Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF), which is a set of farming methods, and also a grassroots peasant movement, has spread to various states in India. It has attained wide success in southern India, especially the southern Indian state of Karnataka where it first evolved.
It is, basically, a natural farming technique that uses biological pesticides instead of chemical-based fertilizers. Farmers use earthworms, cow dung, urine, plants, human excreta and such biological fertilizers for crop protection. Intercropping and Contour Bunds are some of the techniques of ZBNF. It reduces farmers’ investment. It also protects the soil from degradation.
It is considered ‘zero budget’ because the costs of the main crop are offset by the income that farmers earn from intercrops during the agricultural season.
ZBNF brings improvements in yield, soil conservation, seed diversity, quality of produce, household food autonomy, income, and health.
The four pillars of ZNBF:
(i) Water vapour condensation for better soil moisture
(ii) Seed treatment with cow dung and urine based formulations
(iv) Ensure soil fertility through cow dung and cow urine based concoctions.
(i) Economic benefits over conventional farming practices:
- Low input cost: Agriculture in its prevailing form requires farmers to rely heavily on inorganic external chemical inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides.
- Zero budget’ farming promises to end a reliance on loans and drastically cut production costs, ending the debt cycle for desperate farmers.
- Higher yield: Besides reduced input cost, farmers practising ZBNF gets higher yields.
(ii) Food and nutritional security:
As a result of increased crop yields, ZBNF farmers may be able to improve food and nutritional security for their families.
(iii) It has the ability to solve the food and farm crisis in the country by cutting the cost of production and doubling productivity and production.
(iv) Net income raised: There will be increase in net income for farmers and will improve the cash flow of poor and vulnerable farmers, and may enhance their ability to deal with economic shock.
Crop cutting experiments from 2016 and 2017 indicate that ZBNF farmers in AP earn better net incomes and can raise their disposable incomes.
(v) In the long-run, due to the use of local inputs, the project is likely to contribute to maintaining the genetic diversity of seeds and crops.
(vi) Environmental benefits:
- It is free from health hazards, as no chemical or organic materials are used for farming.
- It utilises only natural resources as inputs. It also increases the fertility of the soil.
- By reducing the need for irrigation and eliminating external chemical inputs, ZBNF could reduce the material footprint per capita and material footprint per unit of value added in agriculture.
- Zero budget natural farming eliminates chemical fertilisers and pesticides, and would help reduce ocean acidification and marine pollution from land-based activities.
The implementation of this project at scale will impact a multitude of stakeholders, and also help India progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations (UN) to facilitate the post-2015 development agenda