that can mitigate the negative impacts of the climate crisis as well as those associated with natural resource degradation. More research in the area should be encouraged to build sustainable and effective food systems which in turn build healthy communities.’

The lead researchers of the BLOOM study, Dr. Lindsay Jaacks, UKRI Future Leaders Fellow and Chancellor’s Fellow in the Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security, UoE, and Dr. Poornima Prabhakaran, Head, Environmental Health and Deputy Director of the Centre for Environmental Health at the PHFI.

 

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