Natalia Koryagina, Domashovo village, Bryansk region, Russia


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After teaching herself to cultivate organic vegetables in her kitchen garden, Natalia Koryagina, a local geography teacher, has won national recognition for her work promoting new agricultural techniques in kitchen gardens, and providing training to local women on the use of these techniques.


As a result of Natalia’s work, twenty families in Domashovo village and twelve schools in Bryansk region use the biointensive method of Sustainable Mini-Farming, and 28 community groups have started to use this method to produce sustainable, organic food.  The achievements of her biointensive school garden won special mention at the national exhibition, Golden Autumn 2010 in Moscow.
Not only have her efforts to spread effective agricultural techniques through Domashovo boosted family incomes and improved nutrition, her work with local women has helped to advance women’s rights and the struggle against domestic violence and alcoholism.
Natalia’s work also changed herself a lot. Igor Prokofev, Director of NGO Grassroots Alliance PERESVET, where Natalia first learned the biointensive method, says “This woman is a striking example of human ability to self-perfection. From a woman with lots of problems, Natalia became community leader, who helps other people”. Natalia commands a great deal of respect by her fellow villagers. Galina, member of the Domashovo women club says: “My connection with Natalia changed all my life. I saw nothing in my life except my husband, 3 children and lot of problems. Natalia by her example showed me and my friends that rural woman must have an active stand in life and she can change the world! Public activity changed Natalia, her world outlook, views, and speech. Now she knows about not only local, but also global problems. She tells us about climate change and food security issues. At present Natalia is not only leader, but expert also”.
Natalia was born in a rural family and spent her childhood in a village. Many Russian families, living in small villages, are faced with the problems of collective farm destruction, unemployment and low wages. Many people have left their land to find work in big cities, and for those that remain in the villages, alcoholism is an increasing problem. As a teacher at a local school, Natalia doesn’t get a large salary, and her family has often struggled to afford sufficient, nutritious food.
Natalia decided to take active steps to change her family’s situation. She wanted to grow vegetables in her kitchen garden, but was worried about the effects of pollution and pesticides. So she decided to search for ways to grow organic vegetables without the use of chemicals.  
Through the support of the NGO Grassroots Alliance PERESVET, Natalia learned about the biointensive method of sustainable mini-farming, which brings together the principle of organic farming with the need to make profit for the family. Using the techniques she learned from PERESVET, Natalia now produces organic vegetables from her kitchen garden for her family, all year round.
Not content with her success at home, Natalia decided to share her knowledge with the other women of Domashovo, by setting up a women’s club. She organized workshops and trainings to teach women the basics of the biointensive method. Through her position as a teacher, Natalia also encourages her students to take part in gardening and ecology projects.
What’s next?
Natalia doesn’t plan to stop here. In the short-term future, she wants to involve women from other villages in biointensive farming, through organizing local women’s clubs. She also wants to write and publish a book for rural women on ways to grow organic food and possibly ensure an income Her dream is to develop organic markets in the Bryansk region, and open a small organic food shop.

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