Promote pure farming for ‘atmanibharta’ in agriculture: Classes from Gujarat


Green Revolution driven conventional agriculture practices helped India to achieve food security. However, it had several negative fallouts on environment and natural resources. Consequently in India, there has been a decline in the rate of expansion of total factor productivity and deterioration of land and groundwater resources. Due to the high cost of production, including labour, tilling, seeds, fertilisers, and pesticides, small-scale farming is becoming challenging. Considering these factors, it’s time to shift the focus from productivity alone to sustainability. Environment-friendly sustainable agriculture practices are the need of the hour for ensuring food and nutritional security. 

The Prime Minister has been emphasizing about the need for a paradigm shift in agriculture through crop diversification, use of technology, and adoption of natural farming as a way towards Atmanirbharta. Natural Farming is chemical free and livestock-based farming. It excludes the use of external inputs and aims to make farming viable and aspirational. Since, it is based on locally available resources and livestock, it can be practiced by all categories of farmers – small & marginal farmers to large farmers. The inclusivity and affordability ensure employment and help in negating gender bias in the sector.

The Govt. of India has been promoting natural farming as Bharatiya Prakritik Krishi Paddhati (BPKP) under the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) scheme since 2019.  Recent Union Budget announcements have also given significant push to natural farming. 

In this context, the case study of Gujarat in leading India’s transformation towards sustainable agriculture practices such as natural farming is noteworthy. 

Natural Farming in Gujarat:

Agriculture has a very significant role in Gujarat as more than 40% of the population is dependent on it for livelihood. Crop and livestock sector contributes about 15% in the state’s GVA. Gujarat has a diverse agricultural landscape covering arid and semi-arid regions, coastal plains, and fertile river valleys. The state’s agriculture sector is characterized by small and marginal farmers who depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Recognizing the potential of natural farming in improving the livelihood of farmers, health of consumers and environment, the state has adopted a multidimensional strategy for scaling up natural farming. This includes support to farmers through specific schemes, extensive capacity building including field demonstration and exposure visits of farmers, organisation of exhibitions and fairs, and support to research and reforms in the education sector, among others.  

Since 2019, natural farming has been promoted across the state. However, the area differs from district to district with 1,302 ha in Navsari to 52,828 ha area in Dang (Fig.1). Currently, 3.26 lakh farmers are practicing natural farming in 3.79 lakh ha area in the state. 

State initiatives in Natural Farming:

Special financial assistance for promoting natural farming was announced under the Gujarat Atma Nirbhar package by the state in budget 2020-21. Under the financial assistance scheme, since Gobar and Gomutra are essential ingredients for natural farming, a monthly financial support of Rs 900 is given for maintenance of a cow of indigenous breed to 1.84 lakh farmers practicing natural farming. Similarly, subsidy of Rs 1,248 was provided to each farmer for purchasing natural farming kit to prepare Jivamrit. In addition to financial support for cow, about 13,000 farmers are given an incentive of Rs 5,000 per hectare (up to 2 hectares per farmer) for kharif and rabi season for practicing natural farming. Consequently, farmers in districts like Dang are practicing natural farming only.

ATMA-SAMETI is the implementation agency for natural farming in the State. Multiple trainings were given to farmers since 2019 through ATMA. Through pamphlets and video(s), natural farming techniques and success stories were disseminated at large scale. By February 2023, 10.24 lakh farmers and 1,964 officers have been trained in natural farming. To make natural farming a people’s movement, in addition to extensive trainings, exhibitions, evening meetings, Special Yatras, and natural farming kathas have been organized.

Gujarat has also made efforts to develop a co-operative model for facilitating farmers in the sale of natural farming produce. This model helps to ensure a remunerative price for natural produce leading to an increase in farmers’ share in the consumer rupee. 

Under the Gobardhan scheme of Government of India, which is focused on safe management of cattle waste and creating economic value, Gujarat has undertaken pioneering initiatives. In 2021, Banas Dairy commissioned a bio-CNG plant using 40 MT Gobar daily. NDDB has so far installed more than 4,300 flexi biogas plants based on Gobar slurry in Gujarat. In both these models, apart from the biogas generated, part of the residual slurry is being used as natural manure.

In order to integrate the principles of natural farming in agriculture education, an expert committee was constituted by the Govt. of Gujarat. This was in line with the announcement of National Budget 2022 and the curriculum and lecture framework for UG, PG, ELP and Certificate courses for natural farming has been developed. The same has been adopted by the state agriculture universities. Further, efforts are also being made to develop syllabus of natural farming for State School education as per NEP.

In order to strengthen education and research in sustainable agriculture practices, Gujarat Natural Farming and Organic Agriculture University was established in 2017. This is the first of its kind university in India offering two years postgraduate programme i.e. MSc (Agri) organic farming and BSc and MSc (Agri) in natural farming.  

Gujarat University is also taking initiatives for promotion of natural farming and has included the same as a core subject in all MBA programmes. In 2022, the Indian Institute of Sustainability (IIS), under Gujarat University, started a Ph.D. in natural farming. Out of the six students in the first batch, four students are foreign candidates. Besides, IIS signed MoUs with DIHAR (DRDO), IIFT (Delhi), North Eastern Hill University (Meghalaya), NAFED, and NCDC for exchange of knowledge and research in sustainable agriculture. 

To promote research and collection of evidences related to natural farming, the ‘Network Research Programme on Bharatiya Prakritik Krishi Paddhati (Natural Farming) through Biotechnology Interventions’, under Gujarat State Biotechnology Mission (GSBTM), DST Research Support Scheme has been launched. 

The need of the hour is to move towards initiatives which ensure nutritional and sustainable food security to the entire population. The multidimensional approach adopted by the Govt. of Gujarat for supporting transition towards natural farming may be replicated across India. States should work together to prioritise and encourage natural farming, as well as to support the transition to and expansion of natural farming, especially among farmers with limited financial resources and financial capabilities.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.



Add a Comment