To: July 29th 2019
Shri. Narendra Singh Tomar,
Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare
Government of India.
Sub: On the need for having a set and clear definition for Natural Farming for effective utilisation of funds set aside for its promotion – Reg.
Greetings! We are a national network of farmer unions, civil society organisations working on agriculture as well as rural development, scientists, consumer activists who have been working towards promotion of agriculture practices and supporting policies that ensure ecologically sustainable, socially just and economically viable models of farming in our country.
We welcome that the government is making greater investments on agro-ecology in general, and different approaches within that, including on Natural Farming this year. From the government’s side, this approach being called as “Natural Farming” would be most appropriate, and not Zero Budget Natural Farming or Subhash Palekar Natural Farming (the latter is not an appropriate nomenclature for a government to adopt).
However, to make sure that such approaches follow a broad framework of agro-ecology, there should be some standards or broad guidelines set up so that the investment can be properly monitored, with accountability towards deliverables. It has to be clear what a natural farmer can or cannot do, if she/he has to be termed as a natural farmer, with support coming in from the new budgetary outlays.
Towards that, the first thing to be done is to consider Natural Farming within the ambit of the statutory definition for organic farming, which is in fact an umbrella definition for agro-ecology in all its spectrum of approaches.
To suit the current day crisis of climate change, we might put in a component related to climate resilience for that. Having exposure to ZBNF approaches as well as to the Andhra Pradesh CRZBNF scaling up program, we propose the following definition to be used:
Zero Budget Natural Farming means a system of multi-layered farm design, practices and management to create an ecosystem where the soil microbial activity is enhanced and soil health enriched, including through the use of animal/cow dung and urine, and mulching with available biomass, with mixed cropping that carefully combines leguminous and non-leguminous crop varieties, in addition to integration of tree species, that can achieve sustainable productivity minimising the need to purchase external inputs. Such a system is uncompromising in its prohibition of use of synthetic external inputs such as chemical fertilisers, chemical pesticides, synthetic hormones and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) or products thereof.
Further, it should be ensured that consumers do not get confused with all the terminologies being used by different approaches, and to that extent, Natural Farming farmers would also have to comply with the standards laid down in organic farming, in addition to any other standards to be laid down. This means a completely non-negotiable prohibition of the use of synthetic inputs and transgenics in Natural Farming.
We urge the Ministry of Agriculture to urgently frame a definition and other appropriate guidelines so that the Natural farmers and consumers who get into this value chain follow a set, rigorous system which is non-compromising in the agro-ecological standards that it sets. That way, this publicly funded program can be monitored and made accountable towards clear deliverables. Thank you.
- Ms Alka Bhargava, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare
- Ms Neeraja Adidam, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare