Addressing the United Nations conference on desertification (COP-14), Indian PM told the global community that India is focusing on Zero-Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF). ZBNF was also highlighted in budget 2019 in the bid to double farmer’s income by 2022.
However, scientists from the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences suggested that there is no need for the government to promote ZBNF unless there is proper scientific validation.
Zero Budget Natural Farming
Zero budget natural farming is a method of chemical-free agriculture drawing from traditional Indian practices.
It was originally promoted by agriculturist Subhash Palekar, who developed it in the mid-1990s as an alternative to the Green Revolution’s methods that are driven by chemical fertilizers and pesticides and intensive irrigation.
It is a unique model that relies on Agro-ecology.
It aims to bring down the cost of production to nearly zero and return to a pre-green revolution style of farming.
It claims that there is no need for expensive inputs such as fertilisers, pesticides and intensive irrigation.
ZBNF is based on 4 pillars:
Jeevamrutha: It is a mixture of fresh cow dung and aged cow urine (both from India’s indigenous cow breed), jaggery, pulse flour, water and soil; to be applied on farmland.
Bijamrita: It is a concoction of neem leaves & pulp, tobacco and green chilies prepared for insect and pest management, that can be used to treat seeds.
Acchadana (Mulching): It protects topsoil during cultivation and does not destroy it by tilling.
Whapasa: It is the condition where there are both air molecules and water molecules present in the soil. Thereby helping in reducing irrigation requirement.
Benefits of ZBNF
With the rising cost of external inputs (fertilizers and pesticides), which is the leading cause of indebtedness and suicide among farmers. According to the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data, almost 70% of agricultural households spend more than they earn and more than half of all farmers are in debt.
Since in ZBNF there is the need to spend money or take loans for external inputs, the cost of production could be reduced and farming made into a “zero budget” exercise.
This would break the debt cycle for many small farmers and help to envisage the doubling of farmer’s income by 2022.
At a time when chemical-intensive farming is resulting in soil and environmental degradation, a zero-cost environmentally-friendly farming method is definitely a timely initiative.
The ZBNF method promotes soil aeration, minimal watering, intercropping, bunds and topsoil mulching and discourages intensive irrigation and deep ploughing.
It suits all crops in all agro-climatic zones.
Citing the benefits of ZBNF, in June 2018, Andhra Pradesh rolled out an ambitious plan to become India’s first State to practise 100% natural farming by 2024.