“It is not possible to get instant returns from Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF). But the practice yields good benefits in the long run,” observes Chinta Divya Sundara Rama Reddy, who has been cultivating paddy by adopting the ZBNF method for the last three consecutive crop seasons.
A native of Arthamuru village of Mandapeta mandal in East Godavari district, Mr. Reddy is one among the few farmers who switched to the reinvented method of ancient farm practice.
No synthetic fertilizers
“There is a big no to synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Instead, we are using animal dung as fertilizer and cow urine and neem decoction as pesticide,” says the 49-year-old farmer, who owns three acres of land and runs a photo studio in the village.
Before adopting ZBNF, Mr. Reddy used to spend ₹25,000 per acre on farm expenses per season, of which about ₹10,000 was for fertilizers and pesticides.
“The output used to be about 42 bags per acre. Now, I am able to save ₹10,000, but the yield has come down by 10 bags to 32 bags per acre,” he explains.
Mr. Reddy, however, is seeing the brighter side of the farm practice in the form of steady increase in yield and better pricing for the produce.
“At present, 12,250 farmers from 32 mandals are in the ambit of ZBNF. They are cultivating various crops, including paddy, cotton, and orchards, in an extent of about 12,000 acres across the district. In all, ZBNF is adopted in 36 clusters and the idea is to encourage more and more farmers to switch to natural farming,” says K. Parthasarathi, district project manager of ZBNF.
On their part, the officials are encouraging the farmers by way of offering subsidies on construction of cattle sheds and making of natural fertilizer and pesticides.
“We are encouraging the farmers to mix agriculture with aqua and horticultures by way of digging a small pond in the farm and cultivating vegetables, fruits, and flowers on the bunds,” he explains.
“Marketing the produce is a major challenge. As I can afford the delay in marketing, I am selling the organic rice in a phased manner. Once the channels of marketing the produce are opened, more and more farmers will take up ZBNF in the near future,” says Mr. Reddy, who observes an increase in soil health and improvement in the quality of grain in the current crop season.
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