• Helen Avery

India Moves to Zero Budget Natural Farming

Updated: Oct 10, 2019

In Andhra Pradesh state in India there has been a natural farming revolution.

Started by Rythu Sadhi- kara Samstha (a not-for-profit organization owned by the Andhra Pradesh government) and now supported by international organizations including the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Agroforestry Centre and BNP Paribas, the Sustainable India Finance Facility (Siff) is designed to leverage private finance for public good.

The goal of the stakeholders is to eliminate reliance on agrochemicals to improve land resiliency and biodiversity, and save farmers from the debt-trap of spending money on inputs, and the government from the costs of input subsidies.

At its foundation lies a simple recipe: mix cow dung, urine, molasses and pulse flour. Leave outside for three days.

“It stinks to high heaven, but it works better than any chemical fertilizer, producing higher yields without depleting the soil,” says Pavan Sukhdev, president of WWF International. To prevent insects from damaging crops, lilac and green chilies are added to the mix and, to protect the soil, mulch is used.

Siff is facilitating with stakeholders an investment of $2.3 billion to help convert farmers to the Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) method. The money will be paid back by the cost savings of $900 million annually that the state spends on fertilizer and agrochemical subsidies. “It will take five years to convert six million farmers,” says Satya Tripathi, UN assistant secretary-general. “With natural substances as inputs, their yields were better.” So-named Master Farmers (many of them women) are then paid to train other farmers outside their communities in this method of farming. Now some 700,000 farmers have already transitioned to ZBNF.

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