To leverage the many socioeconomic and environmental benefits of natural farming for boosting farmers’ welfare, consumer health, food security and nutrition, NITI Aayog has organized a two-day (29–30 September) national-level consultation with relevant stakeholders.
Addressing the conference, Union Minster of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar stressed that natural farming has been practised in India over the centuries, and lauded NITI Aayog’s efforts to spearhead the implementation of natural farming across the country. He mentioned that the Union Agriculture Ministry has allocated a budget to promote the practice. Proposals on natural farming by Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Chhattisgarh have also been considered and approvals accorded for their implementation.
Governor of Gujarat Acharya Devvrat said that in the next five years, 12 lakh hectares will be brought under natural farming in the state. He mentioned that approximately 1.20 lakh farmers in Gujarat adopted natural farming during the ongoing kharif season and another 5.50 lakh were interested in the practice. The governor enumerated on the many benefits of the practice—the input cost in natural farming tends to be ‘zero’; the requirement of irrigation is reduced to 60–70%, with an increase in organic carbon level from 0.5 to 0.9. The marketing of such produce faces no constraints, where the unit price of premium quality wheat can be marketed at Rs 4000 per quintal instead of the conventional rate of Rs1900.
Applauding the efforts of the Agriculture Ministry to publicize the beneficial aspects of natural farming, NITI Aayog VC Dr Raijv Kumar mentioned that currently the acceptance and adoption of the practice is still in a transitionary stage. However, India looks forward to the implementation of natural farming as a jan andolan, keeping pace with the science to back it, to emerge as a net agri-exporter. NITI Aayog Member (Agriculture) Prof. Ramesh Chand mentioned that the issues related to the creation of a new policy environment, product identity, value chain and marketing would be taken care of as a future course of action. Emphasizing on the importance of agriculture in economic development, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said there was a need to build a common understanding and workable strategies to push natural farming to maintain continuity in the food supply system.
The two-day consultation has four technical sessions—natural farming (national and global perspectives); natural farming for pan-India adoption and success stories; natural farming (adoption and impact evaluation); and natural farming (farmers’ organization, experiences, and challenges)—headed by NITI Aayog Member (Agriculture) Prof. Ramesh Chand; Acharya Devvrat; and Kaadsiddeshwar Swami Ji, Kaneri Math, Kolhapur.
The consultation hopes to deliver a systematic approach for the adoption and implementation of natural farming at the farm level; identify an extension-cum-training programme to be undertaken by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research through Krishi Vigyan Kendras, State agriculture departments, the private sector, cooperatives and NGOs; and develop a document on success stories/best practices, with the scientific background required to manage crop health and production.
Central and state government officials, scientists and experts from agriculture universities and institutions, trusts and NGOs associated with natural farming, and representatives from international organizations and farmers’ associations are part of the consultation.