February 2021

Members of the social science team recently published a paper in the International Journal of Qualitative Methods (IJQM). IJQM is a journal that focuses on insights, innovations, and advances in methods and study designs using qualitative or mixed methods research. The authors wrote about the methodology they piloted in Andhra Pradesh as part of the ongoing interdisciplinary University of Reading project.

The methodology developed by the team uses thematic collages in participatory photography as a means to generate meaningful, contextual themes for participant investigation through group dialogue and consensus. By publishing a study of this approach in a methodology journal, the authors hope researchers in differing contexts might replicate the method and innovate further within the framework. “This method wasn’t designed to be used exclusively in the context of smallholder farmers,” said lead author Dr Walker. “If deployed in a participatory action research paradigm, we’re convinced that the investigations sparked by this method would lead to an intervention on the part of the participants, in line with Paulo Freire’s theories of critical consciousness raising,” he added.

Next up for the ZBNF social science team is continuing the analysis of the rich data generated through this method using dialogical narrative analysis, an approach that focuses on stories, those who tell them, those who listen to them, and ways that subjective interpretations of these stories can influence actions and decision making.

You can download the paper free and open access HERE

January 2021

Happy New Year!! As the third season of soil science experiments is coming to a close the Natural Farming Fellows and their Research Coordinators are working tirelessly to complete their data collection and harvest their experimental plots. This month we would like to introduce Reshma Soma, Research Coordinator of the Krishna district.


To obtain a respectable entry-level agriculture position in the organization where I could apply
my theoretical and practical horticultural knowledge to meet as well as exceed the company’s

Education Crop physiology

Have done research work on Rice crop as Master’s project, titled as “Effect of graphene and
copper nanoparticles on the callus induction and plant regeneration of shiats dhan-1 rice
(Oryza sativa)” under the guidance of Dr. Pradeep k. Shukla, Assistant Professor, SHUATS,
Allahabad, Uttarpradesh.


Currently I am working as research coordinator in Ryss, Guntur, AP, India. I will be monitoring UoR experiments conducted by
Natural Farming Fellows in district level and I am conducting a type 2 UoR Experiment with ZBNF practices


Basic research experience in plant tissue culture.
Processing of Horticulture Produce and Value Addition.
Breeding of Horticultural Crops.
Production Technology of Hi-value Vegetable and Flower Crops”

December 2020

This month we would like to introduce Research Coordinator Mohammad Sohail. Sohail is a member of the soil science team, and manages the experiment being conducted in the Kadapa district. Sohail and the other Research coordinators have been working very hard to manage the large volume of experiments being conducted, whilst ensuring all personnel remain safe (Photos were taken before the COVID-19 outbreak).

“Name: M.Mohammad Sohail

Education qualifications:
M.Sc Earth Sciences

I have done master project on soil analysis in soil test laboratory under the guidance of Dr.T.Lakshmi Prasad sir, Yogi Vemana University, Kadapa

Experience: 3yrs
present working as research coordinator in Kadapa, A.P, India.

I am monitoring the UoR Experiments and 365 DGC Experiments conducted by Natural Farming Fellows in district level with ZBNF Practices.

Soil Analysis”


November 2020

This month three of our team members (Chris Collins, Liz Shaw and Sarah Duddigan) attended the [virtual] International Symposium on Climate-Resilient Agri-Environmental Systems (IS-CRAES). The theme of this symposium was “Contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDGs) through the Development of Climate-Resilient Agri-Environmental Systems” and the team were able to present on our work on ‘Understanding the biophysical processes and extension mechanisms of Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) to support its wider application’. Thank you to everyone who came to see us!


October 2020

Our soil science Natural Farming Fellows are conducting experiments on their own land, so many research activities have been able to continue safely during these testing times. This month we would like to introduce Sairam, an Natural Farming Fellow in the Kadapa district who is currently running his experiment for a third consecutive season. Thank you Sairam for all of your hard work!

