[op-ed snap] The seeds of sustainability

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Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Zero Budget Natural Farming

Mains level: ZBNF and its advantages


Context

Andhra, first to implement ZBNF Policy

  1. Andhra Pradesh will fully embrace Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF), a chemical-free method that would cover all farmers by 2024.
  2. Even though this revolution has been in the works for several years, this is still a momentous occasion and highlights the way to improve the welfare of farmers, reduce the cost of farm inputs, cut toxins in food, and improve soils.
  3. By 2021-22, the programme is to be implemented in every panchayat, with full coverage by 2024.
  4. More encouraging is that the programme is having a positive effect on many of the sustainable development goals through improvements in soil, biodiversity, livelihoods, water, reduction in chemicals, climate resilience, health, women’s empowerment and nutrition.

Natural farming

  1. Natural farming is “do nothing farming”
  2. It promotes no-till, no chemical use in farming along with the dispersal of clay seed balls to propagate plants.
  3. It is important to apply nature’s principles in farming and developed a deep-rooted philosophy around the process.

Zero Budget Natural Farming

  1. Subhash Palekar, a farmer in the distressed Vidarbha region developed the ZBNF.
  2. He identified some aspects that are now integral to his process and which require locally available materials:
  • seeds treated with cow dung and urine;
  • soil rejuvenated with cow dung,
  • cow urine and other local materials to increase microbes;
  • cover crops, straw and other organic matter to retain soil moisture and build humus;
  • and soil aeration for favorable soil conditions.

These methods are combined with natural insect management methods when required.

 Benefits of ZBNF

  1. In ZBNF, yields of various cash and food crops have been found to be significantly higher when compared with chemical farming.
  2. Input costs are near zero as no fertilizers and pesticides are used.
  3. Profits in most areas under ZBNF were from higher yield and lower inputs.
  4. Model ZBNF farms were able to withstand drought and flooding, which are big concerns with regard to climate change.
  5. The planting of multiple crops and border crops on the same field has provided varied income and nutrient sources.
  6. As a result of these changes, there is reduced use of water and electricity, improved health of farmers, flourishing of local ecosystems and biodiversity and no toxic chemical residues in the environment.

Model for other States

  1. Andhra Pradesh is one of the top five States in terms of farmer suicides.
  2. The changes taking place in AP are a systematic scaling up of farming practices based on agro-ecological principles in opposition to the dominant chemical agriculture.
  3. Changes at this scale require many different elements to come together, but open-minded enlightened political leaders and administrators are fundamental.
  4. As ZBNF is applied in India’s various agro-ecological zones, making farmers the innovators is essential.
  5. Resilient food systems are the need of the day given the variability of the monsoons due to global warming and declining groundwater in large parts of India.
  6. The drought-prone Rayalaseema region (Andhra Pradesh) is reportedly seeing promising changes already in farms with the ZBNF.

The Way Forward- Listen to our Farmers

  1. ZBNF is a technology of the future with a traditional idiom.
  2. Agricultural scientists in India have to rework their entire strategy so that farming is in consonance with nature.
  3. The dominant paradigm of chemical-based agriculture has failed and regenerative agriculture is the emerging new science.
  4. The world is at critical junctures on many planetary boundaries, and establishing a system that shows promise in improving them while supporting people sustainably is surely one worth pursuing.
Organic Farming – Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojna (PKVY), NPOF etc.
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