A roadmap for India’s natural farming ambitions

News: In her budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman reaffirmed the Centre’s commitment to natural, chemical-free, organic, and zero-budget farming.

On the lines to develop chemical-free farming, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, has been given a larger allocation of Rs 10,433 crore.

In this context, eight suggestions are given by experts to scale up chemical-free farming.

What are the eight suggestions given by experts to scale up chemical-free farming?

First, focus on promoting natural farming in rainfed areas beyond the Gangetic basin. The reasons are,

One, rainfed regions are home to half of India’s farmers. They use only a third of the fertilizers per hectare compared to the areas where irrigation is prevalent.

Two, the shift to chemical-free farming will be easier in these regions. Further, it will help the farmers to gain as the current crop yields in these areas are low.

Three, research also shows that there is higher interest among farmers from these areas, especially from tribal communities, who practice rainfed agriculture.

Second, enable automatic enrolment of farmers transitioning to chemical-free farming into the government’s crop insurance scheme, PM Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY).

Any transition in agriculture adds to the farmer’s risk. Covering such risks could enhance the appetite of the farmers to embark on the transition.

Third, promote microenterprises that produce inputs for chemical-free agriculture. Because lack of readily available natural inputs has been a persistent barrier for farmers in transitioning to chemical-free agriculture.

To address this challenge, combine the promotion of natural farming with the setting up of village-level input preparation and sales shops. Two shops per village across the country could provide a livelihood to at least five million youth and women.

Fourth, leverage NGOs and champion farmers who have been promoting and practicing sustainable agriculture across the country. Because, learning from peers, especially champion farmers, through on-field demonstrations has proved highly effective in scaling up chemical-free agriculture in Andhra Pradesh.

Fifth, need to evolve the curriculum in agricultural universities, upskill the agriculture extension workers on sustainable agriculture practices.

Sixth, leverage community institutions for awareness generation, inspiration, and social support.

Seventh, support monitoring and impact studies. Such assessments would ensure an informed approach to scaling up sustainable agriculture.

Finally, dovetail the ambition on millet promotion with the aim to promote sustainable agriculture.

Source: This post is based on the article “A roadmap for India’s natural farming ambitions” published in Indian Express on 24th Feb 2022.

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