“Education agriculture in PDKV agricultural university, Maharashtra state.

Responsibilities for Ryss

  • FARMER : As a NFF, my responsibility is being role model farmer in cluster by doing farming.
  • TRAINER : as a Master trainer, giving training to cluster level, divisional level, district level zbnf farmers and staff.
  • RESEARCHER: By conducting short term and long term experiments in my own field on zbnf methods. Doing of Innovative research activities.
  • LEARNER : To know innovative new crop models , learn extension activities at community service.

Involved in UoR experiments

  • No research has been done on ZBNF. for the first time in the uor experiment by conducting zbnf, organic, chemical methods.
  • To find out how earthworms populations are growing in three plots, find out what percentage of moisture is present, what changes are going in the soil.
  • To find out in which plots organic carbon percentage is more.
  • Plot wise Biometric observations, plant parameters difference to be find.
  • To find out yield comparatives, quality and storage capacity of three different methods of crop products.
  • Pest and disease comparison in different plots and how to control it.

Learned in UoR experiments :

  • By doing the UoR experiment, I noticed changes in soil moisture content, soil pH changes, infiltration in the readings and observations taken in 9 plots each week .
  • I have clearly observed that plant growth, height and fruits are well developed in ZBNF plots.
  • I have observed how the earthworms development is in the plots and measured their weight.
  • By doing mulching in ZBNF plots, I have learned that soil moisture is good than other plots, observed porous soil.
  • By doing this UoR experiment, I informed the farmers in the cluster how to grow the crop in the ZBNF method and what the benefits would be there.

Hope to Learn :

  • Good experience in UoR experiment done so far. I have yet to do this research work in a university of reading with good equipments, knowledge and lab facilities.”


September 2020

This Month we would like to introduce Himabindu, a Research Coordinator in the Social Science team. Here she talks about working with participatory photograpy.

“The Experience in participatory photography was hosted by the University Of Reading in collaboration with Zero Budget Natural Farming, INDIA. Participating in this program is a great way to get knowledge on the concept of selective interests of peers. Working in collaboration with the University Of Reading has been a great experience. Collaborating with experienced people from the university team has been fantastic exposure to the subject.  

  • I have worked with two women self-help groups, Namely Sri Venkateswara Group and Ankammathalli Group on the participatory photography in Dhavuluripalem village, Guntur District, Andhra Pradesh, India.
  • During my first gathering with the Sri Venkateswara group, I realized that participatory photography is a very effective way of research which gave me a chance to know more about the members of Women’s Self Help Groups.
  • Through the first generative topic, I comprehended that the selective topic depends on the encounters and understandings of SHG individuals which builds up good coordination among the team.
  • The most interesting part of all group gatherings is that every member of the gathering shared their printed photographs among each other inside the circular gathering and explaining about the theme images on why they choose to click that particular picture.
  • Generating different themes for the groups is the initial challenge. To find a solution to it, I used the problem-posing questions, so that it would become easy to generate a theme from their answers.
  • I have guided both the groups that the theme they opted for should catch a single concept for effective results.
  • The efforts we put into this project gave fulfilled satisfaction and good learning by taking a slot in participatory photography.

Being part of this innovative program gave me a good exposure in understand the interests of the participated women groups and gaining good experience by working with University Of Reading, London.”


August 2020

This month we would like to introduce Sushmitha, a Natural Farming Fellow working in the Krishna district.

“I am doing my fellowship under RYSS at Krishna. I have taken tomato and groundnut as my experimental crops.

I am from non agriculture background. After completing my Bsc in horticulture, I am eager to do something from the learned part of my studies, so I have decided to cultivate with my knowledge. The chance I got to do UoR experiment has made a sink to do cultivation in a scientific manner by learning. From the present tenure of crop I observed and learned a lot of things from these 3 different type of farmings, and there’s lot more to understand and observe. This is an opportunity to even show my cluster farmers the difference between the zbnf,organic and conventional treatments which will help them to implement the better one for better yields and good soil health.”

