Zero Budget Natural Farming, Features and Benefits: Can they really double a farmer’s income

(GS 3, Economics, The Hindu, Indian Express) 

Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) is a type of organic farming  where the cost of  growing and harvesting crops comes out to be zero. The first thing which is considered here is to get the cost zero or as little as possible and second thing is that whatever cost has been incurred that can be recovered through intercropping,  mixed cropping, crop rotation etc.  Union Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman mentioned the zero budget natural farming in her 2019 budget speech,  when she said that the farmers income can be doubled if they go for Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF). 

As an alternative to the Green Revolution methods where chemical fertilizers and intensive irrigation was the key, Subhash Palekar and Indian agriculturist and Padma Shri recipient gave the concept of zero budget natural farming. He emphasized that whatever is required to grow a crop, can be managed from nature with no cost or very less cost. For example, earthworm excreta, which has seven times more nitrogen than soil, can be used in place of  chemical fertilizers. Many farmers, especially marginal and small, are using these techniques as tools to get rid of debts and defaults. This kind of practice in farming can make it sustainable and more profitable. 

In Zero budget natural farming Jeevamrutha, Beejamrutha, Achhadana, Whapassa are important concepts. 

Jeevamrutha is a mixture of cow dung, cow urine, jaggery, pulse flour, water and soil, which can be used in place of chemical fertilizers for adding nutrients in the soil and  catalyzing the microbial activities in the soil. It is found that the soil system will become self-sustaining in three years of time period, if about 200 litres of Jeevamrutha is spread twice a month on a piece of one acre of land. 

The Beejamrutha is the process  for seed treatment which is important for seed germination. Actually during seed germination some disease may attack in the germination stage. The seeds are soaked with Beejamrutha, which is  a mixture of cow urine, cow dung, water and soil, to control the seed’s disease and to increase the seed germination.  Another mixture of pulp, neem leaves and green chillies and tobacco is used as an insecticide. 

Achhadana which is the process of mulching, where farm ground is covered by cover crops and crop residues to conserve the soil moisture, improve fertility and health of the soil and to reduce the growth of weeds. 

Whapassa is a soil micro climatic condition in which roots and soil organisms can live safely due to the availability of adequate water and air. Hence the concept here is to reduce irrigation, irrigating only at noon and at alternate furrows.  Hence deep ploughing and intensive irrigation is not promoted in zero budget natural farming

Apart from those mentioned above, the intercropping, mixed cropping, crop rotation, contours and bunds are also important principles of  Zero Budget Natural Farming. 

Andhra Pradesh government in 2018 citing the benefits of zero budget natural farming role.in ambitious plan to become India’s first state to practice 100% natural farming by 2024.

Conclusions: The external production cost in Zero Budget Natural Farming is zero or very low. This farming system requires no monetary commitment on the part of the farmer for the procurement of seeds, fertilizers, and plant safety chemicals. Natural Farming products are of high quality, have a pleasant flavor, and produce a higher yield. ZBNF is heavily reliant on its four wheels. It is important to understand the relationships of different components in a given environment when monitoring pests in ZBNF. This farming method would have a positive impact on all the natural resources of our environment, soil, and human health, as well as the purity of groundwater. Sustainable land resource management is also a critical factor in reducing the pressures on all-natural resources and ensuring long-term crop production. 

Key Take Aways:

  • The pioneer of zero budget natural farming suggested that one can earn an income of 6 Lakhs rupees per acre in irrigated areas and income of 1.5 Lakh rupees per acre in non irrigated areas.  

  • In zero budget natural farming the major feature is that the cost of production is zero and farmers do not have to buy any inputs.

  • It uses only 10% of the water used in the conventional method.

  • It also promotes the use of local Indian breeds of cow for 30 acres of land, which could be profitable to farmers. 

  • It can certainly increase the farmer’s income and can stop the migration from villages to cities. 

  • It covers all kinds of agro climatic areas and is suitable for all kinds of crops. 

  • It can ease out the debt pressure on the farmers as they don’t need to take loans from the banks or or money lenders. 

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