Frequently Asked Questions

Climate Resilient, Zero Budget Natural Farming, or ZBNF, is a farming approach that believes in growing  crops in harmony with nature. Z.B.N.F has been pioneered by Shri. Subhash Palekar. Crops are grown without adding any synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, or other products/inputs from outside the farming system. The Z.B.N.F farm model is based on polycropping. The expenditure on the main crop is recovered from the income from the short duration inter crops, hence the net expenditure on the main crop is ‘zero’.  That is how the word ‘Zero Budget’ is suffixed to Natural farming.

This paradigm relies on self-reliance when it comes to inputs like Seed too.

Livestock integrationin the form of native breed of cows is stressed upon. The  bio - inoculants and formulations for pest management used in this approach rely on the cow dung and cow urine from native cow species. The native cow species have a higher adaptive capability, and even small and marginal farmers find them  easy to manage. There are several studies showing the effectiveness of the native cow in the various formulations – Bijamrutham, Jeevamrutham, etc.

Another factor is the sentiment of association that farmers have with the native  cow.

Climate resilient ZBNF is an approach within the broad paradigm of agro-ecology or Regenerative Agriculture, which is becoming popular all over the world. Regenerative agriculture is a holistic land management practice that leverages the power of photosynthesis in plants to close the carbon cycle, and build soil health, crop resilience and nutrient density. The growing emphasis worldwide on agroecology or regenerative agriculture is on account of its immense potential for carbon sequestration. Regenerative agriculture provides resilience to adverse climatic conditions. That is why, in A.P we have termed it as Climate Resilient ZBNF.

As a form of regenerative agriculture, ZBNF practices cultivate ecosystem services and biodiversity for food security and sustainable livelihoods. It reduces the farmers’ costs through eliminating external inputs and utilising in-situ biological resources to rejuvenate the soil, whilst simultaneously increasing incomes, restoring ecosystem health and climate resilience through diverse, multi-layered cropping systems. The thrust is on building soil micro-biota, soil aeration, greater soil humus production, water percolation and water retention. Pest management is through sound agronomy for improving plant resistance, and if necessary, using local botanical extracts. Locally adapted indigenous seeds perform well under ZBNF.

The concept behind CRZBNF/APZBNF programme can be seen in the document ‘Andhra Pradesh Zero-Budget Natural Farming: A Transformative Programme’  linked below:

Andhra Pradesh Zero-Budget Natural Farming: A Transformative Programme


The programme brochure may be downloaded here:

Andhra Pradesh: India’s 1st Natural Farming State


The programme has clearly spelt out principles when it comes to what constitutes ZBNF, how planning and implementation will be undertaken.


  • No external inputs
  • Local seeds
  • Microbial Seed treatment,
  • Microbial inoculant for soil health,
  • Cover crops for biomass mulching and bio-mass incorporation for creating a suitable micro-climate for maximum beneficial microbial activity
  • Mixed cropping
  • Integration of trees into the farm
  • Integration of livestock, especially of native cow into the farming system, for cow dung and cow urine as essential and preferred raw materials for several practices
  • Water and moisture conservation
  • Agriculture science rooted in agro-ecology and practices evolved through practice and field innovations



  • *Household’s full willingness to participate, as an informed decision through household level planning processes
  • Strong community level institution-building, with women farmers involved equally at all levels in all cadres
  • Coordination with all local bodies
  • Horizontal farmer to farmer extension through Community Resource Persons
  • Special focus on the Poorest of the Poor
  • Supporting and strengthening farmer level and community level self-reliance – in inputs and practices
  • No compromise in the paradigm of working in harmony with Nature or self reliance and autonomy at farmer level
  • Funds are required for converting farmers from chemical input based agriculture to regenerative agriculture. This requires long term hand holding of farmers through best practising farmers, and, building farmers’ institutions.
  • Expenditure is mostly on capacity building and building institutions of farmers – women and men farmers.
  • First preference to Government funding, especially Government of India support
  • Investments to lead to empowerment and autonomy of farmers, in addition to sustainability and viability
  • The repayment of any funds borrowed by State Govt for this purpose is by the State government. It is not to be repaid by farmers. The expenditure in the programme is a grant for the farmers.

There is convincing evidence that agro-ecology not only delivers immense benefits to farmers, consumers, environment and health, but that it is an absolute imperative given the unfolding agrarian and environmental crisis all around us. There is evidence from other countries and other states in India.

