High levels of farmer debt and the phenomenon of farmer suicides in India have made finding low-cost agricultural strategies fundamental to rural wellbeing and development. Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) acts to address these problems. It is a regenerative agricultural practice, which addresses the problem of soil degradation while being low-cost, mitigating the problem of farmer debt. The widespread adoption of ZBNF has the potential to enhance the livelihood resilience of smallholder farmers to climate and land use change, while increasing their income and food security, and improving soil fertility.
INTERDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH APPROACH
An interdisciplinary team of soil and social scientists from the University of Reading are working to develop an evidence base to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the ZBNF approach, to what extent that success has come from context-specific conditions, and whether there are principles that could be useful in other geographic and cultural areas.
SUMMARY OF SOCIAL SCIENCE METHODOLOGY
ZBNF is being implemented by Rythu Sahikara Samstha (RySS), a non-profit organization established by the state government, which works through a model that engages a network of trained farming fellows, resource persons, and champions of the ZBNF program to work in village clusters, primarily with women’s self-help groups (SHGs). The social science investigation team, using research methods such as gender-disaggregated participatory innovation timelines and mapping, and a Freirean participatory photography praxis, are analyzing the communication and learning dynamics of smallholder women farmers to understand decision making, paths of knowledge exchange, innovation processes, and the root causes behind adoption decisions making amongst ZBNF participants in our three research settings, each representing a different agroecological zone in Andhra Pradesh.