From Loss to Profit: An Organic Farming Success – Part Two


Notes to broadcasters

This script is the second of a two-part series about the Reddy farm. Part one (Package 46, script 2) discusses Reddy’s transition from chemical to organic farming.


Narayan Reddy’s farm is just outside the city of Bangalore, in southern India. With imagination and hard work, he combines modern technology and age-old farming methods. He and his family grow or make nearly everything they need on their 5-hectare farm. They are always trying ways to lower costs and work more efficiently. And every enterprise on the farm is carefully planned to serve several purposes.

One of Reddy’s most important enterprises is livestock. He owns 14 excellent dairy cows. They are specially bred to yield a lot of milk.

They cost more to buy at first. But he makes a good profit from selling the high-quality milk.

To keep up that quality, Reddy looks after the cows well. They are not allowed to graze free in the fields where they might damage the crops. Instead, they are kept in clean stalls in a cowshed and fed properly. They are also vaccinated against diseases.

Reddy built a biogas plant

The cows supply valuable manure. As every farmer knows, cow dung makes excellent crop fertilizer. But in this part of India, because firewood is scarce and costly, it is common to dry cow dung and use it as cooking fuel. This is a waste of good free crop fertilizer. Reddy learned that there was a way of using livestock manure to provide both fuel and fertilizer. Before it is spread in the fields, it can be used to make biogas, a low-cost cooking fuel.

So, Reddy built a biogas plant near his house. This was costly to do. But it was only a one-time expense. The biogas plant has paid for itself many times over. It now costs very little to maintain, and it turns a waste material, cow dung, into two essential products – fuel and fertilizer.

First, all the cow dung from the dairy is put into the underground biogas pit. As it decays there, it gives off gas. This gas is piped into the kitchen and supplies all the cooking fuel for the household. So there is no need to burn dried cow dung or cut down trees for fuel.

The best part is that the cow dung can still be used as fertilizer. The leftover material from the biogas plant, called slurry, is still full of good plant nutrients. Reddy adds this to his compost bins. From there, it is taken to fertilize the crops.

So Reddy’s cows supply both milk for sale and manure for the crops. And, because Reddy has built a biogas plant, the dung from his cows also provides biogas fuel for cooking.

Reddy links all his farm activities. He uses the biogas slurry to fertilize napier grass. This in turn is used as fodder for the dairy cows. And the whole cycle begins again. So you see how everything is interlinked? This is a good example of how Reddy has used new ideas to save money and farm better.

Reddy also makes compost to use as fertilizer. He uses earthworms to speed up and improve the composting process.

To make the compost, Reddy has built stone bins from granite slabs, which are easily available in his area. The bins are about 5 metres long, 1 metre wide, and 1 metre high. In these, he layers the farm and kitchen wastes as they collect. He then covers them with a layer of soil and adds the earthworms. The worms feed on the waste and break it down quickly.

This compost is one of the main fertilizers now used on the farm. It nourishes the crops. It builds up the soil. It is safe to use year after year. Because it is made from wastes, it costs nothing! And it returns to the earth whatever was taken out of it.

These are some ways the Reddy family uses to keep their farming costs low. They also make sure they do not have to depend on anyone
else for their materials.

Of course some of the equipment Reddy uses is costly to install. But only at first. He only chooses equipment that will save him money and work in the long run, such as the biogas plant.

Reddy did not have much formal schooling. He faces the same problems as any other farmer in the areas. But he has taught himself new ways of looking for solutions. He finds out where he can get information. He learns how to do things himself. And, perhaps best of all, this pioneer spirit has encouraged other farmers to feel more confident and try new ways of farming.


  • This script was written by Vrinda Kumble, Editorial Consultants, Mysore, India.

Information sources

  • Interview with Manjunatha Reddy by Vrinda Kumble during a visit to the Narayan Reddy farm, Varthar, Bangalore, India, January 1993.