How natural farming alongside Ganga in Bihar is floundering

The Union Finances of 2022 emphasised the necessity to encourage natural farming in India, particularly alongside the river Ganga. The two,525 km-long river originates from the Gangotri glacier within the Himalayas and drains into the Bay of Bengal.

Alongside its journey, the river passes by a complete of 10 states together with Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar and West Bengal. Its complete catchment space is about 8,61,404 sq. kilometers. That is the realm the place the authorities has been encouraging natural farming as mirrored within the bulletins made by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

The Bihar authorities had a headstart on this idea, having launched its personal natural hall round two years in the past in 13 districts alongside the banks of the Ganga – Patna, Buxar, Bhojpur, Saran, Vaishali, Samastipur, Khagaria, Begusarai, Lakhisarai, Bhagalpur, Munger, Katihar and Nalanda.

Nonetheless, neither the Bihar authorities nor the Centre has specified the idea on which these corridors across the Ganga have being earmarked.

The Natural Farming Hall Scheme is an bold programme of the Bihar authorities. For the scheme to be carried out, a cluster of at least 25 acres of farmland, with a minimal of 25 farmers, is a prerequisite. Farmers concerned in natural actions are given Rs 11,500 per acre yearly. This grant is given for a most of two acres of land.

As per the scheme, the grant is given for a most interval of three years. Additionally, out of the grant of Rs 11,500, the farmer has to spend a minimum of Rs 6,500 on shopping for licensed compost and plastic drum from the Nationwide Programme for Natural Manufacturing. A construction of vermicompost additionally must be ready from the remaining Rs 5,000.

No market

Rusulpur Turki is a village about 45 km away from Patna. The village has a complete of 414 acres of land being cultivated underneath the natural farming scheme, with 351 farmers participating within the initiative.

Amongst them is Buddhan Singh who has about two acres of his land earmarked underneath the scheme. Pointing in the direction of his tomato fields, he says, “Producing 1 kg of tomatoes by natural methodology has price me Rs 10 per kg however consumers are usually not keen to pay the worth. I talked to 1 dealer who was keen to pay Rs 12 per kg, whereas one other was keen to pay at Rs 14 per kg. However for this, I need to promote the tomatoes instantly. If I even delay by two or three days, the worth will fall and I gained’t have the ability to recuperate the price.”

The issue of restricted market can also be true for different crops. “We get the identical value for paddy and wheat as farmers who produce utilizing chemical fertilisers,” Singh says. “If I’m going to the vegetable market and inform merchants that I’ve grown greens organically. They’ve a great chuckle.”

In Rusulpur Turki village of Vaishali district, 414 acres of farmland is a part of the natural hall, with 351 farmers participating. Credit score: Umesh Kumar Ray.

Rusulpur Turki Producers Firm Restricted is an affiliation of farmers who’ve chosen to go the natural means. The affiliation’s managing director Kameshwar Singh Kushwaha blames the unavailability of market as a serious hurdle within the success of natural farming.

He says, “There is no such thing as a separate marketplace for natural merchandise. Its drawback is that farmers need to promote the produce at throwaway costs, whereas the funding turns into excessive. There must be a registered natural marketplace for the sale of natural merchandise and there must be a separate marketplace for every cluster,” Kushwaha advised Mongabay-Hindi. He additionally added that regardless of reaching out to District Agriculture Workplace a number of instances on this regard, there was no constructive response.

Not solely in Rulsulpur Turki, farmers from Mokama and Buxar alongside the banks of Ganga are additionally going through this drawback. Speaking to Mongabay-Hindi, these farmers additionally harassed the necessity to have a market solely centered on natural merchandise.

Low yield, pest infestations

Conversations with farmers from Mokama to Vaishali makes two issues obvious – low yield and large-scale pest infestation. Farmers reveal that as a result of natural pesticides are ineffective they’re compelled to choose for chemical pesticides.

Buddhan Singh’s brinjal subject is stuffed with pests. “Pests have grow to be frequent. Simply final week the crop was infested as organic pesticides have been ineffective. If we don’t use chemical pesticide the crop might be completely ruined.” This impression is on crops aside from brinjal as effectively.

Farmers on the natural cluster in Mokama present samples of wheat, pea, gram and brinjal, which look weak and have fewer pods in comparison with crops grown chemically.

One of many farmers confirmed brinjal vegetation that, regardless of being a yr outdated, didn’t bear any flowers. Equally, the variety of pods was additionally much less in organically grown vegetation of peas and grams.

One other farmer from Mokama, Nitesh Kumar says, “I used to get eight quintals of wheat in a single acre with chemical fertilisers. Nonetheless, ever since I began natural farming, I get a produce of lower than 4 quintals of wheat. Earlier we used to promote wheat, however now the manufacturing is so much less that we find yourself consuming all of it at dwelling,” says Kumar, who has been doing natural farming in a single acre land for the final two years.

Inadequate funds

Whereas Bihar authorities had allotted Rs 250 crore within the 2020-’21 monetary yr, the allocation was slashed massively within the funds of 2021-’22 and 2022-’23, with Rs 145-145 crore being permitted by the state.

The farmers say {that a} grant of Rs 11,500 per acre is inadequate. Furthermore, this grant is on the market solely every year, whereas in lots of areas, farmers develop two to 3 crops of their subject in a yr.

Rajeshwar Patel is engaged in natural farming on two acres of land in Vaishali. His enter price is Rs 22,000-23,000 per season, whereas he will get solely half of this within the grant. “We even have strain from the agriculture division to purchase solely NPOP [National Programme for Organic Production]-approved natural fertilisers which can be twice the worth of what’s accessible within the open market.”

This subject is a part of the natural hall in Mokama. Farmers right here complain that they aren’t getting any revenue from natural farming. Credit score: Umesh Kumar Ray.

