Zero Budget Natural Farming:
The following information is about Zero Budget Natural Farming.
INTRODUCTION TO AGRICULTURE:
Agriculture is considered the backbone of Indian economy since centuries. Agriculture contributes 17 percent to the gross value of Indian economy. Initially India had subsistence type of farming but as the dependence on food grains increased with increasing population it had automatically shifted to commercial farming with focus on quality. 58 percent of rural population depends on agriculture for the basic livelihood. These days agriculture has become very dominant and imposes critical challenges to both farmers and consumers. The present form of agriculture is over burdened with inorganic chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides. This has contaminated ground water and various ecosystems. Farm lands too have been affected due to loss in biodiversity. Therefore when a farmer with a small farmland invests in such expensive inputs, he is exposed to high monetary risk and gets trapped eventually into the debt cycle. These small farm holders are the critical contributors to agriculture (about 80%) and are responsible for the global food security challenge, which is estimated to multiply many fold times in the future.
Apart from this, the present day agriculture uses fresh water resources and the mono-cropping technique leads to low moisture content in the soil which along with other hybrid seed modification methods contributes extensively to climate change and the emission of green house gases. With such diverse negative impacts of inorganic farming it has become highly essential to adopt other ways which can lead to better results with negligible impact on surroundings. So, here comes the question that what are the ways in which low-input farming can be practiced to achieve good production outputs?.
The answer to this question is ‘natural farming’ which was first developed in Japan by Masanobu Fukuoka, a Japanese farmer. This method of farming is also referred to as ‘do-nothing farming’. This title does not indicate lack of human effort but defines the non existence of manufactured inputs and equipments. Natural farming depends on the biodiversity of that specified area such that the living organisms thrive along with the food plants. This farming method not only helped people produce food but also have a spiritual development. It is a closed mechanism which requires no external artificial inputs. Natural farming challenges the modern agro approaches i.e. instead of importing external nutrients and chemicals it takes benefit from the local surroundings. Natural farming has no structure and it is not a technique rather it is an approach to become a part of the nature and has been defined by five principles of “no tilling, no fertilizer, no pesticide, no weeding, no Pruning”. There are different types of natural farming, they are:
Fertility Farming: Native American: Nature Farming: Rishi Kheti: Zero Budget Farming.
Rishi Kheti and Zero Budget Farming are practised in India as an initiative to natural farming. Hence the question arises:
What is Zero Budget Natural Farming and its approach?
Subash Palekar, an Indian agriculturist proposed the idea of Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) in India. This is sometimes referred to as ‘Zero Budget Spiritual Farming’. These terms signify that the input cost for farming is zero. No article related to farming is purchased from outside and whatever is available is the crop surroundings is used. Natural things like water, air, soil and sunlight are used to supply nutrients to the plants. Basically this method reduces the investment for farming and not the output. Zero Budget Natural Farming protects the soil, which otherwise would be degraded by the use of chemicals and become unproductive.
There are four main aspects of Zero Budget Natural Farming which are highly essential for the process of farming they are considered as four wheels on which the entire farming system rests.
Jeevamrutha: This involves fermenting the microbes present in the soil. The main purpose is to enhance the activity of micro organisms and earth worms present in the soil. The ingredients used are cow dung, cow urine, jaggery, pulse flour, water and soil. The fermentation process takes 48 hours and during this period the aerobic and anaerobic bacteria in the cow urine and dung multiply by consuming the pulse flour. Undisturbed soil, consisting of microbes and organisms is added to the above mixture. This preparation removes fungal and bacterial diseases in plants. This substance is used only for first three years and then it becomes self –sustaining.
Preparation method for Jeevamrutha: In 200 litres of water add cow dung@10kg, cow urine @ 5-10litres, jaggery @2kg, 2 kg of pulse flour, and handful of soil. The solution is stirred well and allowed to ferment for 48 hours in shade. This solution will help one acre of land.
Application: This solution can be sprayed as a foliar (10%) or it can also be applied through irrigation water two times in a month. Once this is applied to the soil it can bring the nutrients present 15 feet deep in the soil to its surface so that the roots of the plants are flourished. The ambience required for this activity is about 25 to 32 degree Celsius.
Beejamrutha: planting materials, seeds and seedlings are treated using a coat of cow dung and urine based mixtures. This formulation is same as Jeevamrutha except for the fact that it is used to address the issues related to root fungus, seed and soil diseases after the monsoon.
Application: Seeds are coated using this preparation and dried well before sowing.
Acchadana: This is the mulching method and there are again three categories as detailed by the agriculturist, Palekar.
Soil mulch: Deep ploughing of soil is avoided. Top soil is protected and is not destroyed by tilling. Soil regains its aeration and water retention capacity.
Straw mulch: Palekar suggested that any dry organic matter can decompose and form humus by the microbes present in the soil. The dead matter of any living organism can be used as compost.
