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Research Paper Warns Against Hastily Shift Entirely to Natural Farming

While ZBNF holds promise in addressing agricultural challenges, the paper urges caution and emphasizes the need for further research and experimentation.

Saurabh Shukla
Academic Paper Warns Against Hastily Shift Entirely to Natural Farming (Photo Source: pixabay)
Academic Paper Warns Against Hastily Shift Entirely to Natural Farming (Photo Source: pixabay)

In a collaborative academic paper, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) and the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) expressed concerns about the hasty implementation of Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) in India. Research paper titled 'Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF): Implications for Sustainability, Profitability, and Food Security,' sheds light on the complexities surrounding the transition to natural farming methods.

Reports Disparities

The research paper highlights significant disparities in research findings regarding ZBNF, particularly between studies conducted by different institutions. Findings from studies conducted by the Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESS) and the Institute for Development Studies Andhra Pradesh (IDSAP) differed from those by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Indian Institute of Farming Systems Research (IIFSR). Such disparities underscore the challenge of assessing the implications of ZBNF on sustainability, profitability, and food security.

Disparity in Production

One of the key revelations of the study is the production disparity between ZBNF and conventional farming methods. Despite the lower input costs associated with ZBNF, the study found that returns for ZBNF farmers were hindered by lower yields. Notably, basmati rice and wheat yields were significantly lower under the ZBNF system compared to integrated crop management (ICM). The study predicts a substantial decline in yields if ZBNF is adopted on a large scale, raising concerns about its impact on national food production.

Niche Markets

While acknowledging the success of organic farming in niche markets, the paper warns against a complete shift to organic practices. It stresses the importance of resilient supply chain networks for farm inputs required in natural farming, cautioning against potential disruptions in the absence of such infrastructure.

Need for Long-Term Research:

In light of the disparities in research findings, the paper advocates for long-term experimentation and thorough research before advocating for nationwide adoption of ZBNF. It calls for comprehensive studies and third-party surveillance to evaluate the impact of ZBNF on the environment, output sustainability, and overall agricultural productivity.

Lessons from Sri Lanka:

Drawing parallels with the Sri Lankan food crisis, where an abrupt transition to organic farming led to widespread crop failures, the paper emphasizes the importance of preparatory actions before transitioning to natural farming methods like ZBNF. It underscores the need for careful planning and gradual implementation to avoid adverse consequences.

The paper suggests several measures to mitigate potential risks associated with the switch to natural farming, including farmer and consumer education, infrastructure development, and maintaining robust supply chains.

What is ZBNF:

ZBNF emerged as a chemical-free agricultural method inspired by traditional Indian practices. Led by Subhash Palekar, ZBNF aims to reduce farmer indebtedness and promote sustainability by minimizing reliance on external inputs. The methodology employs natural fertilizers, pest management techniques, and soil conservation practices to enhance soil fertility and productivity.

It advocates for an advanced approach and thorough evaluation before advocating for widespread adoption of ZBNF as a nationwide agricultural practice.

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