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What is Zero Budget Natural Farming and Why It Is Important?

Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) is a holistic alternative to high input cost based agriculture

Shivani Meena

ZBNF (Zero Budget Natural Farming) is a collection of farming techniques as well as a grassroots peasant movement that has grown across India. It has had widespread popularity in southern India, particularly in the state of Karnataka, where it began. 

The Key Concept Behind Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) 

A set of agricultural systems involving zero credit for agriculture and no usage of chemical fertilizers is known as zero budget farming. 

  • "Zero budget" refers to using no credit and spending no money on purchased inputs  

  • "Natural farming" refers to farming that is done in harmony with nature and without the usage of fertilizers.

How Did ZBNF come about? 

It was established in the mid-1990s by Maharashtrian agriculturist and Padma Shri recipient Subhash Palekar as an alternative to the Green Revolution's tactics of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, as well as intense irrigation. He maintained that the growing expense of these external inputs was a primary source of farmer indebtedness and suicide, while the effect of chemicals on the environment and long-term fertility was terrible. The cost of production might be minimized and farming could become a "zero budget" exercise, ending the debt cycle for many small farmers. 

What are the four pillars of Zero Budget Natural Farming?

The ZBNF encourages the use of jeevamrutha – a mixture of fresh desi cow dung and old desi cow urine, jaggery, pulse flour, water, and soil — on fields instead of commercially made agrochemicals. 

Seeds are treated with a similar mixture called bijamrita, and insect and pest management mixtures are made using neem leaves and pulp, tobacco, and green chilies. 

It also encourages the adoption of Acchadana, which preserves topsoil during agriculture and prevents it from being destroyed by tilling.  

The fourth and last major pillar is Whapasa, a condition when the soil has both water molecules and air present. ZBNF technique thus aids in reducing the irrigation needs of the farmers. 

Why does ZBNF matter? 

According to data from the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), about 70% of agricultural households spend more than they make, with more than half of all farmers in debt. Debt levels are near 90% in states like Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, with each household carrying an average debt of Rs. 1 lakh.

Natural farming methods like the ZBNF, which lessen farmers' need on loans to purchase inputs they cannot afford, are being evaluated as part of the Central government's promise to double farmers' income by 2022. Intercropping, on the other hand, provides for higher profits. 

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