The Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s suggestion to farmers, in her maiden Budget, to pursue zero budget farming has churned up mixed reactions in the core delta region.
Zero budget farming is a form of natural farming which is neither chemical-loaded nor organic with its reliance on manure.
While a section of farmers viewed it as a possible measure to improve farming activity some observed that it would be practically impossible given the dwindling cattle population.
However, farmers agreed that natural farming could be accomplished only in about 40 to 50% of the total cultivable area in the core Delta districts that too if the ryots decide to revert back to the old farming technique.
Claiming that reverting back to natural farming would not be a constraint but for some support from the government for rearing of cattle, a retired agriculture department officer and a cultivator, K. R. Govindarajan of Thennangudi North near Peravurani pointed out that before the ‘Green Revolution’, cattle played a major role in farming activity as the animal excreta was used as a manure.
“Once the usage of fertilizers factored in, rearing of cattle became a burden resulting in steep reduction in the number of cattle reared in every farmers house,” he said.
The government should come out with schemes to encourage farmers to maintain livestock to the maximum possible number of years and for this they should consider extending incentives for procurement of cattle feeds on the lines of DBT system adopted for LPG being implemented now, he added.
Endorsing Mr. Govindarajan’s views, a coconut farmer, S. V. Srinivasan of Thiruchitrambalam said a few coconut farmers in Peravurani taluk have already switched over to natural farming. These farmers have registered good yield year after year.
Growing trees in coconut groves using natural manure had not only helped farmers avoid spending more money on pest control but saw loss of lesser number of trees in the recent Gaja cyclone.
Stating that improving the livestock population and maintaining them for considerable period of time were factors to be given due importance for switching over to natural farming, Srinivasan said the rearing of cross-breed cattle would be of no use as the Indian breed bovine alone would be suitable for natural farming activity.
“The trees in my grove not only withstood the Gaja fury but also continue to give sufficient number of nuts even during the current drought period”, claimed Kamalakannan.
Secretary, Thanjai District Cauvery Farmers Protection Association, Sundara Vimalanathan and Agriculture Advisor, Thanjavur, V. Palaniappan also said that given the existing cattle population in the core Delta switching over to natural farming could not be achieved overnight and it would take at least a decade. Regarding alternative to pesticides, bio-degradable substance combinations such as garlic with neem leaves could be considered by farmers.
Welcoming the zero budget farming suggestion, the general secretary, Federation of Farmers Association of Delta Districts, Arupathy P.Kalyanam said the zero budget farming could not be achieved without micro-level planning and making the hamlets as self-sufficient green villages.
(source : The Hindu)