Budget 2019 Promotes Zero Budget Farming: No Chemicals & No Production Cost May Double Farmers’ Income

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Zero budget farming – the term was alien to many until today when it was mentioned by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during the presentation of the Budget 2019.

While highlighting the importance of “going back to basics” in agriculture, she proposed to popularise the concept of zero budget farming all over India, to boost production and promote farmers’ income, while bringing down investment cost as well as minimising the use of chemicals. “Zero budget farming can help in doubling our farmers’ income by the time of our 75th year of Independence,” Sitharaman quoted in her budget speech.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

No More Debt Traps For Farmers

In April 2018, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UN-FAO) suggested this farming method to be replicated worldwide to combat the imminent agrarian crisis. Efforts For Good delves into this unique concept – technically known as Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) – a brainchild of Padmashri agriculturist Subhash Palekar.

Zero Budget Farming
Subhash Palekar

In simple terms, ZBNF ensures zero production cost for growing any crop. It negates the purchase of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, advanced machinery or privatised seeds to achieve the huge production demand. The high expense incurred at the very start of the sowing season often ends up driving the farmers into a debt burden, as they fail to repay their loans in frequent cases of crop failure.

How Palekar Came Up With Zero Budget Farming

Subhash Palekar, a graduate in agricultural studies, himself had practised modern methods of chemical farming till the mid-1980s when he spotted a gradual decline in production rates and quality, despite increased use of chemical additives.

After thorough research into traditional methods of Indian farming, he inferred that adopting natural farming methods holds the key to the future of agriculture. He formulated the four-step zero budget natural farming (ZBNF) following a meeting with legendary Japanese farmer Masanobu Fukuoka. Palekar now holds a strong apathy towards chemical farming as he believes all necessary nutrients are present in the soil itself, as evident from our dense tropical forests with bountiful production, unless and until the natural soil ecosystem is tampered with chemicals.

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The Four Aspects Of Zero Budget Natural Farming

  • Jivamrita/jeevamrutha: A fermented microbial culture that catalyses the microbial activity in the soil, serving as a boost to soil nutrition.
  • Bijamrita/beejamrutha: Natural seed treatment with 100% organic ingredients to protect seedlings for diseases.
  • Acchadana/Mulching: Mulching is an alternative to soil tilling which adds biomass waste to the soil instead of ploughing which often destroys the soil retention capacity.
  • Whapasa/Moisture: Sustainable use of water and air-borne moisture instead of modern irrigation methods helps in conserving water, especially in drought-infested areas.

Read the details about the Four Pillars of ZBNF here: Zero Budget Natural Farming in India

 

 

The ZBNF Movement In Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh

The ZBNF movement was launched in Karnataka, in collaboration with Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) – the state farmers’ association. Estimates by UN-FAO reveal that nearly 1,00,000 farming families in the state have resorted to this method and achieved success. Later, ZBNF was officially adopted by the Government of Andhra Pradesh (GoAP), considering it “very effective in addressing the uncertainties of climate change.”

The farmers across India, particularly in South India, who have voluntarily taken up ZBNF, are already reaping benefits due to drastically reduced production costs, almost negligible in most cases. It is relieving farmers from the vicious debt traps which often leave them at the mercy of unscrupulous moneylenders. Also, it is uplifting small-scale farmers who cannot afford expensive chemicals to enhance their production.

As of now, the ZBNF farmers’ movement works through a network of volunteer farmers, local leaders and independent activists at a district level. The participants coordinate with each other over each and every aspect of their individual farming activities. Additionally, ‘Krishi Ka Rishi’ Palekar himself continues to conduct training sessions across India. 

New Hope From Union Budget 2019

Through training camps, workshops and awareness initiatives, the ZBNF practitioners are actively promoting the concept. The recognition of the method by the Central Government as a crucial part of the Union Budget will definitely propel it to a higher level.

It is worthy to mention here that the government has also announced the mentoring of 75,000 skilled entrepreneurs in the agro-rural sector to promote agricultural entrepreneurship among enthusiasts from all walks of society.

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MyStory: “Two Months After I Joined IIT For My PhD I Was Diagnosed With TB”

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A person suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) not only battles the ‘Mycobacterium tuberculosis’ bacteria inside his lungs but also from the stigma attached to the disease. It weakens the patients in many different ways in their fight against the dreaded disease.  

My fight with TB was also filled with stigma. I joined IIT Kharagpur for my PhD in January 2015. Two months later, in March 2015, I was diagnosed with TB. I had to take sick leave from March 2015 that eventually lasted till June 2016. Initially, I did not respond well to medication. Further tests revealed that I had multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB). This meant that the type of TB I had was resistant to two or more of the antitubercular medication I was taking.

About a year after the intensive phase of my treatment, I felt better and applied for readmission to IIT in July 2016. A prerequisite for rejoining was that my faculty members had to verify my application. With the formalities completed, I resumed my education, but I felt that something was amiss. 

My guide indicated that he did not want his work to suffer on account of my illness. I also heard from a senior colleague that my guide had said that I would spread the disease like an ‘infested animal’. I was disheartened at being subjected to this indignity by my supposed mentor.

However, my primary concern was defeating TB, so I didn’t dwell on it. Today, as I reflect on it, I realise the reasons behind the stigma were ignorance as well as fear.

Even among the educated, there are misconceptions about TB. People think all forms of TB are contagious. Others believe the patient is infectious for the entire length of the treatment. Some even believe that TB spreads through touch. This breeds the fear of contracting the illness.

As we know, people stigmatise and discriminate when they fear. I felt the impact of the stigma on two levels – in my professional life and my personal life.

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Professionally, the reluctance of my supervisor to mentor me and his discouragement affected me. I could not decide whether I should wait for the IIT authorities to tell me to leave or drop out. That decision was made for me by luck when I found out that my CSIR grant application was never processed. 

This meant that I would have to pay for my education. Given the expenditure on my treatment, this was unaffordable for me. This was the final nail in the coffin. I was forced to drop out and could not go back to completing my PhD.

What I faced was not technically illegal. I was discouraged from doing my PhD, but it was still a form of stigma. The external stigma I faced led to depression and isolation. 

Eventually, I realised I had to fight. The treatment for TB is difficult, requiring strict compliance and the management of side effects, and these demands resolve. I began motivating myself. I began following a proper diet and completing my treatment to ensure I could recover. I also turned to books as they transported me to other worlds and helped with my isolation. I also focused on reviving my old relationships.

Gradually, things improved. I could not proceed on my desired career path, but I am an educator now. I constantly realise that I have a role to play in shaping young minds. 

Workplace stigma has tangible consequences. It affects an individual’s career, financial opportunities and their right to work with dignity. So what can we do to address this stigma? 

First, we need to sensitise people by educating them about TB, and the impact stigma has on patients.

Another measure is group counselling involving the patient, the employer and the immediate supervisor. Informal versions of these sessions happen in the workplace in the context of illnesses like cancer. Why should it be any different for TB? 

The goal of this session would be to ensure that the patient is in a supportive environment. 

Finally, at a systemic level, there needs to be a workplace policy on stigma mitigation and a mechanism where the patients can anonymously register their concerns about stigma at the workplace.

A person’s career or job is often their calling and a provider of financial security. Workplace stigma creates a hostile work environment, affecting a person’s ability to do their job and their financial security. Financial insecurity and stigma make it harder for the patient to fight TB both in terms of means and motivation. Therefore, addressing stigma in the workplace is critical to patient well-being and recovery but also to their right to work with dignity.

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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