NEW DELHI, April 25: Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Monday said about 4 lakh hectare has been brought under natural farming so far as part of a sub-scheme of the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana and think-tank Niti Aayog will prepare a roadmap to scale this up. Tomar, while addressing a national workshop on innovative agriculture here, said the need of the hour is to do farming that works in harmony with nature, reduces the cost of production, ensures good-quality produce and profits to farmers.
Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, parts of Haryana and Gujarat are gradually adapting to natural farming. More farmers will join after seeing the success stories, he said.
Tomar said Niti Aayog will prepare a roadmap on natural farming after deliberation with farmers, scientists and agricultural varsities’ vice-chancellors in today’s workshop and the ministry will move forward accordingly.
He said some may have “apprehension that production might decline by shifting to natural farming. Such people after seeing the success stories of natural farming will be able to adapt easily.”
Natural farming should be promoted in areas first where less or no chemicals are used in farming, he added.
According to the minister, about 38 lakh hectares have been brought under organic farming at present. About 4 lakh hectares of area is under natural farming so far as part of a sub-scheme of the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana.
A central programme is underway to certify farm fields where no chemicals are in use in areas of Nicobar and Ladakh. The centre is pursuing with states to identify such farm fields for certification, he said.
The government is working on a mission mode to promote natural farming and even include this as part of a syllabus in agri universities, he added.
Citing reasons for the need to shift to natural farming, the minister said although chemical farming — introduced during Green Revolution in the 1950s — has definitely helped in turning a food deficit nation to a surplus but this method of farming has affected soil fertiliser, water and global warming.
“Chemical farming has helped increase production but there are limitations. Farmers may earn income but they are under stress with use of higher quantity of fertilizers and water consumption,” Tomar said.
The harmful impact of chemical farming is such that Punjab farmers sell their produce to others but never consume themselves, he said and stressed the need to change the cropping pattern that works in harmony with nature.
Stating that the government is committed to addressing the challenges posing the farm sector, the minister said alternative methods of farming especially natural farming are being promoted because India needs to sustain agriculture as a large percentage of the country’s population is still dependent on farming for its livelihood.
Union Minister for Fisheries, Dairying and Animal Husbandry Purushottam Rupala said a new demand for quality produce has emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic and farmers need to take note of this and grow accordingly.
He welcomed a suggestion to promote natural farming in areas where no or less chemicals are used, while also stressed on the branding of commodities produced in natural farming.
Sharing the success stories of natural farming, Gujarat Governor Acharya Devvrat urged farmers not to get “discouraged and confused” about natural farming.
He said production will come down in the first year of natural farming but expenses and water consumption will remain lower. This will also help grow better quality produce that will fetch a good rate in the market.
Devvrat shared how a large farmer in Gujarat gradually shifted to natural farming from 5 acres to 50 acres and now planning on 400 acres. He also shared how a horticulture secretary in Himachal Pradesh government shifted successfully to natural farming for growing apples.
Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said there is a need to understand the challenges facing the farm sector amid climate change, lower crop yields, high use of water, and imbalanced use of chemicals and fertilisers.
“A new revolution is necessary. Natural farming is the need of the hour. It is because due to the Green Revolution, cost of production has gone up and water use efficiency has remained lower,” he said.
There is a need to bring a social movement for promoting natural farming in a scientific manner among farmers, he added.
Niti Aayog member Ramesh Chand said the chemical farming that has been adopted since Green Revolution has posed several challenges and therefore alternative methods are being thought about.
Some may call it non-chemical or natural farming or zero budget farming or organic farming — these different methods of farming have been experimented. These methods need to be synthesized and moved forward, he said.
Chand said there is a need to give a chance to natural farming as the time is ripe to try this method. “The country is not facing any food security threat, we can give a chance to this method of farming,” he said.
About 6 per cent of area in the country use no chemicals and this area can be targeted for promoting natural farming. There are also some districts where use of chemicals is less than 5 kg, those can also be promoted, he said.
A road map will be prepared taking leads from the discussion in the national workshop, he added. PTI