The day the Karnataka government announced a Rs 10,000-crore loan waiver package for farmers, it also signed up to start a pilot programme on Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF).
The announcement was made on Monday after officials of the state’s Agriculture Department held a meeting with Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy and the man leading the ZBNF programme successfully in Andhra Pradesh, Vijay Kumar.
This, according to some, is a step towards not only eliminating farmer debts but also cleaning the system of harmful chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
“Any paradigm that understands natural ecosystems and how they function, and relies on nature’s produce, processes and anything that does not require farmers to borrow and buy things from the market are worthwhile both in terms of economic viability and ecological sustainability,” Kavita Kuruganti, an agri-scientist with Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), which is promoting ZBNF in Karnataka, said.
The pilot will be headed by S Subramanya, economic adviser to CM Kumaraswamy. Incidentally, he has served as State’s Agriculture Secretary during his career as an IAS officer.
Subramanya advised the Agriculture Commissioner, officers and scientists to 'learn how to unlearn' whatever they know of agriculture so far
Recently, Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu declared all 60 lakh farmers in the state would take up ZBNF by 2024, following the successful pilot programme that has been in existence since 2015.
Both data collocated by the Andhra government and ASHA shows that ZBNF not only iseconomically beneficial for the farmers, but also shows better yields over the years.
Although some farmer organisations have been actively propagating the same in Karnataka, Sandeep Anirudhan, a sustainable development activist, reasons that the lack of popularity is due to the snub by the government in the past.
“They have been resisting it for the past 20 years. This is for the first time that they are giving this idea a hearing. Be it bureaucrats or university professors, they are all influenced by the chemical farm products lobby. Also, it is a cultural shift for them and even for the farmers, as they have only seen the current form of farming,” he said.
He added, “Organic farming is getting accepted more as there at least you have to put something in the soil. In ZBNF, you do not have to put anything in the soil and this comes as a shock to people. SInce, it sounds too good, nobody is ready to believe it.”
He is of the opinion that the recent success in Andhra Pradesh and the three successive drought years have forced the government to look into this viable alternative.
What is ZBNF?
Aligned with nature, ZBNF demands farmers recreate a diverse ecosystem in their farms, without any external inputs, such as chemical fertilizers or pesticides. And, in the process, it eliminates water and labour requirements, thus, making farming economically and ecologically sustainable. The produce is poison-free as the soil is devoid of any inorganic pesticide or fertilizer, benefitting both the farmer and the consumer.
This process was pioneered by Maharashtra-based agriculturalist and Padma Shri awardee Subhash Palekar.