MAKING AGRICULTURE SUSTAINABLE

Vaishali Singh

Agriculture in India

Intensive human activities toward development have harmed the earth ‘s ecosystem. India’s international commitment to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) aims at the protection of our mother Earth. New innovative technologies are being adopted towards advancement and it is spread across different sectors that include agriculture, as per the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation 2021 the share of agriculture and allied sectors in g ross value added reached 20.2% and India is the 2nd largest producer of agricultural products.

India has substantially increased its food production to meet the demands by adopting innovative technologies such as high-density seeds for food production, Artificial Intelligence (AI) models in agriculture, genetics, and similar advancement. The usage of these tools has a positive and negative outcome base, the positive outcome being improved efficiency in production, increased production, time-saving, and reduced cost.

However, there is negative impact as well such as soil erosion, reduced level of groundwater due to heavy irrigation, overutilization of the land causing reduced soil fertility, and air and water pollution due to the use of agrochemicals. The agriculture sector is facing new challenges from the usage of innovative technologies.

A Brief Look at Government Initiatives

India’s commitment towards combating climate change led to the introduction of the National Action Plan on Climate Change in the year 2008 which has 8 missions covering solar, enhanced energy efficiency, habitat, water, Himalayan eco-system, green India, agriculture, and knowledge of climate change.

One of the missions focuses on agriculture and is stated as National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture. The Indian government to make their intense agriculture sector more sustainable implemented Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY). Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) has a sub-mission called Bharatiya Prakritik Krishi Paddhati (BPKP) that has its focus areas on:

  • Improving soil fertility
  • Improving food quality
  • Enhancing farmland value by eliminating chemical fertilizers
  • Focus more on biomass recycling within the farm

The initiative of Bharatiya Prakritik Krishi Paddhati (BPKP) is focused on reducing climate change by adopting natural farming by farmers that is free from chemical fertilizers and concentrated on livestock farming. Under the scheme, various States have taken up steps towards natural farming. A few successful examples of government supporting natural farming are in Himachal Pradesh the government launched the Prakritik Kheti Khushhal Kissan (PK3) Yojana that promotes chemical-free and fertilizer-free production of vegetables, food grains, and fruits, the outcome of the scheme being that 54, 914 farmers were engaged in natural farming by 2019-2020 on 2,451 hectares of land and the scheme further aims to engage more farmers.

In Gujarat, the government initiated special financial assistance under the Gujarat Atma Nirbhar package and additionally launched two schemes one of the schemes called Sat Pagala Khedut Kalyaan gave Rs 900 monthly subsidy to the farming family practicing natural farming towards the maintenance cost of one cow.

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Source: Major states in India practicing Natural Farming

Other states such as Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Odisha, and Rajasthan have also promoted initiatives of natural farming by launching various schemes. The concept of natural farming means a method that aims at reducing the use of chemical use in agriculture to reduce land degradation, reduce ocean acidification, and marine pollution from land-based activities. The idea of natural farming is holistic:

vaishali Policy Update 2

Natural farming is based on sustainability that has lasting benefits for the ecological balance, a holistic approach that aims at restoring the ecosystem. The concept of Natural Farming is introduced in alignment with the Sustainable development goals 2030. The va rious benefits that are derived from natural farming are:

  1. Reduced Water Consumption: -By working with diverse crops that help each other and cover the soil to prevent unnecessary water loss through evaporation, Natural Farming optimizes the amount of ‘crop per drop’.
  2. Minimized Cost of Production: -Natural Farming aims to drastically cut down production costs by encouraging farmers to prepare essential biological inputs using on-farm, natural and homegrown resources. and similar benefits for the farmers.
  3. Ensures Better Health: – As Natural Farming does not use any synthetic chemicals, health risks, and hazards are eliminated. The food has higher nutrition density and therefore offers better health benefits.
  4. Environment Conservation: -Natural Farming ensures better soil biology, improved agro- biodiversity and more judicious usage of water with much smaller carbon and nitrogen footprints.,

Overall, the benefit that is derived from Natural farming is to ensure that there is a reduction in the spread of diseases in the community as it is chemical-free and will ensure farmer’s and consumers health.

