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.
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.