Zero Budget Natural Farming In India
The primary foundation of the Indian economy depends on agricultural practices. But the government has not been able to meet the requirements of the small scale farmers adequately. It is imperative that it takes into account that most farm holdings are small. As farmers do not get proper yield from the farmland, they find themselves trapped in the never-ending cycle of debt and loss. Adding to their misery is the privatization of the fertilizer and seed agencies. These private companies charge a high price for the products. As HYV seeds and fertilizers are necessary for good and healthy crop growth, farmers have to borrow money from the moneylenders and financial institutes. Unfortunately, as these peasants do not attain a proper price for the crops, they fail to recover the investment. So, they are forced to borrow money again to repay the previous agro-loan. But the efforts of one man have pointed out a way out of this dangerous situation.
What is Zero Budget Natural Farming?
It is a farming planning that consists of several points. If all these points are appropriately implemented, then farmers will no longer have to worry about agricultural losses. The concept started when Subhash Palekar decided that he will help his father, who was a common farmer to get more out of the land. Instead of depending on traditional means, he took a different route. He took admission in an agricultural course. After finishing college, he went back to his native village. He worked with his father on their farm, and by implementing modern seeds and chemical fertilizers, they were able to increase the yield many folds. All went well for a decade, after which, the land started producing less crops. An in-depth study shed light on the facts that chemical fertilizers had deteriorated the natural fertility of the land. Additionally, the crops, grown on these lands, had traces of harmful chemicals. These discoveries prompted Palekar to take some necessary steps. He joined forces with the local farmer association, and started work on his Zero Budget Natural Farming techniques. The movement can be categorized as a combination of the agricultural, environmental and social reform plan.
Features of Zero Budget Natural Farming
- Maintaining natural fertility of the soil – Subash Palekar realized that if one fails to ensure soil health, then there is no chance for agricultural development. He researched and came up with numerous ways to increase soil fertility naturally. Inter-cropping, mixed cropping, cultivating leguminous plants during the off seasons are some of the techniques, which ensure soil health.
- Increasing biodiversity – Another feature of the movement is to maintain and develop the biodiversity of the area. The natural plant and animal life of the native area has an important role to play in the development of agro-efforts. But unscientific farming methods will destroy this biodiversity. It is not an ideal condition. Zero Budget Natural Farming also highlights the importance of intercropping. Growing medicinal plants in and around the farm will keep away insects. It eliminates the necessity of using chemical pesticides.
- Making small holdings financially viable – It is impossible for a farmer to attain massive yield if the plot is small. In India, the small size of agricultural landholdings makes it impossible for farmers to earn a profit. ZBNF propagates that farmers should not depend on the production of only one crop. Multi-cropping is the best way to utilize the land when it is not the time for the primary crop. Farmers must consult with agricultural experts, and attain information about the best multi-cropping combinations. The farmers can sell these crops in the market, and earn a considerable amount.
- Use of organic fertilizers – Using chemical fertilizers will increase the crop yield for some time, but the continuous use of these inorganic products will alter the nature and texture of the soil. It will have a direct and negative impact on the quantity and quality of the produce. ZBNF encourages the use of natural and organic fertilizers. It has two advantages. As the fertilizers are organic, these will only add to the soil fertility. The natural composts don’t have any chemicals. So, soil fertility will remain intact. Apart from this, long term use of these organic manures will ensure greater nutritional value of the crops. Thus, the movement will slowly replace chemical containing food products from the market.
It was not possible for one man and some farmers to convert the plan into a successful movement. The first Indian state that took up the movement and implemented it correctly, through farmer associations and self-help groups was Karnataka. The reports were published after some time, and the result was mind-blowing. Encouraged by the success of the movement in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh took it up officially. The state government, along with the farmer associations, is implementing these sustainable ways to increase the agricultural yield.
Other links –