Thank you Sushmitha for all of your hard work!

July 2020

Thank you once again to the Natural Farming Fellows (NFFs) for all of their hard work, particularly during the difficult circumstances they have been presented with as a result of COVID-19. You can find out more about them here

June 2020

As the second season of field experiments is coming to a close we would like the soil science team would like to thank the Natural Farming Fellows (NFFs) for all of their hard work. Over the coming weeks we would like to introduce you to some of them and hear about the work they have been doing.

Starting with Jhansi Rani Duggirala, an NFF in the Nellore district:

“I have done UOR experiment for 2 seasons in my cluster not only by personal interest but also want to do the research

From that I learnt,

🌱How to take soil parameters, plant biometrics which I never use to take in my bachelor degree or any where

🌱 I observed how the soil improves for method to method or treatment to treatment (like ZBNF, Organic, Conventional)

🌱I observed more yields and soil improving properties in ZBNF and Organic compared to Conventional

🌱The plants height will be more in Conventional compared to remaining two treatments as my observation

🌱I would like to continue my zeal and spirit in doing experiment and learning new things also, I would like to show the visual observations in field like increase in earthworm population, beneficial insects etc., to farmers by sharing my experience with them.”

Thank you Jhansi!

June 2020

Earlier this month, Dr Henny Osbahr participated in an international webinar on ‘Reviving Climate Resilient Agriculture: Solutions and Challenges’ to discuss the challenges and opportunities for ZBNF. The webinar was hosted by South Asia Fast Track and Sourajit Aiyer, with views from Indian government,  research institutes and the private sector. Please see the flier below for further information about participants.

May 2020

This month we will hear from Haleema Sadia one of our Natural Farming Fellows:

“Myself Haleema Sadia, at present am an Agricultural Graduate (Agricultural BSc).
On Jan 29th I have joined ZBNF project as a Natural Farming Fellow, From May 1st , I have involved in UoR experiment, And chosen OKRA Crop in kharif and Tomato crop in Rabi season for my experiment in 10 cents of land.

Main reason for involved in this :Basically I belong to an Agricultural family, My parents used to grow paddy in large extent, gradually they stopped agriculture bcoz the net income was in crisis and converted the whole land into Aqua culture,and my whole village was converted to Aqua from green carpet. In my 4 years of graduation, I completely learned about conventional farming, no idea about Natural farming, In a short span of 3 months I got an opportunity to know the difference in ZBNF, Conventional and Organic in both soil parameters and physiology growth parameters through UOR experiment…”

April 2020

We’re happy to report that so far our team are all safe and well. The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed our activities in the field so we thought we would take the time to introduce you to some of our team, and the work they were conducting before lockdown (and we hope to continue when safe to do so). You can read more about the management teams here and the Natural Farming Fellows here.

First, we will hear from Hari Priya, a Research Coordinator in the soil science team:

“I am V.Hari priya, with masters in Microbiology , working as a Research coordinator in science team – RySS. Each of the Research Coordinators will look after the Research work in one district. Many experiments are being conducted by the science team which helps in Revealing the Science behind ZBNF. RySS in collaboration with University of Reading is conducting few experiments in identifying the health benefits of plant and soil through ZBNF. We Research Coordinators involve in one set   experiments and also monitor the Natural Farming Fellows who involved in another set of experiments. Life cycle analysis and Land degradation surveillance frame work are the few major projects of ICRAF in collaboration with RySS, in which I played a role in looking after the work in Anantapur District. Andhra Pradesh has got 5 Agro climatic zones in which Anantapur falls into Scarce Rainfall zone, I felt it challenging to work on one such regions where I can work hard to improve myself to achieve the organization objectives as well as to gain good knowledge and experience. I am glad to be a part of RySS.

With University of Reading and APPI  Team

Visited  to University of Reading

Land degradation surveillance frame work (LDSF) Training

Explaining the LDSF –  Anantapur site (Korrakodu) Results to ICRAF team.”

