Himachal Pradesh, the country’s fruit and off-season vegetable bowl, has launched a scheme this year to scale up zero-budget natural farming, a chemical-free method, with Governor Acharya Devvrat taking the lead to sow the seeds of sustainability through nature’s way.
The state has adopted a zero-budget natural farming model, promoted by Padma Shri Subhash Palekar from Maharashtra, for the first time with a budgetary allocation of Rs 25 crore for this fiscal. The aim is to double the income of farmers by 2020 as declared by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Experts say input costs are minimal with no use of fertilisers and pesticides, resulting in high profits.
“Despite the excessive use of chemical fertilisers, the overall production of fruits, vegetables and cereals is declining even in the hill states, including ours. This is clear indication that the fertility of the soil is getting impaired,” Devvrat told IANS.
Even the availability of water for irrigation in the state is not sufficient.
“So, it’s necessary to bring qualitative improvement in the total agricultural system. This requires opting natural farming that will also help rejuvenating the barren land and minimising the use of water,” he said.
Devvrat, who is raising “desi” or indigenous cows in his palatial bungalow in the state capital, sees zero-budget natural farming as a transformation towards sustainable agriculture, a better deal for the farmers, consumers and also for the environment.
Devvrat believes his experimentation in doing zero-budget natural farming on his 200-acre farm in Gurukul, a 106-year-old boarding school in Haryana’s Kurukshetra district, is a grand success by depending largely on farm-raised indigenous cows.
A short-term skill development training programme and demonstration to young aspiring entrepreneurs and farmers was organized at the Directorate of Extension Education of the Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry (UHF), Nauni.
Twenty-five participants from Shimla and Mandi districts of the state took part in the Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN) sponsored training.
Training coordinator and UHF’s Joint Director (Training) Dr Rajkumar Thakur said that the training focused on integrated production technology of horticulture crops.
The participants were apprised about the subtropical and temperate fruits like apple and citrus. Various aspects of beekeeping and mushroom cultivation were also discussed during the programmes due to the interest shown by the trainees. Besides lectures on insect-pest and disease management of pomegranate, apple, citrus and vegetables, practical demonstrations at kiwi, stone fruit and high-density apple plantation, apiary and canning unit of the university were also undertaken.
The training curriculum was designed to address the agricultural training requirements of the participants and training kits, ‘Package of Practice’ of various crops along with other university literature on spices and floriculture were also distributed to them. On the last day, Dr Thakur gave away training certificates to the participants besides a training stipend of Rs 1400 each.
In July this year, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for one year for Rs 55 lakh was signed between UHF and SJVN. Under the agreement, the University will organize 32 trainings for farmers at its main campus and different research and training stations.
Over 800 farmers and orchardists will be trained under this initiative in one year. The SJVN Foundation will bear the total cost of these trainings.
However, farm experts say zero-budget natural farming is easier said than done. View more stories #YesPahari.