Natural Farming

Mains Marks Booster     5th August 2023        
output themes

PM Modi bats for natural farming, calls it basis for economic success, he said the mass movement to adopt natural farming will be widely successful and the sooner farmers join this change, the more they will reap its benefits

Understanding the concept of natural farming:

  • Natural Farming is a chemical-free farming system rooted in Indian tradition enriched with modern understanding of ecology, resource recycling and on-farm resource optimization.
  •  It is considered as an agroecology based diversified farming system which integrates crops, trees and livestock with functional biodiversity.

  • It is roughly estimated that around 2.5 million farmers in India are already practicing regenerative agriculture
  • In the next 5 years, it is expected to reach 20 lakh hectares- in any form of organic farming, including natural farming, of which 12 lakh hectares are under Bhartiya Prakritik Krishi Paddati- NITI AAYOG

Benefits of natural farming

  • Improved yield- As per a new study, Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) in Andhra Pradesh has led to significantly higher crop yield compared to organic or conventional farming.
  • Employment generation - Across the agricultural value chain, from production, distribution, and retail of natural mixtures to market linkages for such produce.
  • Environmental sustainability - Reduced chemical pollution, enhanced soil fertility and structure, preservation of biodiversity, conservation of water resources.
  • Healthier food - No pesticide residues, higher nutritional value, reduced risk of chemical exposure.
  • Economic viability - Reduced input costs in the long term, strengthened resilience to market fluctuations, improved farm profitability and sustainability.
  • Climate change mitigation - Carbon sequestration,  reduced greenhouse gas emissions, increased resilience to climate variability.
  • Social advantages - Community health and well-being, Farmer empowerment by increasing their self-sufficiency and resilience, preserving traditional knowledge. 

Issues involved with natural farming 

  • Lack of scientific validation to support its effectiveness in improving crop yields and soil health.
  • Limited scalability: Natural farming practices require a high level of expertise and labor
  • Limited access to inputs such as cow dung, compost, and other organic materials required for natural farming.
  • Lack of market demand: which may affect the profitability of farmers practicing this method.
  • Certification and Market Access - Meeting the certification requirements for organic farming, compliance with strict standards, certification costs, and establishing market linkages.
  • Climate variability -  Water scarcity, extreme weather events, and weather fluctuations, such as droughts, floods, or extreme temperatures.

Government initiatives 

  • Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY)- Under this scheme, financial assistance and training are provided to farmers to convert their conventional farms into organic farms. 
  • Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region (MOVCD-NER): It provides support for capacity building, input production, market development, and infrastructure development related to organic farming.
  • National Project on Organic Farming (NPOF): Aims to develop and implement organic farming models, provide training and technical support, create market linkages for organic produce, and promote organic certification.
  • Promotion of Alternative Nutritious And Agriculture Management (PM-PRANAM) scheme: Aims to check soil degradation due to excessive use of chemical soil nutrients and also to reduce the rising fertiliser subsidy. 
  • Bhartiya Prakritik Krishi Paddati (BPKP), a subscheme under PKVY, was launched in 2021- to promote natural farming including Zero-Budget Natural Farming. 

Zero budget natural farming

  • Zero budget natural farming (ZBNF) is a farming method that aims to eliminate the use of synthetic inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides, and instead relies on natural processes such as crop rotations, intercropping, and composting.
  • It was originally promoted by Maharashtrian agriculturist  Subhash Palekar, who developed it in the mid-1990s as an alternative to the Green Revolution.
  • The government has launched a national program to promote ZBNF, with a target of converting 10 million hectares of farmland to this method by 2025.

Pillars of ZBNF

Pillars of ZBNF

  • Jeevamrutha/jeevamrutha
  • Bijamrita/beejamrutha
  • Acchadana – mulching
  • Whapasa – moisture

Challenges in implementation of ZBNF-

    • Lack of proper training and capacity building programs for farmers to learn the principles and techniques of ZBNF.
    • Limited access to organized markets and fair pricing mechanisms for ZBNF produce, making it difficult for farmers to sell their products at competitive prices.
    • Inadequate availability of essential infrastructure such as storage facilities, processing units, and transportation networks, which affects the post-harvest management of ZBNF crops.
    • Challenges in scaling up ZBNF practices to larger agricultural landscapes, as it requires coordination among multiple stakeholders and sustained efforts.
    • Lack of research and development - many of private investment are not ready to invest in natural farming due to output constraints.

Successes of ZBNF: 

  • Andhra Pradesh: Farmers in villages like Palempalle have reported significant improvements in soil fertility, reduced input costs, and increased crop yields. 
  • Karnataka:  Farmers in village of Shiramagondanahalli have witnessed improved soil health, reduced water consumption, and decreased dependency on external inputs. This has led to higher profits and better quality produce. 
  • Maharashtra: In the village of Niphad, farmers practicing ZBNF have seen a significant reduction in production costs,  increased crop yields and improved soil structure.