Zero-Budget Natural Farming: Process and Advantages

Zero-budget natural farming or ZBNF is a chemical-free farming method Zero-budget natural farming or ZBNF is a chemical-free farming method

Zero-budget natural farming or ZBNF is a chemical-free farming method. It is drawn from traditional Indian agricultural practices. The word ‘budget’ refers to spending on farming inputs, thus the phrase ‘Zero Budget’ i.e. no spending involved. ‘Natural farming’ means farming with natural products and without chemicals.

The idea was initially promoted by Maharashtrian agriculturist and Padma Shri recipient Subhash Palekar, in the mid-1990s. It was developed as an alternative to conventional farming methods driven by chemical fertilizers, pesticides and intensive irrigation.

The use of chemical fertilizers is one of the major causes of farmers’ indebtedness and it has a devastating impact on the fertility of the soil. ‘Zero budget natural farming’ promises to end a reliance on loans and drastically cut production costs, ending the debt cycle for small farmers.

ZBNF is based on 4 pillars

Instead of chemical inputs, ZBNF promotes the use of organic products such as a mixture of fresh desi cow dung and urine, jaggery, pulse flour, water and soil. There are 4 types of organic manure: jeevamrutha, bijamrita, acchadana and whapasa.

  • Jeevamrutha: It is a mixture of fresh cow dung and aged cow urine, jaggery, pulse flour, water and soil. This is applied on farmland instead of fertilizers.
  • Bijamrita: It is a concoction of neem leaves & pulp, tobacco and green chilies prepared for insect and pest management.
  • Acchadana: This protects topsoil during cultivation and does not destroy it by tilling. It promotes ventilation and water retention in the soil.
  • Whapasa: Mr. Palekar says that both air molecules and water molecules are present in the soil. This is the ‘Whapasa’ condition. Hence the plants can survive on air and water present in soil and don’t require extra hydration. He encourages the reduction of irrigation also.

About 200 litres of jeevamrutha should be sprayed twice a month per acre of land. If the process is followed rigorously, after three years the system will become self-sustaining. One single cow’s dung and urine are enough for 30 acres of land.

According to the Economic Survey, more than 1.6 lakh farmers from 1000 villages are practising ZBNF. These farmers own a small plot of land and have some access to irrigation. They also own at least one cow. They are getting some form of state govt support also. Large-scale training camps are regularly organised to educate farmers about zero-budget natural farming.

Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Karnataka and Uttarakhand have developed ZBNF methods in the respective states and have also trained their farmers.

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