March 2020

Data analysis in Andhra Pradesh engages local partners in the analytical process 

University of Reading ZBNF researchers visited Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, in February to meet with their RySS partners to begin analyzing the data that had been collected over the past ten months.  The social science team focused on reviewing the Participatory Photography images and descriptions, all of which have now been translated into English.

The analytical framework being used is dialogical narrative analysis, and it recognizes that the stories the women tell through their photo responses are in dialogue with each other, the storytellers, and the listeners.  Each participant in the analysis reviewed the images, both individually and as part of a larger overall story told by the self-help group, and took note of the salient narrative types that emerged—such as independence, legacy, or memory.  This process was repeated for each of the six self-help groups involved in the study and took two days to complete.  The extent to which differences or similarities are found in the analysis of different partners (and team members back in Reading who also reviewed the images) will inform triangulations of the narrative data.

Project partners from RySS reviewing participatory photography images and descriptions as part of a dialogical narrative analysis

The soil science team conducted further training and planning meetings. Using the data, and lessons learned, from the previous season the team were able to provide further training in data and project management, data presentation, statistical analysis and interpretation. The team were also able to plan for future work in the experiments (watch this space!). The second season is also in full swing, so the team were able to visit some of the experiments being conducted by the Natural Farming Fellows in the Prakasam district and meet some of the local stakeholders in the region. We were also able to visit other practitioners of ZBNF, both on the small scale in ‘kitchen gardens’ and on the larger commercial scale.


February 2020

The soil science team have been collating the data so far from the first season of experiments. A great dataset thanks to all the help and support from the Natural Farming Fellows!

January 2020

The University of Reading were lucky enough to welcome 10 of the project partners from RySS to the UK for a week of training, progress meetings and a general catch up. Here two members of RySS (Hamika and Jayna) have written about there experience:

A 4,832 miles journey..!

Jan 4th was a different day. The day I felt ‘finally we started’, we get to see and explore a place that could open our minds and look further into the future. I wasn’t sure but yes we are going to University of Reading for the Social science and Soil science Research! Reaching a  new country for the first time!

Long wait at the airport for three hours in the morning of 4th January at Rajiv Gandhi airport, Hyderabad, lack of sleep and waiting for the journey to start. Thanks to the time difference which saved our day. We reached Heathrow airport on the same 4th Jan at 11 am in the morning! Wow!

This was the first time that I am part of a research work unlike my colleagues but it was the first time for each of us to be involved with an International University (University of Reading). I was crossing my fingers for the next wonders to see in the coming 10 days .It was super chilling and we reached our Hotel which was the oldest hotel in the town which also had Charles Dickens used item in that hotel like his chair and books at the hotel. Lot of pictures and history related paintings in the hotel everywhere, which was pretty awesome, it also had an Indian touch with “Bhel puri” restaurant but we didn’t have anything Indian.

Our host, the University professor’s made sure we make the best out of every minute and hour. The first day at this huge university which looked classy and traditional architecture, I was amazed looking at the building. We were oriented about our plan for the next days in the campus.  The very same day we got the chance to tour the campus and the departments and the canteen which had some interesting food we never usually have at our place and the library had millions of books! Including digitalized.

I have been working under the Social science team, where we are studying the ‘Impact of communication among the women in Zero Budget Natural Farming” – the organization I work for in India. We presented our work to the Dean of Environmental science and our Science team members. The Science team as well presented their work which was pretty interesting. We visited the experimental plot, the science labs, and equipment’s.

The opportunity to work with well experienced research professors was a motivation. Being part of the communication team at my work place (Zero Budget Natural Farming) in India and involving in the social science research here was a complete different exposure. I visited the International Development building which was amazing. Henny and Grady, the professors I work with  invited us to visit their work place. Seeing the photographs of their project works framed on the walls inside the building gave such a good feeling. The photographs were clicked by the staff themselves. I wished that happened in my work place too.

