What percentage of Indian population is dependent on agriculture 2022. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman underlined the government’s commitment to honest, chemical-free, organic, and zero-budget farming in her budget speech. It is the third time in the last four budget talks that natural farming (with no money) has been mentioned.
While the FM mentioned supporting natural or chemical-free farming across the country, particularly in a corridor in the Gangetic basin, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has received no specific funding. In reality, existing programs like the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana and the National Project on Organic Farming were not included in the budget. However, we expect that the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, which has seen a 4.2-fold increase in funding (year-on-year) to Rs 10,433 crore, will set aside some monies for chemical-free agricultural implementation on the ground. Here are eight proposals for scaling up chemical-free farming as the ministry plans to use RKVY funds.
To begin, promote natural farming in rain-fed locations outside the Gangetic basin. Rainfed regions, which are home to half of India’s farmers, utilize a third of the fertilizers per acre compared to places where irrigation is common. In certain areas, the transition to chemical-free farming will be easier. Farmers will also benefit because crop yields in these areas are now poor. While researching ways to scale up natural farming in Rajasthan, we discovered that farmers, particularly those from tribal populations that practice rainfed agriculture, were more interested.
Second, let farmers moving to chemical-free farming to be automatically enrolled in the government’s crop insurance scheme, the PM Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY). Any change in agriculture, such as crop diversification or agricultural practices, increases the farmer’s risk.
Third, encourage the development of microenterprises that manufacture chemical-free agricultural inputs. The absence of readily available natural inputs is frequently highlighted by farmers as a hurdle to chemical-free agriculture. Not every farmer has the time, patience, or labor resources to create their inputs. Combine the development of natural farming with the establishment of village-level input preparation and sales outlets to meet this problem.
Fourth, enlist the help of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and champion farmers who have been advocating for and practicing sustainable agriculture across the country. According to CEEW research, at least five million farmers are already practicing sustainable agriculture, and hundreds of NGOs promote it.
Fifth, in addition to changing the curriculum in agricultural universities, agriculture extension personnel should be upskilled in sustainable agriculture methods.
Sixth, use community institutions to raise awareness, inspire people, and provide social support. Put another way. The government should foster an environment in which farmers can learn from and assist one another as they make the change. Support monitoring and impact studies as the seventh step. Such evaluations would guarantee a well-informed strategy for sustainable agriculture expansion. Finally, align the millet promotion goal to promote sustainable agriculture. Why not promote chemical-free millets and raise awareness about both instead of keeping them separate?
Demand, production, and supply chains need to be transformed in India’s food system. Let’s hope that 2022-23 is the turning point in our journey to a chemical-free food system when we turn our intentions into action.