Organic farming

Seven decades back farmers in the local area surounding the Kadavakurichi forest reserve were all cultivating in a traditional way without using chemical pesticides and fertilizers. After the Green Revolution 1965 the farmers switched to chemical farming which has resulted in the soil losing it’s fertility as well as groundwater pollution and excessive exploitation of the groundwater

CIRHEP is working to prevent this direction by, as a part of their watershed development programs, promoting organic and biodýnamic agriculture. In 2023, 30,000 farmers are living in the area, most of which have small and marginal farms and are the target group for CIRHEP activities regarding organic farming. Promoting organic and biodynamic agriculture in the local area surrounding the Kadavakurichi forest reserve is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, it allows farmers to restore soil fertility, protect groundwater, and prevent excessive exploitation of vital resources. Secondly, organic farming promotes biodiversity and ecosystem health, preserving the natural balance of flora and fauna. Thirdly, it aligns with consumer demands, opening up opportunities for increased incomes and improved livelihoods. Lastly, organic agriculture contributes to long-term sustainability by reducing dependence on costly chemical inputs and preserving traditional knowledge and cultural heritage. Overall, transitioning to organic and biodynamic agriculture through CIRHEP’s initiatives is crucial for preserving the environment, protecting natural resources, ensuring food safety, improving farmer livelihoods, and meeting the evolving demands of consumers. It represents a sustainable and responsible approach towards agriculture that benefits both the present and future generations.

Kadavakurichi mountain

The project started in the year 2000 with only a few farmers. During the last 20 years the participants have steadily increased and in 2023 over 800 farmers are cultivating organic in collaboration with CIRHEP, 300 of which have been certified organic farmers.

Organic farming activities

The CIRHEP activities regarding organic farmers all aim to create sustainable methods of farming in collaboration with the farmers.


CIRHEP promotes the selection and collection of seeds that are suitable for the soil and the climate. Because of the water situation in the area dry land crops such as millets and varieties of pulses are recommended. Crops such as banana, coconut and sugar cane are more water intense and is therefore notrecommended to the farmers. CIRHEP also promotes multi crop and mixed farming to balance the fertility in the soil and to get a better yield. Together with the farmers CIRHEP identify and collect the seeds and crops best suited for their farm area. They have also created a community seed bank where they collect and save seeds in order to withstand climate change and not be dependent on GMO seeds CIRHEP also organize activities to train and educate farmers on the importance of organic farming and how to prepare and apply organic methods to their farming such as organic manure like vermi compost, cow pat pit manure as well as organic fertilizers and pesticides.

Cow horn manure
Millet seeds PREPARATION


Another major part of CIRHEP’s work is PGS (Participatory Guarantee Systems), which is a system for obtaining an organic label on their products to help them in the market. The system is based on a group of farmers controlling each other on the basis of common and local setgoals for what an organic product means. CIRHEP has created about 30 such groups with 10 farmers in each group.

Sustainable farming

An organic success story

This is Mr. Karuppiah, he has been a farmer for over 50 years and owns two and a half acres of land in the Musuvanuthu watershed area. Ten years ago he attended a CIRHEP group meeting for organic farmers in the area, where he learned the importance of

organic farming and the practical methods. After this meeting Mr.Karuppiah decided to transition from chemical to organic farming.20 years ago before the CIRHEP intervention and this transition, he cultivated dry land crops using chemical methods and the rain water collected in their well. This resulted in a small yield, damage to the soil and did not generate a big enough profit to support him and his family throughout the year. The last 20 years, after CIRHEP intervention, watershed projects such as field bunds and tree planting aiming to protect soil and raise groundwater levels in the area has secured a much more steady access of water on the farm.Because of this Mr. Karrupiah has steadily increased his cultivation into todays’ fields with thriving tomato and chili plants.

Mr.Karrupiah Inspecting his tomato plants
Mr.Karrupiah under his lemon trees

CIRHEP staff also provided Mr. Karuppiah with seedlings from their community seed bank, which have turned the area that 20 years ago was dry and empty into a small forest of lemon trees. These trees help protect the soil from erosion during heavy rain periods as well as provide shadow and nurture into the soil. The fruits the tree provide are then sold for 5-10 rupees a piece on the market. 

The organic methods of farming taught by CIRHEP to the farmer, such as making his own organic fertilizer, pesticides and manure helps get a bigger yield to sell, is better for the soil and less costly, leading to both an improved environment as well as helping to raise Mr. Karrupiah and his families livelihood compared to 20 years ago.

Independence for sustainability

CIRHEP goal is to always provide the farmers with the tools needed for the farmer to continue cultivating organically without being dependant on CIRHEP.

The farmers group meetings and activities organized by CIRHEP help train the farmers to independently identify what type ofcrops are suitable for their individual farm and water situation. Recently Mr. Karrupiah heard that other farmers in the area have started cultivating bananas, coconut and sugar cane. 20 years ago he would have followed in their fotsteeps. However thanks to the training received by CIRHEP he realized that these types of crops would not be sustainable or profitable in his situation and thus chooses not to. Instead he continues cultivating tomato, chili and lemon which uses less water and is less competitive on the market, thus guaranteeing a higher profit.

