The Government of Andhra Pradesh has launched a scale-out plan to transition 6 million farms/farmers cultivating 8 million hectares of land from conventional synthetic chemical agriculture to Zero-Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) by 2024, making Andhra Pradesh India’s first 100% natural farming state.
The programme is a contribution towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals, focusing on ‘No Poverty’, ‘Clean Water and Sanitation’, ‘Responsible Consumption and Production’, and ‘Life on Land’. It is led by Rythu Sadhikara Samstha (RySS) – a not-for-profit established by the Government to implement the ZBNF programme – and supported by the Sustainable India Finance Facility (SIFF) – an innovative partnership between UN Environment, BNP Paribas, and the World Agroforestry Centre.
With more than 8000 farmers present, the launch event was attended by international dignitaries including Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UN Environment; Sunny Verghese, Chair, World Business Council for Sustainable Development and Co-Founder and Group CEO of Olam International; Pavan Sukhdev, President of WWF International; Antoine Sire, Member of the Global Management Committee, BNP Paribas SA, among others.
“This is an unprecedented transformation towards sustainable agriculture on a massive scale, and the kind of bold change we need to see to protect the climate, biodiversity, and food security,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. “We’re pinning a great deal on the Zero Budget Natural Farming programme, which I hope will inspire the widespread adoption of a natural farming scheme. It’s a better deal for farmers, consumers, and the planet.”.
The official launch of the ZBNF scale-out programme marked an unprecedented commitment by the state to promote the scale-out of climate-resilient, regenerative agriculture in a broader effort to transform and protect local food systems and long-term well-being of farmers.
“The success of climate-resilient, Zero Budget Natural Farming in Andhra Pradesh will not only help India in meeting its SDGs but it can also inspire and transform the lives of millions of farmers across the developing world,” said, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Chandrababu Naidu.
“The Andhra Pradesh government is showing true leadership in transitioning one of India’s first “Green Revolution” states into one of India’s first natural farming states. The scale-out of ZBNF will promote regenerative agriculture, improve soil biodiversity and productivity, and ensure decent livelihoods to smallholder farmers, who grow so much of the food people consume but receive so little reward for their labour,” said Pavan Sukhdev, President, WWF International.
As both a social and environmental programme, it aims to ensure that farming – particularly smallholder farming – is economically viable by enhancing farm biodiversity and ecosystem services. It reduces farmers’ costs through eliminating external inputs and using in-situ resources to rejuvenate soils, whilst simultaneously increasing incomes, and restoring ecosystem health through diverse, multi-layered cropping systems.
“BNP Paribas is delighted to be supporting such an impressive programme that views farmers’ welfare and sustainable practices as vital for a sustainable and productive economy. As a bank which has included the UN Sustainable Development Goals in its global corporate plan, we strive to engage in partnerships and opportunities that do not only consider financial performance, but also positive impacts on environment and society,” said Antoine Sire, Head of Company Engagement, Member of the Executive Committee, BNP Paribas Group.
Zero Budget Natural Farming also aims to create the social capital necessary for vibrant and inclusive agricultural production, by establishing farmers’ federations and self-help groups, and placing farmers at the forefront of knowledge creation and dissemination. “The AP ZBNF programme embeds social, environmental, and economic considerations to ensure inclusive and responsible growth. A farm cannot be economically viable if it continues to deplete the resources it needs, both ecological and social, to be productive” said Sunny Verghese, Chair, World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
Considering its impressive scale, an effective shift to a 100% natural farming state with 8 million hectares free of chemical contamination will achieve transformative impacts in India. In addition, it will provide a blueprint for an inclusive agricultural model, which takes into account diversity of people along with agro-climatic conditions and can be adapted to varying global contexts to reduce vulnerabilities to climate change. Moreover, as 14 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals are dependent on the status of natural resources, the health of communities, access to secure nutrition, and empowerment of women, ZBNF constitutes an effective cross-sectoral strategy for achieving SDGs targets.
“ZBNF builds on agroecological principles, that are at the heart of sound integrative, systems science, with the promise of resilient and productive landscapes that offer the kinds multiple benefits for society and ecology that our Planet sorely needs today from all of its landscapes. It, therefore, sets the pace and the agenda for all of us”, says Tony Simons, Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre.
Recognizing its transformative potential, the Sustainable India Finance Facility will facilitate the ZBNF scale-out process, targeting investments amounting to US$ 2.3 billion over the next 6 years. “The world is running out of time to reverse the climate change trajectory, which is precisely why it is crucial to engage and invest in a new paradigm championing regenerative agriculture with significant positive externalities, such as the ZBNF programme in Andhra Pradesh,” said Satya Tripathi, Chairperson, Sustainable India Finance Facility.