India’s agriculture ministry is ready with a new central scheme to promote natural farming in the country with an estimated outlay of Rs 2,500 crore. The proposed scheme aims to adopt a complementary and cluster approach, to begin with and will focus on intensive handholding of farmers practising natural farming, marketing of the products and providing extension services, among other activities.
The objective of the scheme is not the conversion of chemical farming but promoting natural farming in areas where chemical farming has not reached yet. For instance, chemical farming is not much practised in dryland areas.
This new scheme on natural farming is expected to be tabled shortly before the cabinet for approval. It has been designed on the lines of prime minister Narendra Modi’s appeal to look for alternatives for existing fertiliser and pesticide-based farming.
After several rounds of consultations with stakeholders, a draft scheme on natural farming has been framed in order to promote natural farming with a systematic approach without disturbing the existing systems of farming, said a government official to PTI.
The government in the Union Budget 2022 has also announced the promotion of chemical-free natural farming throughout the country, starting with fields within a 5-km corridor along the Ganga river.
In India, natural farming is promoted as Bharatiya Prakritik Krishi Paddhati Programme (BPKP) under the centrally sponsored scheme Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY). The BPKP programme has been adopted in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala.
It is roughly estimated that around 2.5 million farmers in India are already practising regenerative agriculture. In the next five years, it is expected to reach 20 lakh hectares – in any form of organic farming, including natural farming, of which 12 lakh hectares are under BPKP, the Aayog said on its website. Several studies have reported the effectiveness of natural farming BPKP in terms of increase in production, sustainability, saving of water use, improvement in soil health and farmland ecosystem. It is considered a cost-effective farming practice with scope for raising employment and rural development.