Live mulch: Intercropping and mixed cultivation has to be practiced by growing monocotyledons and dicotyledons on the same farm such that crops receive all essential nutrients.
Whapasa: According to the agriculturist, roots of plants do not require much water and too much dependence of farming on irrigation needs are countered. It is analysed that the roots of plants need water vapour. The presence of both water and air molecules in soil reduces the need for irrigation and this condition is called Whapasa (moisture).
The Zero Budget Natural Farming proposes various decoctions (Kashayams) prepared from the cow dung, cow urine, green chillies and lilac plants, which act as pesticides and insecticides. Native cows of a region are particularly chosen for getting the raw material such as cow dung and urine. The methods outlined in this type of farming are expected to improve the quality of soil and its water retention ability. The need for electricity, irrigation, fertilizers and other external inputs are substituted with natural things thereby reducing the investment cost and the risks involved in the management of credits. There are also other important points to focus while practising Zero Budget Natural Farmin .
‘Intercropping’ makes the Zero Budget Natural Farming system budget less. The minimum costs that are involved in the system are sourced by the income from intercrops. The combinations of crops and trees for this are detailed by the agriculturist after thorough analysis.
‘Contour and bunds’ have to be made for preserving rain water and to attain maximum produce from different crops.
‘Earthworm species’ are revived from the deep soil by the use of organic matter rather than using external vermicompost.
‘Cow dung’ from the humped cow is expected to have high concentration of micro-organisms and proves beneficial for farms. The system of Zero Budget Natural Farming depends solely on the materials obtained from the cow (the Indian breed).
Impact of the Zero Budget Natural Farming system:
The Zero Budget Natural Farming benefits the agriculture as well as other social and economic zones. A Survey has clearly outlined the improvements in yield, soil, seed quality, income, health and autonomy at the household level. The investment for farming with modernised techniques is the biggest problem of agriculture sector in India. Zero Budget Natural Farming is a one shot solution to all the heavy investment problems that the farmers encounter.
Zero Budget Natural Farming recognises farmers with less farmland area and introduces them to a specific crop model such that they have greater income and also receive 50% transition cost to Zero Budget Natural Farming as an initial financial support. The produce from the Zero Budget Natural Farming system is entitled to earn fair-trade and organic certification which helps the farmers earn a premium in the national and international markets.
This system of farming improves the nutritional value and yield of the produce thereby contributing to the food security in the country. A research report by the RySS (regional youth support services) in 2017 shows 23% higher yield in groundnuts when compared to non Zero Budget Natural Farming farming yields. Similarly, there was 6% rise in the paddy yield. Such sustainable farming helps the farmers to adapt to the changing climate. This system ensures the construction of ponds to store water in places where drought prevails; also it helps build dead furrows for controlling the run-off velocity of water from the farms.
Zero Budget Natural Farming assists the rural population to have access to nutritional income generating crops all round the year. The system aims to maintain the genetic diversity that exists in seeds and crops.
When farmers come into contact with the chemicals present in the fertilizers they are also adversely affected so the system (ZBNF) also aims to control the occurrence of non-communicable diseases among farmers that arise out of the contact with chemicals present in the fertilizers.
Farmers experience great stress and depression due to debt incurred by them for the investment into modern farming method and the returns being very low. ZBNF with its low investment methodology relieves the farmers of their stress and decreases the farmer suicidal rate.
Zero Budget Natural Farming takes the responsibility to train and educate the farmers for the efficient implementation of this system (ZBNF) and also teaches them the benefits it offers when compared to other methods of farming through video tutorials and group training sessions.
The main objective of Zero Budget Natural Farming is to provide equal opportunity to the male and female at the implementation level i.e. it encourages the female population to take up full-time agriculture practise and remove the inequality which prevails in accessing the input resources. This helps women improve their social status and become independent.
As the method defines the need for water vapour for farming and not water, it eventually reduces the demand for groundwater in agriculture. Zero Budget Natural Farming resists the extraction of groundwater helps recharge the aquifers and thereby shows a steady rise in the levels of water table. Since natural substances are used they also reduce the contamination of oceans and rivers.
Zero Budget Natural Farming improves the soil quality, water ecosystems and agricultural output which in turn reduces the biodiversity loss and degradation of environment. The method when applied to the 6 million farmlands in the country outlines a huge increase in the employment opportunities for the rural population.
Zero Budget Natural Farming helps the country progress on the SDG (sustainable development goals) by reducing the carbon dioxide emissions at different stages in the agriculture sector.
Therefore, the Zero Budget Natural Farming programme addresses several issues related to the agriculture sector beginning with adaptation to climate, low investment, reduction of poverty, increases food security, helps conserve biodiversity and finally prepares the country for a sustainable growth. The focus of the programme being the small farmland holders, it ensures the improvement of livelihood of the majority of rural population of the country. The support the programme gets from different organisations is highly important for its mobilization and practical implementation.