At the frontlines of the agroecology movement
Agroecology is not just a set of farming practices, or a scientific discipline, but also a growing social movement in which peasant movements play a crucial role. KRRS was instrumental in first taking the Zero Budget Natural farming (ZBNF) movement to scale in the state of Karnataka. Amrita Bhoomi today has been promoting ZBNF as one of its key agroecological models, not only through it’s training programs but has also created various model plots on its campus, it is one of the key spaces for the promotion of ZBNF among its peasant members.
The ZBNF movement is possibly one of the most successful agroecology movements globally, in terms of its reach. The movement’s leaders claim that millions practice ZBNF at the national level, while a rough estimation for just Karnataka puts the figure there at some 100,000. The ZBNF movement has organized some 60 massive state-level training camps in the last decade, with an average of 1000-6000 farmer participants over 5-7 days including women, men, and youth. Most districts have a local self-organized dynamic to promote ZBNF at the grassroots level. All this has been achieved without any formal movement organization, paid staff or even a bank account. ZBNF generates a spirit of volunteerism and enthusiasm among its peasant farmer members, who are the main protagonists of this movement.
‘Zero budget’ natural farming aims to drastically cut production costs by ending dependence on all outside inputs and loans for farming. The word ‘budget’ refers to credit and expenses, thus the phrase ‘Zero Budget’ means without using any credit, and without spending any money on purchased inputs. ‘Natural farming’ means farming with Nature and without chemicals. Its advocates position ZNBF as a solution to the agrarian crisis and rising trend of farmer suicides in India.
The basic ‘toolkit’ of ZBNF methods was put together by Mr Subhash Palekar, an agricultural scientist. Disillusioned by the ill effects of the green revolution on his own family farm, he drew from extensive research and observation of ecological processes and indigenous farming methods during his work as an extension officer in the 1990’s. Palekar dedicates himself to teaching ZBNF at massive training camps across the country, and is its principal resource person or guru, as ZBNF members call him.