• Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) is a set of farming methods, and also a grassroots peasant movement, which has spread to various states in India.
  • It has attained wide success in southern India, especially the southern Indian state of Karnataka where it first evolved.  
  • The movement in Karnataka state was born out of collaboration between Mr Subhash Palekar, who put together the ZBNF practices, and the state farmers association Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS), a member of La Via Campesina (LVC).
  • The neoliberalization of the Indian economy led to a deep agrarian crisis that is making small scale farming an unviable vocation.
  • Privatized seeds, inputs, and markets are inaccessible and expensive for peasants. Indian farmers increasingly find themselves in a vicious cycle of debt, because of the high production costs, high interest rates for credit, the volatile market prices of crops, the rising costs of fossil fuel based inputs, and private seeds.
  • Debt is a problem for farmers of all sizes in India. Under such conditions, ‘zero budget’ farming promises to end a reliance on loans and drastically cut production costs, ending the debt cycle for desperate farmers.
  • The word ‘budget’ refers to credit and expenses, thus the phrase ‘Zero Budget’ means without using any credit, and without spending any money on purchased inputs. ‘Natural farming’ means farming with Nature and without chemicals.
  • The success of climate-resilient, Zero Budget Natural Farming will not only help India in meeting its SDGs but it can also inspire and transform the lives of millions of farmers across the developing world.
  • The scale-out of ZBNF will promote regenerative agriculture, improve soil biodiversity and productivity, and ensure decent livelihoods to smallholder farmers, who grow so much of the food people consume but receive so little reward for their labour.
  • As both a social and environmental programme, it aims to ensure that farming – particularly smallholder farming – is economically viable by enhancing farm biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • It reduces farmers’ costs through eliminating external inputs and using in-situ resources to rejuvenate soils, whilst simultaneously increasing incomes, and restoring ecosystem health through diverse, multi-layered cropping systems.
  • Zero Budget Natural Farming also aims to create the social capital necessary for vibrant and inclusive agricultural production, by establishing farmers’ federations and self-help groups, and placing farmers at the forefront of knowledge creation and dissemination.
  • Considering its impressive scale, an effective shift to a 100% natural farming state with 8 million hectares free of chemical contamination will achieve transformative impacts in India.
  • In addition, it will provide a blueprint for an inclusive agricultural model, which takes into account diversity of people along with agro-climatic conditions and can be adapted to varying global contexts to reduce vulnerabilities to climate change.
  • Moreover, as 14 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals are dependent on the status of natural resources, the health of communities, access to secure nutrition, and empowerment of women, ZBNF constitutes an effective cross-sectoral strategy for achieving SDGs targets.
  • ZBNF builds on agroecological principles, that are at the heart of sound integrative, systems science, with the promise of resilient and productive landscapes that offer the kinds multiple benefits for society and ecology that our Planet sorely needs today from all of its landscapes.
  • It, therefore, sets the pace and the agenda for all of us.
  • The world is running out of time to reverse the climate change trajectory, which is precisely why it is crucial to engage and invest in a new paradigm championing regenerative agriculture with significant positive externalities.