In Andhra Pradesh itself, there is a long history of these approaches, both by State Govt. and by N.G.Os. A  multi-crop based Non Pesticidal Management (NPM) of crops was promoted on a large scale in (undivided) Andhra Pradesh in a program called Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture (CMSA). This approach to crop protection (from pests and diseases, and thereby enhancing the yields by reducing any possible losses from pest and disease attacks) was scaled up to 35 lakh acres, in the period 2005-06 to 2012-13. Within the NPM programme,  other components related to improving soil health, better water management and seed self-reliance were integrated subsequently in CMSA.  

The documentary evidence that NPM practices can replace the use of Endosulfan was used to strengthen argument against Endosulfan and a decision to impose restrictions was taken at UN Stockholm conference in 2011.

A 3rdParty Evaluation was taken up by Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, of this Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) project in October 2010, with 3200 respondents.
The same is available here:
Annexures are here:
Prior to this evaluation report of CMSA being in the public domain, USAID listed CMSA programme as one of the potential best practices for food and nutrition security, in a publication called “India’s potential best practices for food and nutrition security”.

Published papers exist on the effectiveness of practices like Beejamrit, Jeevamrut and Mulching which are part of CRZBNF.  Some of these are included in this compilation of scientific studies:

This compilation is also sound evidence on various agro-ecological approaches which broadly rely on increasing (i). soil microbial activity which in turns affects soil physical and chemical properties, in addition to (ii). creating a favourable above-ground ecosystem through tree integration and multi-cropping, which in turn address nutrient management, water management and crop protection.

ZBNF programme is not a model of contract farming.

The ZBNF programme organises participating farmers into Self-help Groups, and Village level and Cluster level Federations and/or Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs). Women farmers are actively involved, through their self help groups and federations, in all stages of the programme.

Initially, the focus of the institutions is to disseminate knowledge and support farmer members  to convert into ZBNF farmers. The emphasis is on diversity of crops and multiple crops. The ZBNF programme emphasises on the food and nutrition security of the members. Gradually, like other farmer collectives, these institutions facilitate local collective action for inputs, convergence, value-addition, local consumption, linkages etc. However, farmers would be encouraged to look at markets for the surplus produce that they have.

These farmers’ institutions facilitate aggregation for their produce to achieve economies of scale and negotiation/bargaining power in the market place. FPOs will also be supported for  basic infrastructure for better storage, value-addition, transport and marketing.  The F.P.O s  are autonomous institutions. The farmers are being empowered to enjoy full autonomy to create markets for themselves as well as sell their produce, including value-added produce, in the most remunerative manner.  

Zero Budget Natural Farming and its standards with regard to permitted and prohibited practices and inputs have not been yet made into legal standards, as has happened in the case of Organic Farming. However, Z.B.N.F’s “non negotiable” is the use of local seeds. There is a clear recognition of the fact that genetically modified seeds as well as hybrid seeds not only pose the requirement of higher resources for their normal performance which is often unaffordable to our farmers, but also weaken the autonomy of the farmer and the farming community.

In the case of GMOs, the many health and environmental dangers of the technology are well recognised and therefore, transgenic seeds are shunned in this approach. The importance of traditional seeds is recognised in terms of local adaptability,  nutritional superiority in many cases, self-reliance and diversity. The seed systems being promoted in ZBNF are based on concepts of self-reliance, diversity, affordability, verifiable quality, non-hazardous technologies and community control.

In the case of cotton seeds in the ZBNF programme, the non-GM cotton seed availability in the regular cotton seed supply chains is minimal,  after Bt cotton took over cotton cultivation in the country. Hence, the A.P Z.B.N.F programme is working on developing and strengthening open pollinated cotton seed supply systems. Organisations like Centre for Sustainable Agriculture in Kadapa and Jattu in Vizianagaram are already working on promoting non-GM open pollinated cotton varieties on a pilot basis.  The internal standards will be rigorously enforced and appropriate systems evolved (material and institutional) to ensure that communities become self-reliant for their needs of diverse and locally-adapted seeds.

Partnership with organisations like WASSAN has been put into place to replicate the successful Community Managed Seed Systems (CMSS) initiative through the ZBNF programme. AP Government is implementing CMSS programme as a multi-party arrangement with Mana Vithana Kendrams (MVKs) at the village level, with agriculture department, with resource organisations and with implementing NGOs.

The unique innovation of the A.P ZBNF programme is the farmer-to-farmer knowledge dissemination. The ZBNF trainers and extension workers are the best practicing ZBNF farmers, called Community Resource Persons (CRPs).They are highly motivated and strongly committed to ZBNF, as their lives have been transformed by implementation of ZBNF in their own fields. This enables them to communicate the ZBNF principles and practices to the new farmers. This is the unique strength of this programme. The program invests heavily in building the capacities of farmers and CRPs. The CRPs are provided multiple rounds of training, at the district level and at the state level. CRPs are trained in video dissemination and are provided hand held video projectors, called pico projectors. There are almost 300 videos, of 8 to 12 minutes duration, on ZBNF practices, crop wise recommendations and case studies of successful ZBNF farmers. The CRPs conduct video dissemination in the evening. The video dissemination is followed by discussions with farmers. This happens every day in different parts of the village. This has greatly helped in accelerating the ZBNF adoption rates. The CRPs are also trained in using smart phones for tracking farmers’ practices.

