Over the last one week, 18 farmers have died and more 600 farmers have been hospitalized in Yavatmal and other districts of Vidarbha. The cause of their death was absolutely avoidable. These farmers were ignorant about the precautions needed to be taken while spraying pesticides. No one seems to be alarmed by the situation. The kin of the deceased isn’t pleased with the ex-gratia amount of Rs. 2 lakh promised by the Chief Minister. The state government plans to order an inquiry and organize a few pesticide usage awareness campaigns. Life goes on…
Though death due pesticide inhalation is something new, the death of farmers, in general, has been disregarded for many years. An increasingly popular school of thought believes that it all started due to the famed “Green Revolution”. Subhash Palekar the agriculturist behind the pioneering concept of “Zero Budget Natural Farming” suggests that the Green Revolution destroyed the sustainable village economy and directed the cash flows from the villages to the cities.
According to him –
- The so-called revolution encouraged the farmers to sow Hybrid seeds.
- To get higher yields from these seeds, chemical fertilizers had to be used.
- Since hybrid seeds had no resistance against insects and diseases, poisonous chemical pesticides had to be bought.
- The use of so many chemicals made the soil very compact and hence, wooden ploughs had to be replaced by tractors.
- For all these purchases the farmers had to go to the city.
- With a low purchasing power, farmers had to take loans. And the vicious circle was thus set in motion.
With the increased use of chemicals, the rich cultivable land slowly turned barren. The irregular monsoons simply piled onto problems the Indian farmer faced. The yield produced with help from these chemicals hardly did any good for the health of Indians. Diabetes, heart attacks and cancer are on the rise today. Can this destruction be reversed? The answer is Zero Budget Natural Farming or Organic Farming.
What is the Zero Budget Natural Farming?
For thousands of years now, forests have sustained without any human intervention. And yet they bear export-quality fruits, medicines and a healthy environment for those dependent on the forests. Subhash Palekar conducted a research on this forest ecosystem for a period of six years (1989 – 1995). The techniques he came up with were incorporated into his Zero Budget Natural Farming model. Key takeaways include –
- Farming can be zero budget which means money needn’t be invested in making your farm sustainable.
- 98% of the nutrients that the plants need are taken from water and air and hence using too many chemicals to treat the soil is foolish.
- Micro-organisms in the soil convert nutrients into a form that is easy to consume for the plants. Chemicals destroy these micro-organisms.
- Cow dung from local cows can revive the fertility of the soil as one gram of cow dung contains 300-500 crore useful micro-organisms.
- A mixture of cow dung, cow urine, jaggery and dicot flour works as an effective fertilizer.
- There are two main categories of crops – those that like sun and those that don’t prefer direct sunlight. Hence, there are combinations of crops that can be planted together to support growth.
- Cultivation should be done only in the topsoil (10-15 cms) so as to ensure circulation of air, conservation of water and control of weeds.
40 lakh farmers are following the teachings of Subhash Palekar and his Zero Budget Natural Farming. In 2016, he was conferred with the Padmashri award as recognition of his contribution to the agricultural community of India. To learn about the specificities of this farming technique, visit http://www.palekarzerobudgetspiritualfarming.org.
Simple organic farming tricks and techniques that urban citizens can practice –
Have you ever dreamt of converting your empty terrace into a terrace farm or growing your own herbs and vegetables in your balcony? If you don’t know where to begin, visit http://sustainablelivingpune.org/. An initiative started by Hemal Patel, a techie who quit his comfortable computer engineering job to become an advocate of sustainable living. He is working towards generating awareness about organic farming techniques especially in urban areas, where space can be a huge constraint.
You can join his two-day workshops to understand the concepts of Rain Water Harvesting, Organic Gardening, Organic Waste Management, Plastic Collection, Chemical-free living and Honey Bee Conservation, etc. The team works with schools, housing societies and corporates to promote sustainable living.
Making best out of waste
Responsibly segregating waste can make a world of difference. Mrinal Rao and Anjana Aiyyer have shown us how. They have come up with a compost bin that converts your wet garbage from your kitchen/garden into nutrient-rich manure. The bin uses air and enzymes to break down your waste. The enzymes are decomposition accelerators, produced especially for the bin. For more information, visit http://www.orbin.in/ or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ever wondered if there is a right time to water your plants? What amount of water is adequate for the well-being of your plants? How will your plants survive in case you plan to travel? Hrushikesh Mehendale, a Pune-based entrepreneur has the answers to these questions. He has come up with a technology called the Smart Irrigate. It smartly automates irrigation for urban households and farms alike. It has three components –
Moisture Sensor – Measures the moisture content in the soil every few minutes and transfers the data over a wireless link
An Android app “Mofarm” – Studies the moisture readings, calculates and notifies the Irrigation Controller about the right time to irrigate.
Irrigation Controller – Once it receives the signal, it automatically opens the water taps and pushes the right amount of water to your plants.
For more information, contact email@example.com.
Roseland Residency, the winner of the Swacch Bharat award in 2016, is a shining example of how society members in urban areas can come together to ensure a truly sustainable lifestyle. From plastic collection, e-waste management to garbage segregation, leaf composting and sewage water treatment, they have tackled each and every issue with an aim to create a better environment. Read more on the unique methods Roseland Residency has used to achieve this green sustainable lifestyle.