Patel’s view is supported by farmers from Mokama. One farmer, on the situation of anonymity, reveals, “NPK [nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium]is on the market at Rs 200 per litre within the open market, whereas NPOP-certified NPK is on the market for Rs 500. In addition to, Phosphate Wealthy Natural Manure sells at Rs 200 for 50 kg within the open market, however we now have to purchase 50 kg of this NPOP-certified fertiliser for Rs 1,000. Similar is the case with different fertilisers.”

Getting ready vermicompost from the grant cash additionally has a special floor actuality. Mongabay-Hindi talked with two farmers in Mokama, neither of whom had a construction for vermicompost prepared.

Kushwaha reveals, “Vermicompost requires cattle dung. Many of the farmers do not need cattle, so what’s the level of getting ready a construction for vermicompost?”

One other supply confirms that solely 10-15% of the 351 farmers related to Rusulpur Turki Producer Firm Restricted have made vermicompost constructions.

Many flip to chemical substances

In keeping with information maintained by the Bihar State Seed and Natural Certification Company, 21,608 farmers have been engaged in natural farming throughout 13 districts of Bihar until June 2021. As many as 25,000 farmers have been given natural certificates and one other 25,000 are within the means of certification.

Sunil Kumar Pankaj, director, Bihar State Seed and Natural Certification Company, says, “After receiving purposes from farmers for certificates, our workforce conducts subject visits thrice and collects samples for testing. Out of the full farmers who apply, the samples of 2-3% fail the lab take a look at as a result of presence of chemical fertilisers.

Which means many farmers who’re availing grants within the title of natural farming are utilizing chemical fertilisers. A subject go to to farmers in Buxar, Patna and Vaishali additionally reveals that a number of farmers are usually not doing natural farming regardless of receiving grants from the federal government.

A dependable supply from Buxar additional reveals, “Formally, about 1,000 farmers are a part of the natural hall. However solely 25% of them are doing natural farming. Relaxation are utilizing chemical means and likewise taking grant from the federal government.”

A farmers group in Patna with greater than 60 members can also be formally a part of the natural hall. Nonetheless, a supply reveals that out of these, barely 4 to 5 farmers are doing real natural farming. A comparable state of affairs persists in Buxar.

Agriculture officers are additionally conscious of this reality. Manoj Kumar, District Agriculture Officer of Buxar district, says, “Round 50% of the farmers concerned within the natural hall within the district are utilizing chemical fertilisers. It’s tough to cease them because it requires shut monitoring. The best means is to make farmers conscious. We are doing that work.”

Anjan Kumar, Inside Inspector of Mokama’s Taal Farmer Producer Ltd, which operates an natural cluster, says, “Farmers are continually complaining to us that they’re getting much less produce by natural strategies and likewise not getting market for a similar. Though they’re not getting revenue from natural farming, we’re nonetheless encouraging them.”

Elementary flaws

The issues being confronted by these natural farmers are usually not new. Related issues have been reported in 2017, in a paper revealed within the Journal of Crop and Weed. The report was based mostly on conversations with farmers of Srichandpur Kothia, an natural village in Bihar’s Samastipur district. The village is alleged to be the primary natural village of Bihar.

Based mostly on the detailed interviews of about 100 farmers, researchers had discovered that pricey natural inputs, restricted markets, much less productiveness and low yield are main hurdles in the best way of natural farming.

When Mongabay-Hindi visited the natural clusters of Vaishali and Mokama, many farmers complained that no conferences have been held to coach the farmers to cut back their enter price and get excessive yield enterprise. A farmer from Mokama stated that within the final two years, hardly one or two such conferences came about concerning natural farming.

There’s additionally concern concerning the way forward for Farmer Producer Corporations. As Vinod Tiwari, who’s related to a Buxar-based Farmer Producer Corporations, reveals, “Farmers do not need any coaching in natural farming. Aside from restricted markets, there are numerous different issues. If the authorities doesn’t pay due consideration to those, natural farming will stay on paper solely.”

In the meantime, natural farming consultants complain that the mannequin adopted by the state authorities for natural farming is sure to fail as a consequence of its basic flaws.

Kavitha Kuruganti, who’s related to Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture, maintains, “Market is an enormous drawback within the nation. But when farmers are lured by market, then natural farming is not going to be sustainable. The day market help shouldn’t be accessible, they will transfer in the direction of chemical farming. The federal government ought to give attention to how to extend the revenue of the farmers by decreasing the enter price in natural farming.”

She provides, “If farmers are switching to chemical pesticides, then it’s not their fault however the fault of the federal government, which has not adopted the precise mannequin.”

Citing the instance of Andhra Pradesh, she says, “It appears that evidently natural farming is being achieved in Bihar underneath the element of Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana of the central authorities. In Andhra Pradesh, the rules of PKVI [Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana] have been modified and carried out; due to which seven lakh farmers are actually efficiently doing natural farming, with new farmers becoming a member of yearly. In Andhra Pradesh, the federal government didn’t give any grants and neither did they lure them within the title of market. The state enriched the information base of the farmers by educating them how one can get extra produce at much less price. An analogous mannequin must be adopted in Bihar as effectively.”

Acknowledging the rising reluctance amongst farmers to go the natural means, Bankatesh Narayan Singh, Director of Soil Conservation, Agriculture Division of Bihar, underlines components equivalent to low manufacturing and market entry.

Expressing hope, he provides, “If farmers undertake natural farming on their very own, it is going to be simpler. We’re going to run coaching programmes to make farmers perceive the nuances of natural farming. Together with this, we’re additionally engaged on making a separate marketplace for natural merchandise within the district.”

This text first appeared on Mongabay.

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