Agroecology is recognised worldwide as a system that enhances fertile landscapes, increases yields, restores soil health and biodiversity, promotes climate resilience and improves farmers’ well-being.
The National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, based on a brainstorming session that included industry representatives, sent a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi opposing Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF). ZBNF, developed and publicised by agro-scientist Subhash Palekar, has been adopted by Andhra Pradesh.
Threat to powerful elites –
Farming in India, as in most other countries, is largely under the control of powerful lobbies with vested interests and connections to deep pockets. These include fossil fuel, fertiliser and seed companies as well as scientists with funding connections to agribusiness. These lobbies perceive large-scale transitions to agroecology as a substantial threat to their influence on farming systems.
Threat to biodiversity –
What hangs in the balance while these battles are being fought is the threat to food systems and biodiversity. As a result of industrial farming, friendly insects are no longer part of the agricultural landscape, water pollution is rampant, depleted soils are commonplace and plunging groundwater tables have become the norm. The opportunity cost incurred from investing only in industrial methods of agriculture is one that has been borne largely by the farming community and the natural systems.
A battle of ego –
- The current battle on ZBNF is between those powerfully entrenched and new voices of state and civil society. Quarrels among the powerful in one camp or another have become a clash of egos.
- The most prominent voice for ZBNF is Mr. Palekar’s and the developing experiment is showing success largely because farmers are supporting it. The practice may not be all zero budget, may not be fully successful everywhere and will need to be adapted to India’s various agroecological zones.
Andhra Pradesh experiment –
The funds for the Andhra model (₹16,500 crore) are reportedly going mostly to train farmers. This is small in comparison with huge subsidies for the Green Revolution and the numerous lobbies it has spawned. So, while the enemy is being made out to be Mr. Palekar and his methods, this is a red herring. The real attack is on agroecology, for the threat it poses to entrenched institutions.
Correcting the anomalies –
We presently have a subsidy-based agricultural system where farm inputs are firmly in the hands of corporations and their elite networks. Agroecology-based farming is not regressive, but rather a technology of the future with a traditional idiom.
Farmers appear to be listening to and following Mr. Palekar. If policymakers ignore the posturing and stay focussed on improving soil health and quality of life for farmers, while observing and supporting successes, farmers may even double their incomes and India’s food security could sow new beginnings.
Source – The Hindu
Also read: 25th September – Inequality of another kind
Question – Zero Budget Natural Farming is getting increased focus due to agro-ecological reasons but it may not be a universal model of farming to double farmers’ income.