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 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.
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.
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.