The zero budget natural farming (ZBNF) was highlighted as an alternative method of agriculture, shifting away from big irrigation projects, farm loan waiver and fertilizer subsidy, to address agrarian distress and resolve the plight of peasants at a training camp for farmers organised at Sewar in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district on Wednesday.
Noted agriculturist Subhash Palekar, who has pushed for adoption of ZBNF, apprised the farmers of his research on forest vegetation and the techniques for natural growth of trees at the six-day-long camp, which is the first one devoted to natural farming in the State. About 6,000 small and marginal farmers from Rajasthan and other States are attending the camp.
Maharashtra-based Mr. Palekar — recipient of the Padma Shri in 2016 — threw light on his “zero budget approach” to chemical-free farming involving manures and agro-ecology. He said farmers could face the present crisis if they learnt the techniques of reducing input costs, replacing pesticides with traditional material and preparation of indigenous seeds.
Mr. Palekar said land productivity had decreased because of constant use of chemical fertilizers, while climate change had posed new challenges and put the farmers in the vicious circle of loans, often resulting in their suicide. “Farming has become a loss-making occupation. Farmers are not getting remunerative prices for their produce because of a number of factors.”
Mr. Palekar said the Union and State governments should promote ZBNF by changing the policies adopted during the green revolution. The Union government’s Economic Survey of 2018-19 had advocated ZBNF as a “lucrative livelihood option” for small farmers, while it could be taken up with negligible investment and save 90% of irrigation waters.
Sita Ram Gupta, executive director of Bharatpur-based Lupin Foundation, which is organising the camp, said the farmers could also take up avocations such as beekeeping, dairy farming, pisciculture and poultry farming on their agricultural land.
Rajasthan Minister of State for Technical Education Subhash Garg said the ZBNF had the potential to strengthen rural economy and the State government would try to include it in its new agricultural policy.