PM PRANAM Promoting Sustainable Agriculture

To promote natural farming, the government has taken a step towards introducing a separate portal that spreads information and awareness about natural farming. As part of India’s efforts to make India cleaner and greener, the government has declared green growth as one of the priorities in the 2023-2024 budget.

Agriculture is one of the sectors that is included and focused on making the agriculture sector more sustainable the government introduced the PM PRANAM, “PM Programme for Restoration, Awareness, Nourishment, and Amelioration of Mother Earth” in its budget 2023-2024. The scheme aims to promote chemical-free farming, which includes the promotion of natural fertilizers.

The scheme was earlier pronounced as PM Promotion of Alternative Nutrients for Agriculture Management Yojana to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers that were being given to the states on subsidy. There has been a huge burden on subsidy on chemical fertilizers that is expected to be 39% higher in 2022-2023 as compared to the previous years and the amount of subsidy on chemical fertilizer was Rs 1.62 lakh crore in 2021-2022.

The government expenditure has been increasing on subsidies for chemical fertilizer and the government plans to utilize the amount towards grants for utilizing technology for alternative fertilizers and incentivizing farmers to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers through awareness generation.

Apart from the PM PRANAM scheme the Union Finance Minister has launched other schemes that work well in collaboration and can be supported by PM PRANAM such as the GOBARdhan (Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan) scheme which is a key component of PM PRANAM. GOBARdhan scheme aims for the safe management of cattle and organic waste. Under the scheme, the organic and cattle waste of villages is converted into biogas and fertilizer for use in rural areas and promotes waste to wealth. In the budget hon,’ able Finance Minister stated that 500 new “waste to wealth” plants will be established under the GOBAR DHAN scheme.

Conclusion

As agriculture is a state subject, the role of state government is crucial in ensuring that effective initiatives are taken to promote chemical-free farming and achieving green growth in the country. With the efforts of the government, the agriculture sector should be encouraged to shift to the traditional way of growing crops that includes utilization of natural manure that will help to restore the soil nutrients and further break the chain of chemical fertilizers affecting human health. The effort is in line with SDG 2.4 target that ensures sustainable food production helping to maintain ecosystems, improve land and soil quality, and adaption to climate change by making agriculture practices resilient.

References

Jomy J. Pullokaran, Budget 2023| FM announces PM PRANAM scheme to promote alternative fertilisers, CNBC TV18, Feb 01, 2023 https://www.cnbctv18.com/economy/budget-2023-fm-announces-pm-pranam-scheme-to- promote-alternative-fertilisers-15821391.htm

NITI Aayog, Natural Farming, https://naturalfarming.niti.gov.in/uttar-pradesh/

NITI Aayog, Natural Farming, https://naturalfarming.niti.gov.in/sustainable-development- goals/

National Mission On Natural Farming Management And Knowledge Portal, Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, http://naturalfarming.dac.gov.in/NaturalFarming/Concept#:~:text=Natural%20Farming%20is

%20a%20chemical,and%20livestock%20with%20functional%20biodiversity

Dipak K. Dash, Fertliser ministry to seek Cabinet nod for PM PRANAM Scheme, TOI, Mar 20, 2023, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/fertiliser-ministry-to-seek-cabinet-nod- for-pm-pranam-scheme/articleshow/98827494.cms

PIB, Contribution of Agriculture Sector towards GDP, Aug. 03, 2021. https://www.pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1741942 What is the PM PRANAM Scheme, likely to be introduced by Govt soon?, The Indian Express, Sep 20, 2022, https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-economics/what-is-the-pm-pranam-scheme-fertilisers-8160344/

Vaishali is a Research Intern at IMPRI.

Read more by the author: INCLUSIVE APPROACH TO WETLAND CONSERVATION IN INDIA.