Portal on National Mission on Natural Farming (NMNF)

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    Recently, the Union Agriculture Minister launched a portal on the National Mission on Natural Farming (NMNF) for the benefit of the farming community.

    Key Points

    • The NMNF portal: 
      • It is developed by the Agriculture ministry
      • It was launched in the first steering committee meeting of the National Natural Farming Mission here.
      • The portal contains all the information about the mission, implementation outline, resources, implementation progress, farmer registration, blog etc., which will be useful for the farmers. 
    • Coordination among authorities: 
      • The officers are required to coordinate with the state governments and central departments and enable market linkage so that the farmers get more ease in selling their products.
    • Jal Shakti Ministry: 
      • It has made a roadmap to promote natural farming and identified 75 Sahakar Ganga villages in the first phase by signing an MoU with Sahkar Bharti and training has been given to the farmers.
    • Area under: 
      • More than 4.78 lakh hectares of the additional area have been brought under natural farming in 17 states from December 2021. 
      • 7.33 lakh farmers have taken initiative in natural farming.
    • Training: 
      • About 23,000 programmes have been organised for the sanitisation and training of farmers. Natural farming is being implemented in 1.48 lakh hectares on the banks of river Ganga in four states, the statement added.

    Natural Farming

    • Origin: 
      • This farming approach was introduced by Masanobu Fukuoka, a Japanese farmer and philosopher, in his 1975 book The One-Straw Revolution.
    • About: 
      • It is a production system which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetically compounded fertilisers, pesticides, growth regulators, genetically modified organisms and livestock food additives. 
      • This system rely upon crop rotations, use of crop residues, animal manures, legumes, green manures, 
    • Features: 
      • Chemical Free: Natural farming refers to the type of agriculture in which the use of chemicals like pesticides, fertilisers, growth regulators, food additives, genetically modified organisms are entirely shunned.
      • Use of Alternatives Systems: In place of chemical based inputs, natural farming utilises methods like crop rotation, use of green manures and compost, biological pest control and mechanical cultivation.
      • Additional Practices: Natural farming systems can be complemented with practices like crop rotation (planting different crops sequentially), mulching (see inset), intercropping (planting different crops simultaneously in a field) and seed soaking with liquid manure, to increase the yields in a field.

     

    Significance

    • Reduced Dependency: The mission will help in promoting natural farming in the country. Natural farming will reduce dependency on purchased inputs and will help to ease smallholder farmers from credit burden.
    • Crop Yield: Natural farming is more productive as compared to chemical-based farming. 
    • Reduction in the Costs: As the inputs are produced by the farmers on the farm itself, the costs would be decreased substantially.
    • Income and Livelihood: This approach not only leads to minimise cost of cultivation (as inputs are produced on-field), it also fetches a premium price for the produce. 
    • Soil Health: Natural farming leads to better soil health as it does not deplete the macro-nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) and micro-nutrients (iron, manganese, zinc and copper), organic carbon as well as rhizosphere microbiome in the soil, unlike the conventional chemical-based practices.
    • Environment: Natural farming leads to lesser carbon emissions, in addition to promoting carbon sequestration. It also promotes soil respiration, growth of beneficial organisms like earthworms, soil enzymes and microbial biomass increase.
    • Water-use efficiency: Use of natural methods of farming leads to more efficient use of soil moisture, leading to an increase in the levels of water table, prevents over-extraction of groundwater and promotes aquifer recharge.
    • Food Quality: It promotes the growth of nutrient content and improves the physical attributes of vegetables like tomato, cabbage and cowpea, fetching better prices in the market.

    Challenges to Natural Farming

    • Yields drop: India’s first organic state, Sikkim, has started seeing decline in its yields after a few years.
    • Conviction among Policy Makers: As of now, policy makers fear for the food security of the nation and are non-committal on any major changes in the agriculture sector. 
    • Resistance by the Chemical inputs-based industry: The chemical-based farming has a strong backing in the form of multi-million-dollar agro-chemical industry, which has fought tooth and nail to sustain the application of chemicals in agriculture.
    • Lack of Consensus among the Scientific community: Though agreeing to its health and environmental benefits, the scientific community is divided on the impact of natural agriculture on crop yields.

    Way Ahead

    • The mission of natural farming in the country can be taken forward with everyone’s cooperation.
    • India needs to move forward on the path of natural farming and take full advantage of the global opportunities that are emerging.
    • The villages of India have shown that villages can not only bring change but can also lead the change.

    Source: BS