A Church-run center in Chhattisgarh is training tribal farmers to adopt a new method of farming by using local natural resources. Seva Sadan (service center) in Chilpi, a branch of Raipur archdiocese’s social arm, has been teaching what is known as System of Rice Intensification (SRI) to the farmers for the past year. It discourages the use of expensive and hazardous chemicals and pesticides for farming. The method was developed by a priest in Madagascar, said Sisters of St. Anne nun Freeda Lakra. “My father criticized me trying this method out. Now he wants to cultivate more fields this way. I too, was doubtful at first,” said Kamal Dhurvey, a farmer who adopted the technique and increased his rice yield. The nun, who is a training coordinator, said farmers are always hesitant when something new is presented to them. To allay their fears, Father Joseph Raj, director of Seva Sadan, conducted a demonstration using one rice seed – the result was 10-20 shoots sprouted each bearing 100-200 grains. On a grander scale, with around 600 seeds, he produced thousands of grains, she said. Om Prakash Choudhury, a lay animator, said that if the priest, who has no farming experience, can produce so much, then why can’t the farmers? With the introduction of hybrid seeds and pesticides, poor farmers had abandoned using traditional, natural resources, which are cheap, healthy and locally available, he said. Choudhury teaches villagers to make compost with cow-dung, grass or fallen leaves in a pit. “For example, instead of throwing away weeds, they can be used as compost,” he added. “Instead of purchasing government supplied hybrid seeds at a high price, villagers should choose local and fertile seeds,” he said. “In cultivation we usually depend on others for our materials. Whereas with SRI, we can be completely independent,” Choudhury added.