We were oriented about the college studies, Phd and Mphil courses which was very helpful. They guided us on the protocols of applying for Phd and Mphil courses in the University. Lot  of knowledge had they shared with us and deep conversations with them which gave me more insight on the other research works they are working on.

In the middle of all the works, we definitely took a break and visited London – Finally touring all the famous places from Buckingham palace to the Bakers Street remembering Sherlock Holmes.  We took the city cruise ride and had so much fun!! Big thanks to the University of Reading for taking us around London and also being our tour guide!

I didn’t realize the days passed by until I reached the Heathrow airport again. All our bags were extra filled and more luggage to carry back to India.  A  much needed journey and exposure to a very different country, culture and people.

My heartfelt thanks to our  Advisor, Zakir sir and Dharmendra sir for trusting me and involving me in this specific task.  I am very grateful for Henny, Chris, Grady , Sarah for guiding us and conversing with you have enlightened me to know more and has showed me different world all together in my own work area. An amazing and fruitful time with some amazing people


Jayna George T

Working as Young Professional at Zero Budget Natural Farming





My experience in UK visit was lifetime memorable moment.

I would like to thank Advisor sir, Zakir sir and Chris for giving me this great opportunity to be apart, of this visit.

Also, my special thanks to Henny, Sarah, Grady and Dharmender sir for taking care of us throughout the visit.

Last but not least my cordially thanks to by dear friends and colleagues who bear me during the entire visit.


It started in the Heathrow airport which is the second busiest airport in the world by international passenger traffic, and it was a chilling experience. From there we went to a super cool Bhel puri house (gorge hotel) in reading where we stayed during our entire visit.

First day (06-01-2020) we went to university of reading,  I was  very much impressed with the college building itself and followed by that we visited soil science and microbiology labs which were really organized with highly sophisticated equipment’s like gas and liquid chromatography, flame photometer, spectrophotometer etc., though I have seen some of the equipment’s before but these  were very well maintained especially the equipment for quantification of microbial respiration was really unbelievable, which I never think of such equipment at all.

Second day (07-01-2020) we have visited botanical garden in the college, it was a lovely place with swans swimming in the lake also, there I have seen so many new species of trees and some pine trees followed by that we went to see college library, the place where I can’t take of my eyes from it, which is a digital library also with lots of books.

Third day (08-01-2020) Sorby room in the college, we had a healthy discussion and presentations on our experiments among science team and UOR team followed by Chris and his team have taught us data analysis and graphical interpretations

Fourth day (09-01-2020) is fun day, outing to London there we have seen Victoria gallery, Buckingham palace, huge  buildings of government officials etc., followed by that in the noon we all went for boat riding on river Thames there I was super excited after seeing the London eye, Big ben, tower bridge, London bridge etc., it was really an eye feast for me to see all those things, if I want to say my experience of that day, I just say that “Buckingham palace welcomed with sunlight whereas London eye received us with showers

Fifth day (09-01-2020) Sorby room in the college, we have some discussions on PhD and M.phil projects followed by that we have attended some presentations on soil and microbial analysis procedures and later we visited university farms where experimental trails are going on also, I have observed the colour of the soil which is black with high organic carbon of 2-4% and some farm machinery, cattle sheds etc.,

Sixth day (09-01-2020) we went to Oxford, where we have seen Christ Church College, it was like a fantasy world for me by seeing that large dining hall which I have seen in Harry Potter series but, I never dreamt of it that I could see it in real. Also, we have also come across some shops exclusively with harry potter collection, which drag me and Hari into it and grab some harry potter stuff as a memory from that place.

Seventh day (10-01-2020) finally back to Heathrow airport from reading, with lots of memories in the heart and lots of chocolates in the bag. overall it was a best experience that I could cherish throughout my life.


December 2019

The majority of the soil science team have now harvested their field experiments and we’re really looking forward to seeing the data!


