Farming is the bedrock of India’s economy—43 per cent of its population are employed in agriculture. Yet, paradoxically, around 60 per cent of India’s people is likely to experience severe food shortages by 2050.
Climate change impacts—including crop losses due to global heating—unregulated use of fertilizers and pesticides leading that degrade the soils, deplete groundwater and cause health hazards; costly seeds, inputs and high interest rates on loans are among the challenges facing India’s agricultural sector. The latter are leading to chronic farmer indebtedness and are causing great distress to farming families.
“High-input based agriculture that has been practised since the green revolution of the 1960s is one of the causes of these problems,” says Harpinder Sandhu, Senior Lecturer, University of South Australia, Australia, and close collaborator with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on agriculture and food issues. “It is not an option in future, and hence farmers are looking for alternatives.”
Zero budget natural farming is a form of agricultural system redesign being practised at scale in India, particularly in the state of Andhra Pradesh. It is an emerging set of agricultural practices designed dramatically to reduce farmers’ direct costs (hence “zero budget”) while boosting yields and farm health through the use of non-synthetic inputs sourced locally (“natural farming”).
Andhra Pradesh has set out the aim of “rolling out” this approach to all 6 million of the state’s farmers through a state-led programme of training and extension.
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