The Cabinet will soon take a call on the Agriculture Ministry’s ₹2,481-crore proposal to launch National Mission on Natural Farming (NMNF), to be implemented from the current fiscal until 2025-26. The NMNF will target to bring into its fold 7.5 lakh farmers to practice non-chemical natural farming on 7.5 lakh hectares. Under the scheme, farmers will get a maximum funding of ₹15,000/hectare (until 2025-26) depending on loss in income, if any, after switching over to natural farming.

The initial focus will be to roll it out in the 5 kilometre-wide corridor along river Ganga and subsequently it will be extended to other areas.

According to the proposal in the centrally-sponsored scheme, the Centre’s share will be ₹1,584 crore while States will have to contribute ₹897 crore in the next three years. The proposed expenditure also includes a Central share of ₹207 crore and a State share of ₹95 crore to be spent in the remaining period of the current fiscal.

Funding process

The Centre is likely to fund the scheme partly from the receipts from Agriculture Development Cess and as well as from issuing “Green Bonds”, a source said. The details of the green bonds will be decided by the Finance Ministry, he added. The Centre and States will share the funding at 60:40 ratio, except for the North-East and hilly States where the sharing will be in the 90:10 ratio.

The target of covering 7.5 lakh farmers has been based on funds approved for the scheme by the Finance Ministry and upscaling it depends on the outcome and its acceptability by farmers, sources said.

Making a departure from past schemes, the Ministry has proposed the disbursal of funds to the beneficiaries based on outcome and not any monthly or annual incentive, the source said. The Agriculture Ministry is believed to have already developed appropriate monitoring mechanisms including regular soil testing to ensure farmers enrolled under NMNF do not use chemical fertilisers or pesticides.

The Centre for Management of Agricultural Extension (MANAGE), National Centre of Organic and Natural Farming (NCOF) and Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) are the Central agencies named in the proposal to implement the scheme after receiving direct funding to the tune of ₹165 crore from the Centre’s share.

“The target realisation of enrolling 7.5 lakh farmers will take at least four years since the entire process of capacity building of farmers through formation of clusters, their certification and also organising them as FPOs is very slow,” said the source. “The proposed NMNF is aimed at integrating traditional wisdom with modern science to benefit farmers, soil, quality of food and environment,” the source added.

As the scheme has provision for less than 1 per cent of the total proposed expenditure for market development, publicity and soil health tracking, Indian Council of Agricultural Research has suggested that it should be enhanced. Assured market need to be developed for those produce to come from the NMNF clusters and a reasonable amount of funds should also be allocated, an official said.