November 2019

University of Reading researchers return to Andhra Pradesh

Researchers from the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development’s International Development Division and soil scientists from the Department of Geography and Environmental Science were back in Andhra Pradesh, India, in August and again in November to continue their work on the Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) project.  The purpose of these latest exchanges was to come together to share initial results and learning while preparing for the next milestones of the study.

Rather than visit research sites around the state, Dr. Grady Walker from the social science team and Dr. Sarah Duddigan from the soil science team spent time at the RySS headquarters in Guntur, meeting with the Natural Farming Fellows and Research Coordinators who had been trained earlier in the year.

The social science team meetings focused on the Participatory Photography method.  Now that the Natural Farming Fellows who had been facilitating the activity had gained some valuable experience, they also had many questions that needed to be answered about the various dimensions of the method and participatory action-research in general.  Furthermore, the descriptions of the photographs taken by participants were all written in the Telugu language; therefore, many hours were spent sitting together as a team and translating them into English.

Members of a women’s self-help group (SHG) discuss their photographs at a meeting in Vishakapatnam District

The soil science team focused on collating on the data that has been collected in the field to date. Thirty Natural Farming Fellows and five Research Coordinators are taking regular readings from their experimental farm plots including: soil pH; temperature; moisture; infiltration rate; texture; bulk density; earthworm counts; and crop biometrics. The team have been doing a fantastic job! As well as checking progress, and planning for the following season, the team also conducted some training on how we might present the data, such as drawing graphs and creating presentation slides.

Various members of the soil science team taking measurements in the field.

October 2019

Dr Henny Osbahr presented ‘Zero Budget Natural Farming in Andhra Pradesh: Developing the evidence base’ in the Drivers of Smallholder Responses and System Outcomes session of the Sustainability & Development Conference, Michigan, USA.


September 2019

We have now managed to put 5 met stations in place across AP in Anantapur, Krishna, Nellore, Prakasam and Visakhapatnam. These are in place on our Research Coordinators land, who received full training in how to maintain them and download the data. These stations will enable the soil science team to understand trends seen in the field measurements the Natural Farming Fellows and Research Coordinators are taking in the field. We will also be able to describe the differences in the argo-climatic zones we have selected with on the ground data.

June 2019

The Natural Farming Fellows in the soil science team are starting to set up their experiments, and doing a fantastic job! Here’s to an exciting season, watch this space for more news and updates.

May 2019

University of Reading ZBNF team travels to India for training visit

In April team members from the University of Reading’s ZBNF social science study accompanied their soil science counterparts on a training visit to Andhra Pradesh to kick-start collaborative work on the GCRF-Funded project, “Understanding the biophysical processes and extension mechanisms of Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) to support its wider application”.

The research project has an interdisciplinary design that involves both soil science experiments and social science inquiry using participatory photography.  Natural Farming Fellows and Research Coordinators from Rythu Sadhikara Samstha (RySS), the partnering institution in Andhra Pradesh, will be carrying out the research activities designed by the University of Reading team.  The purpose of the participatory photography activity is to understand why ZBNF farmers have adopted the practice, what innovations they are making, and how they integrate the practice into their socio-cultural landscape.

The team spent a good deal of time on the highways of Andhra Pradesh because of the large distances between districts where studies are being initiated.  Over the course of the visit, the social science team was able to meet with self-help groups and farmers in Guntur District, Anantapur District, and Vishakapatnam District in the north of the state.  Each district falls within a distinct agro-ecological zone, and spreading the research activities across these zones will allow for some interesting comparisons to be made.

Rinchen and Grady from the UoR social science team meet with RySS partners in Vishakapatnam District

Meanwhile the soil science team were able to meet with Natural Farming Fellows and Research Coordinators from five districts within distinct agro-ecological zones: Anantapur, Krishna, Nellore, Prakasam and Visakhapatnam. The team were able to conduct in-filed training on how to lay out the experimental plots and take routine measurements in the field. Initally this training was cnoducted by UoR staff, to be taken over later by local Research Coordinators.