Union Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Monday said the government has approved the National Mission on Natural Farming as a separate scheme with an expenditure of ₹1,584 crore. However, the details of the scheme are yet to be released.

Addressing the National Conference on Soil Health Management for Sustainable Farming in Delhi, Tomar said due to chemical farming and other reasons, the soil fertility was getting eroded. He said climate change would be a big concern for the country and the world in the coming days. Stating that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was committed to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Tomar said, “Lack of organic carbon in the soil is a serious concern for us.”

Changed situation

Pointing out that the soil’s fertility had eroded due to chemical farming, Tomar said the country and the world should avoid this and fulfil their environmental responsibility. He also said there was a time when the policies were production-oriented and agricultural yield increased due to chemical farming. But now, the situation has changed, and with climate change, keeping soil health intact was a big challenge, he said. “If an attempt is made to exploit the earth contrary to the principles of nature, the consequences can be dangerous,” he warned.

Tomar said: “To meet the serious challenge (of lack of organic carbon) and for better soil health, we have to promote natural farming, which is beneficial for the environment.” He said the government has re-adopted the Indian Natural Farming System for Agriculture, which is an ancient technique used by farmers. “At that time, people also knew how to live in harmony with nature,” he said.

The minister informed the gathering that Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have made many innovations to promote natural farming. An additional 4.78 lakh hectares have been brought under natural farming in 17 States during the last one year, he said.

Namami Gange project

Under the Namami Gange programme, the project of natural farming is going on along the banks of the Ganges, while the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and all Krishi Vigyan Kendras, Central and State Agricultural Universities and Colleges are making all-round efforts to promote natural farming, the agriculture ministry said in a statement.

In two phases, more than 22 crore Soil Health Cards have been distributed to farmers across the country, the ministry said. So far, 499 permanent Soil Testing Laboratories, 113 Mobile Soil Testing Laboratories, 8,811 Mini Soil Testing Laboratories and 2,395 Village-level Soil Testing Laboratories have been established.

The national conclave, organised by NITI Aayog in collaboration with GIZ, affiliated to the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany, on the occasion of World Soil Day, was attended by Vice-Chairman of NITI Aayog Suman Berry, Member Ramesh Chand, CEO Parameswaran Iyer, as well as Vice-Chancellor of Jhansi-based Central Agricultural University A K Singh.