OpEd Analysis – The seeds of sustainability

OpEd Analysis - The seeds of sustainability (The Hindu)

Introduction :-

  • In early June, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu announced that the State would fully embrace Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF), a chemical-free method that would cover all farmers by 2024 & Andhra Pradesh has become the first State to implement a ZBNF policy.

What is Natural farming ?

Natural farming is “do nothing farming”, according to Masanobu Fukuoka, a Japanese farmer who, in the 1970s, was a supporter of no-till, no chemical use in farming along with the dispersal of clay seed balls to propagate plants. .

What is ZBNF (Zero Budget Natural Farming) ?

‘Zero Budget’ means without using any credit, and without spending any money on purchased inputs. ‘Natural farming’ means farming with Nature and without chemicals. Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) is a set of farming methods, and also a grassroots peasant movement, which has spread to various states in India. Subhash Palekar developed the ZBNF. He identified four aspects that are now integral to his process and which require locally available materials :-

  • Seeds treated with cow dung and urine
  • Soil rejuvenated with cow dung, cow urine and other local materials to increase microbes
  • Cover crops, straw and other organic matter to retain soil moisture and build humus
  • Soil aeration for favourable soil conditions.

These methods are combined with natural insect management methods when required.

Benefits in Yields through ZBNF :- In ZBNF, yields of various cash and food crops have been found to be significantly higher when compared with chemical farming. For example:-

  • Yields from ZBNF plots in the (kharif) 2017 pilot phase were found on average to be 11% higher for cotton than in non-ZBNF plots. The yield for Guli ragi (ZBNF) was 40% higher than non-ZBNF.
  • Input costs are near zero as no fertilizers and pesticides are used.
  • Profits in most areas under ZBNF were from higher yield and lower inputs.
  • Model ZBNF farms were able to withstand drought and flooding, which are big concerns with regard to climate change.
  • The planting of multiple crops and border crops on the same field has provided varied income and nutrient sources.
  • As a result of these changes, there is reduced use of water and electricity, improved health of farmers, flourishing of local ecosystems and biodiversity and no toxic chemical residues in the environment.

Note :- In early 2016, Sikkim was declared India’s first fully organic State. But organic agriculture often involves addition of large amounts of manure, vermi compost and other materials that are required in bulk and need to be purchased. These turn out to be expensive for most small farm holders.

Under ZBNF in Andhra Pradesh :- According to Rythu Sadhikara Samstha, the agency that is implementing the ZBNF, the programme will be extended in phases.

  • This year, 5 lakh farmers will be covered, and at least one panchayat in each of the mandals will be shifted to this new method, bringing the programme to a tipping point. By 2021-22, the programme is to be implemented in every panchayat, with full coverage by 2024.
  • Towards this end, substantial resource mobilisation for about Rs. 16,500 crore is in progress.
  • Tenant farmers and day labourers are also being trained, to ensure that through the ZBNF, livelihoods for the rural poor will be enhanced.
  • The Government of India provides funding through the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana and Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana. Additional resources have been made available through various philanthropic organisations.

Conclusion :- Agricultural scientists in India have to rework their entire strategy so that farming is in consonance with nature. The dominant paradigm of chemical-based agriculture has failed and regenerative agriculture is the emerging new science.

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