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What is zero-budget farming? A game-changer for farmers

By Simran Kashyap
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New Delhi, July 05: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the first budget of Modi 2.0 government today. In her maiden speech, Sitharaman made some big-bang announcements for rural India, including zero-budget farming. She suggested to replicate the innovative model of zero Budget farming.

Earlier, the Economic Survey had also suggested that adoption of 'Zero Budget Natural Farming' along with application of appropriate technologies will make agriculture sustainable for the 12.5 crore small and marginal farmers.

What is zero-budget farming? A game-changer for farmers

What is zero-budget farming?

The term "zero budget" refers to the zero net cost of production, with farmers' income improving the less they spend on inputs. Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) is a set of farming methods, and also a grassroots peasant movement, which has spread to various states in India.

Under this method, chemical fertilizers and pesticides make way for locally available cow dung and cow urine, jaggery and pulse flour. It's currently in practice in Andhra.

It has attained wide success in southern India, especially the southern Indian state of Karnataka where it first evolved.

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The movement in Karnataka state was born out of collaboration between Subhash Palekar, who put together the zero budget natural farming (ZBNF) practices, and the state farmers association Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS), a member of La Via Campesina (LVC).

The neoliberalization of the Indian economy led to a deep agrarian crisis that is making small scale farming an unviable vocation.

Privatized seeds, inputs, and markets are inaccessible and expensive for peasants. Indian farmers increasingly find themselves in a vicious cycle of debt, because of the high production costs, high interest rates for credit, the volatile market prices of crops, the rising costs of fossil fuel based inputs, and private seeds.

Debt is a problem for farmers of all sizes in India.

Under such conditions, 'zero budget' farming promises to end a reliance on loans and drastically cut production costs, ending the debt cycle for desperate farmers. The word 'budget' refers to credit and expenses, thus the phrase 'Zero Budget' means without using any credit, and without spending any money on purchased inputs. 'Natural farming' means farming with Nature and without chemicals.

It should be noted that states like Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh are also now introducing ZBNF, and UNEP ultimately hopes that Andhra Pradesh will also provide an agricultural blueprint that can be adapted to other areas of the world.

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