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Can Biodynamic Farming Solve India's Agricultural Woes?

India is probably the only place where the principles of biodynamic farming, which began in Germany over 90 years ago, and has its share of adherents and skeptics worldwide, are culturally accepted without questioning.

When 29-year-old Nasari Chavhan took to the stage at the Organic World Congress (OWC) - an international conference dedicated to organic farming - held on the outskirts of Delhi in the second week of November, it was little expected that the diffident young woman and an Adivasi (tribal) from the interiors of the western Indian state of Maharashtra, would end up as one of the prized speakers at the event.

Chavhan is a farmer from Akola, a district known for two things: cotton production and farmer suicides. The suicides are caused by an endless cycle of debt, drought and low yields. And as with all other agricultural families from the area, Chavhan's father was deep in debt when she took over his farm.

About seven years ago, she attended a workshop on biodynamic farming organized by SARG Vikas Samiti, a non-profit organization that promotes biodynamic agricultural systems in India.

She decided to ditch the pesticides and fertilizers that had damaged the soil on her father's land. Slowly, the soil was treated and the yield improved. She now leads a collective of 150 farmers from her area that practice biodynamic agriculture. She saved her family from the brink, and she also earns a profit every year.

"Biodynamic saves us costs as we don't have to buy anything from outside, and we get to eat healthier food," she said, after delivering her speech on the second day of the Congress, where biodynamic and organic farmers and researchers from around the world had assembled.

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