Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF)

QUES. What do you understand by Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF)? Discuss its significance especially in the Indian context.

Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) is a farm practice that calls for use of natural resources and no chemicals or insecticides.

The word Zero Budget refers to the zero net cost of production of all crops (inter crops, border crops, multi crops). The inputs used for seed treatments and other inocluations are locally available in the form of cowdung and cow urine.

ZBNF is a holistic alternative to the present paradigm of high-cost chemical inputs-based agriculture. It is very effective in addressing the uncertainties of climate change. ZBNF principles are in harmony with the principles of Agroecology.

Its uniqueness is that it is based on the latest scientific discoveries in Agriculture, and, at the same time it is rooted in Indian tradition. UN-FAO in April 2018 urged all countries to move towards the adoption of Agroecology to meet the twin goals of global food security and conservation of the environment.

Background

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.

More than a quarter of a million farmers have
committed suicide in India in the last two decades. Various studies have linked farmer’s suicides to
debt. 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.

Four wheels of ZBNF

The father of ZBNF and Padma Shri Awardee, Sh. Subash Palekar has provided four important non-negotiable guidelines: Bijamrita (Seed Treatment using local cowdung and cow urine), Jiwamrita (applying inoculation made of local cowdung and cow urine without any fertilizers and pesticides), Acchadana /Mulching (activities to ensure favorable microclimate in the soil), and Waaphasa (soil aeration).

Which crops are best suited for this technique?

It suits all crops in all agro-climatic zones. We can even grow apples using this technique. The low-cost environmental friendly farming method is being practised in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and Chhattisgarh (among others).

Why should farmers take this up?

They will get more yields in the first year of ZBNF adoption. It drastically reduces their investment. They don’t need to go to money lenders as there are no investments involved. They need not worry about the rise in prices of inputs as they require none. Since there is no need for loans, governments need not announce loan waivers.

It consumes only 10 per cent of the water that crops consume in conventional methods. With one cow (for urine and dung) one can practice ZBNF on 30 acres and make profits from the very first year.

Unlike conventional agriculture and organic farming, ZBNF doesn’t result in emissions of greenhouse gases.

What are the key takeaways for governments?

If farmers practise ZBNF, they will earn more money per acre. This will help stop migration to urban areas and create employment for the youth. As Artificial Intelligence and automation are killing jobs, agriculture will be a major job provider if we practise ZBNF. It is the way forward.