Sampurn Krishi Utthaan Foundation

Zero Budget Farming — A Reality Check for Organic Farming in India.

While I read, “I too had a dream” by Verghese Kurien. The thing that stuck to my mind was Amul became successful due to presence of Bombay (A potential market) nearby it and again Managing the surplus milk (Food Processing) produced by the cooperative (Again a great way of dealing trivial problems by individuals) and of course the WORK ETHICS imparted by Kurien. While talking any innovative way of doing farming whether Chemical or Natural and again claiming higher yield and quality produce, It is seen successful only when farmers get well paid, also getting net profit and they think their hard work pays off. Seeing Organic boom nearby Bangalore, you can think of organic farming is a sure shot profitable model but I know you didn’t miss the branding, marketing and promotions and yes awareness of people(customers) about organic food. That means farmers need Agri-preneur to guide them and build a supply chain for their perishable items if there exist a potential market. While I am quoting example of Dairy farming, you need to see that open field farming is again susceptible to adverse weather patterns, that’s why sustainability is again issue for the farmers and you are seeing boom in Hydroponics due to protected cultivation methodology, controlled Nutrition management and all. So what I have discussed till now is the common thing that any product based company needs; Work ethics, Skillfulness, Understanding of Market Supply-Demand, Supply chain, Branding, Marketing. Let’s come to the point that Why SOPs (Standard Operating procedures) are lagging in Agriculture specially in Natural/Organic Farming. When the word is used Zero Budget, don’t be misguided because here only input materials that you are buying from retail stores are made almost zero, not the EFFORTS to your farm. Efforts either done by you solely because of your enthusiasm and connection with Nature or farm labourers. More labourers means more operational cost and also less mechanisation is possible due to nature of organic farming inputs and methodology of doing farming. Subhash Palekar Sir who coined the term Zero Budget Natural Farming recommended Neemastra, Agniastra, Bhramastra as organic pesticides that need to be self made by farmers and the raw materials (leaves of different trees) that are needed for above is not available in every location that means you need to buy them from other sources, so it is not Zero Budget. Untill and Unless you want to develop a model ZBNF farm and grow these trees in your farm itself to make it more sustainable. Again when I used the word tree means you need to be patient for all these years when trees and mature enough. Yes, trees will help to have an ecosystem of beneficial pests that will help you in the integrated pest management techniques. That’s why you are seeing rise in organic farmers but rather they are Agri-preneurs not the conventional farmers who developed their farm after making lots of mistakes again and again. You will see succes rate of ZBNF higher in Multi-Cropping techniques that means you are telling farmers need to be more skillfull about timing of sowing and harvesting of crops. They were literally enjoying spreading Urea and harvesting the crops and we are telling them first to unlearn the things and then develop a discipline, feel the transition loss and start learning (and then proper executing) frequently about farming in the country where education means the degree for the majority. While starting ZBNF the common issues that Jharkhand farmers are getting availability of cow dung itself, no no don’t get me wrong. We need cow dung of Desi Cows not the Jersey one. You cannot make Jeevamrita from Jersey cow dung, it will give results as good as Desi one. But when you see, there is already a Value chain difference in chemical farming for marginal and small farmers because they buy inputs in Retail and sell their produce in wholesale, how can they be profitable so while shifting to Natural/Organic farming how can they buy 5 Tractors of cow dung from other sources it will have Overhead cost of loading, unloading, transportation too. So our Rishi Krishi is telling to have your own Cow. That’s drastically reduces your manure cost but again require skill set to maintain atleast a single cow. May be concept looks like Utopian but Cow based farming is the basis of Zero Budget Natural Farming. Steve jobs when came to India and saw intuition is common for even common people, you can see the size of unorganised sector in India itself, so I believe there is genetic benefit of having 5000 year old civilization to adopt age old techniques. When idea of Organic Farming popped up around the world, suddenly the very own people of our country came out of their inferiority complex (everything that comes from west with branding is always superior) and started preaching Natural farming (Desi kheti) but they severely lacked scientific temperament that leads them to have no SOPs. Some mixed Socialism, Communsim, HyperNationalism with Organic farming, some Spirituality and so on. Every sessions by these Gurus became full of Philosophies and Gyaan and made farmers more confused and by Nature all these Gurus are at pole end not respecting other’s way of doing farming and then thing became worst by sharing stories of Making crores, lakhs by the farmers and not focussing how they achieved this feat or how they got better pricing. They are making their own Clickbait Videos and articles to earn revenue from social media, they have their own techniques of earning. Then came Organic Certification Agencies; like corporates getting ISO certifications using unethical means, it became popular too. So the concept of tracking your farm produce came and yes it is better way of tackling unethical practices and also provided a typical farm house visit and served a nice weekend experience also reduced the organic produce pricing and made in the range of purchasing power of small cities like Ranchi, Jharkhand too. Don’t be confused by hearing so many school of thoughts of farming in organic itself. India is full of different Cultures, Geography and Climate. There is bound to have diversity in the way of doing farming and practices that they follow either related to their festivals or Religion. One thing is for sure when the generation is going to use ALEXA for switching off the lights, how can you push farmers more towards manual efforts. It’s human civilization that taught us that we became more lazy and having lesser physical strength with the time. Agriculture was itself a comfort for one point of time from the role of being Hunter and Gatherer. With the time more and more people exiting from agriculture would make profitable for those who are left behind. I would rather not preach Religion or Spirituality but rather focus on dearth need coordination between village people who seriously lack harmony due to differences made between them due to poverty, dowry, poor health, alcoholism, Castesim and other social issues that hinders formation of SHG and societies so every third world country is looking for woman involvement in beating poverty that I believe real woman empowerment than any other examples put by celebrities. So in Budget 2019 When our honourable finance minister Nirmala Mam used the word Zero Budget it is more about developing a way of thinking that leads to Natural Farming while becoming feasible and it is one of the solution for small and marginal farmers. But even ZBNF lacks serious scalability issue so you will not see it throughout the world but SOPs need to be developed region specific to be more executable and practical. Outcomes of ZBNF is wonderful no doubt from rising of ground water level to increase in the nutrient content to have good quality produce having aroma and better shelf life and yes premium tasty food at your dining table. With human you can persuade, you can misguide, cheat, use unethical means. As far as Nature is concerned it will test your perseverance and spirit too.

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