Focus: GS III: Agriculture
Why in News?
The Government of India has launched the National Mission on Natural Farming (NMNF) as a separate and independent scheme to promote chemical-free and climate-smart agriculture.
National Mission on Natural Farming
- The NMNF is a national initiative aimed at promoting natural farming across India, based on the Bhartiya Prakritik Krishi Paddhati (BPKP).
- The mission will cover 7.5 lakh hectares of land, developed into 15,000 clusters, each consisting of 50 or more farmers with at least 50 hectares of land.
- The clusters may be situated within one village or spread across 2-3 nearby villages under the same gram panchayat.
- Participating farmers will receive a financial assistance of ₹15,000 per hectare per year for three years to develop on-farm input production infrastructure, but only if they commit to natural farming and continue with it.
- A web portal has been launched to monitor the implementation progress and provide information on the framework, resources, farmer registration, and blog.
- The agriculture ministry is training master trainers, champion farmers, and practicing farmers in natural farming techniques through the National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management (MANAGE) and National Centre of Organic and Natural Farming (NCONF).
- The Centre aims to establish 15,000 Bhartiya Prakritik Kheti Bio-inputs Resources Centres (BRCs) to provide easy access to bio-resources like cow dung and urine, neem, and bioculture. These BRCs will be set up alongside the proposed 15,000 model clusters of natural farming.
- Natural farming is a chemical-free farming method based on locally available resources.
- It promotes traditional indigenous practices that eliminate external inputs, such as on-farm biomass recycling, desi cow dung-urine formulation, and on-farm botanical concoctions to manage pests.
- The aim is to make farming aspirational by increasing net incomes of farmers and rejuvenating soil health.
Significance of Natural Farming:
- Eliminates health risks and hazards associated with synthetic chemicals in agriculture, leading to higher nutrition density in food and better health benefits.
- Increases farmers’ income by reducing costs, reducing risks, and providing opportunities for intercropping.
- Improves soil health and increases productivity by enhancing the biology of soil, including microbes and living organisms such as earthworms. Issues with Natural Farming:
- Only 52% of India’s Gross Cropped Area (GCA) is irrigated, limiting farmers’ ability to plant more crops.
- Lack of readily available natural inputs can be a barrier for farmers to adopt chemical-free agriculture.
- Skewed Minimum Support Prices in favour of cereals lead to a lack of crop diversification in agriculture.