Closing the Nutrient Loop
A balanced supply of nutrients is essential for healthy plant growth.
“Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the health crisis, the climate crisis and the crisis of democracy.”
- Vandana Shiva, Indian Activist
Community Managed Natural Farming (formerly known as Zero Budget Natural Farming) is a set of agroecological farming methods that originated in the State of Karnataka, India. The aim was to establish an approach to farming that could decouple smallholder farmers from the risk of debt associated with the high costs of seeds, fertilisers, and other inputs.
For many subsistence farmers, just one poor harvest, caused by late rains or a powerful monsoon, can tip the balance and be catastrophic for the farmer’s livelihood. Community Managed Natural Farming directly tackles the debt issue by removing the requirement for costly inputs.
As well as reducing costs Community Managed Natural Farming has also proved to be more productive than ‘conventional’ farming, producing higher yields of more nutritious food, and increasing resilience.
This regenerative smallholder farming technique has proved most popular in the state of Andhra Pradesh, powered by a grassroots movement of women's self-help groups, which has led to hundreds of thousands of farmers benefitting from the practice.
Community Managed Natural Farming restores soil health and eliminates the need for expensive and harmful chemicals through the application of four principles:
Beejamrutham - natural treatment of seeds and other planting materials against diseases;
Jeevamrutham - the creation of biologically active soils through the addition of a fermented microbial culture;
Achhadana - cover crops and mulching on ground surface to protect and enhance topsoil;
Waaphasa - fast build-up of carbon-rich soil humus to feed micro-organisms and improve soil structure.
Applying the principles of Community Managed Natural Farming improves food security and can lead to greater profits for farmers, because input costs are reduced and yields can typically increase 40% or more.
Community Managed Natural Farming also prevents exposure to harmful chemicals that cause illness, medical costs, and lost opportunities. This is not a theoretical issue – every day hundreds of Indian farmers and other rural inhabitants make train journeys to be treated for cancer caused by over-exposure to fertilisers and pesticides.
The biggest benefit from Community Managed Natural Farming is building the resilience of farmers as the impacts of climate change become a reality. In 2017, a powerful hailstorm passed over the Indian district of West Godavari. One farmer, Satya, saw many of his neighbours’ farms destroyed, while his six-acre banana plantation escaped mostly unscathed. He explained that it was “because my plants were much stronger”, as a result of the application of Community Managed Natural Farming techniques.
The government of Andhra Pradesh clearly sees the benefits of farms like Satya’s. Currently, there are about 200,000 farmers in the state practicing Community Managed Natural Farming, and by 2024 they plan to increase that number to 6 million over an area of 8 million hectares.
By emulating nature’s cyclical and regenerative processes, Emma’s farm generates multiple revenue...
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