In less than 20 years Mr. Karrupiahs farm has gone from filled with chemicals, dry, with little yield to fully organic with flourishing plants and trees with plenty of produce. This has been possible thanks to the CIRHEP intervention that not only provided Mr. Karrupiah with proper training and methods of organic farming, but also with knowledge. The organic farming education he has received has ensured his continued efforts to culivate organically as he knows its benefits and importance. Through organic farming he has been able to expand his cultivation and yield, earn a steadier income, which has helped pay for his children’s education, and improved the health of the soil on his farm as well as the environment at large.

20 years ago

  • Dry and barren land
  • Scarce water supply
  • Low yield and income from crops
  • Damage to soil and environment from chemicals

Activities applied

  • Supplying seeds and seedlings
  • Providing training and knowledge about organic farming
  • Watershed activities
  • Organic farmers meetings


  • Self sustainable farming, providing stability and longevity
  • Environmental and soil improvement
  • Secured income and reduce costs.
  • Raised water levels securing water to the farm

From chemical to organic

A PGS certified success

Over 30 years ago Mary moved to a dry and barren farm plot in Semmedu. 15 Years later CIRHEP staff visited the fully chemical farm and immediately provided a vermicompost as well as egg- and fish solution as pesticides. Mary quickly realized the importance and the benefits from cultivating organic and has done so independetly for the last ten years. Today after 20 years and the CIRHEP intervention the farm is flourishing with jasmine flowers and various other crops all grown organically.The transiton from chemical to organic was not always easy for mary and her farm. In the beginning she noticed that, while other farmers could collect five to six kilograms of flowers they only collected two for the same area.

Vermicompost on Mary's farm provided by CIRHEP

But with time the soil changed and adjusted to the organic methods applied and they realized that while the other farmers only had five months to collect flowers Mary’s flower plants provided flowers all year long. This in combination with the lower cost of organic methods has secured a much better livelihood for Mary and her family compared to 20 years ago before the collaboration with CIRHEP. Now Mary who has expenses for fertilizer- and pesticide preparation etc. for about 100 000 Rs/year can make over 150 000 Rs/year resulting in a profit of 50 000 Rs every year. Because of this financial stability Mary has also been able to take out loans for agriculture and repay them without issue, as well as pay for her sons education.

The knowledge and training provided by CIRHEP allowed Mary to learn how to make her own organic inputs, such as compost, fertilizers and pesticides which has helped her jasmine flower plants to last for at least 15 years compared to five-six when using chemical inputs.

Mary has been certified by the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) for the last ten years.The PGS certification gives her produce a green label, which makes them more attractive and profitable on the market.CIRHEP is also an important link between the farmers and the government. In Mary’s case CIRHEP staff has helped her apply for a grant of 2000 Rs/year for organic farmers. As well as apply for drip irrigation which helps water her plants with as little water as possible.

Drip irrigation and home made fertilizer on Mary farm

20 years ago

  • Fully chemical harming soil and environment
  • Financial insecurity High costs for
  • chemical inputs
  • Short window of fertility for both flower plants and the farm plots

Activities applied

  • Training in creation of organic inputs
  • Providing
  • knowledge about organic farming and its benefits
  • Creating link between farmer and government
  • PSG certification system


  • Self sufficient supply of organic inputs
  • Longer lasting flower plants that can be harvested all year

  • Higher profit from PSG certified produce

  • Benefits from government programs (e.g. dripirrigation)

Organic farming ACHIEVMENTS

During the last 20 years

  • Expansion of Cultivated Area: The area under
  • cultivation increased from 40% to 75%, indicating a growth in agricultural activity.
  • Improved Crop Yield: Crop yield experienced a notable increase of 25% to 30%, indicating
  • enhanced productivity in farming practices.
  • Higher Crop Intensity: Crop intensity witnessed a significant boost from 100% to 200%, indicating a more efficient and intensive use of cultivated land.
  • Climate-Resilient Cropping Pattern: Implementation of emerged climate resilience cropping patterns ensured better adaptation to changing environmental conditions, increasing agricultural resilience.
  • Increased Employment Opportunities and Remigration: The initiatives led to the creation of more employment opportunities, resulting in the
  • return of individuals to rural areas (remigration) for agricultural work.
  • Promotion of Organic Farming: The number of organic farmers grew to over 800. The initiatives also successfully promoted 30 organic farmer groups, with 300 farmers receiving PGS organic
  • certification. Additionally, a Farmer Producer
  • Company with 500 shareholders was established.
  • Awareness on Sustainable Agriculture Inputs:
  • The initiatives focused on raising awareness among farmers about the preparation and usage of sustainable agriculture inputs, encouraging their adoption, which also lead to reduced chemical input utilization.

In summary: The agriculture initiatives implemented have had a significant impact on the farming sector. They have resulted in impressive

outcomes, including an expansion of cultivated areas, making of previously

abandoned land, and improved crop intensity. The adoption of climate-resilient cropping patterns and the promotion of organic farming practices have created sustainability and resilience in agriculture.

Furthermore, these initiatives have created new employment opportunities, facilitated the formation of organic farmer

groups, and played a crucial role in reducing the reliance on chemical inputs. Overall, these comprehensive efforts have brought about a significant transformation in the farming landscape, paving the way for enhanced productivity, environmental sustainability, and a prosperous future for.