These CRPs are assisted by a new innovation in extension – that of Natural Farming Fellows, which involves a campus recruitment of young agriculture graduates/post graduates placed in villages. After 6 months of training, these NFFs will begin practicing ZBNF and are expected to earn more from their farming than the honorarium that they get.

Shri Subhash Palekar, a Padma Shri awardee, is the mentor of ZBNF program of AP Government. The 3 mega farmer trainings conducted by him from 2016 to 2018 are greatly responsible for the huge impact on farmers, their motivation and commitment to take forward the programme.The ZBNF content has been made farmer friendly. 20,000 farmers have been trained by Sh. Subhash Palekar. More than 160,000 farmers are watching Palekar videos in the villages which are being shown by Community Resource Persons. Some have been reading Palekar’s books translated to telugu and some tend to view the videos directly on YouTube. 

The farmers’ institutions at the ground level of course have a critical role to play. Women Self-help Groups have helped immensely to scale up the work, specially in 2018-19. Women SHGs play a central role in ZBNF knowledge dissemination and extension with farmer families, farm planning for each family in kharif and rabi campaigns, meeting working capital requirements and handling community funds, and tracking the progress. Men SHGs and federations are emerging as mirror SHGs of Women SHGs.  Each Farmer Self Help Group would have around 10 farm families on an average and around 40 farmer SHGs in a typical gram panchayat would be federated into 2 Village Farmer Federations. Each Farmer Self Help Group ( men and women’s groups) would have one lead male farmer and one lead female farmer (2 active/lead farmers per group).

There would also be one or two input/output enterprises in each village.

Gradually the farmers’ institutions federate at various levels (at sub-district/district levels) beyond the clusters to take charge of the programme on the ground, support scaling up, meet the needs of the farmers (like knowledge, credit and insurance)  and take up value addition and marketing.

State Level Implementation & Technical Support Unitwith 40-50 strong team from the Department of Agriculture and professionals, is supported by District Program Support Unit, along with cluster teams(4 per mandal). 

The strength of the programme is the close integration with the field functionaries of the Department of Agriculture. Theywork closely with RySS at State, District and Mandal levels. The Officers at the mandal and division level participate in the Kharif and Rabi motivational campaigns, capacity-building programmes, debriefing of community resource persons, crop cutting experiments, etc. The Jt. Director, Agriculture leads the programme at the District level. The District level unit of the Z.B.N.F  Project implementation team works under the Jt. Director of Agriculture of the District. The Commissioner of Agriculture is the Chief Executive Officer of the Rythu sadhikara samstha. The Principal Secretary, Agriculture is on the Board of the Ry.S.S.

Experienced NGO involvement, that too through rigorous screening processes, is another key feature, both as resource organisations and implementation organisations.

Collaboration and networking at global and national levelis also an important feature.

ZBNF is designed to be a farmers’ movement, for farmers and of farmers.

Community Resource Persons

The key strategy of the project is promoting farmer–to–farmer learning and the success achieved by the project, in such a short period of time, is on account of the excellent work of the Community resource persons (CRPs), who are best practicing ZBNF farmers. They have been successful in convincing farmers to take up ZBNF. Successful scaling up of Climate Resilience Zero Budget natural farming requires identifying and nurturing best practising ZBNF farmers in the cluster villages to become CRPs. This is critical to the State Govt.’s mission of reaching out to all the 60 lakh farmers in the state by the end of 2024. The programme in the initial 2 years has been incubated by the C.R.P s developed in the preceding programme of C.M.S.A and N.P.M, undertaken by the Govt. of A.P. Many of these C.R.P s have also gone to other states as trainers, under the Mahila kisan shashaktikaran programme of the National Rural Livelihoods Mission of the Ministry of Rural Development. In turn they have nurtured and developed a new set of C.R.P s in the programme villages.

Selection process of the C.R.P s developed in the programme villages :

For the purpose of selecting CRPs, the best practicing seed-to-seed farmers (a seed-to-seed farmer is one who is practicing all of ZBNF practices) in each village is identified. The identification is transparent and a rigorous process because selecting the right individual is critical to the success of the programme.

Following criteria is used for identification of (Potential) CRPs


  1. Age: 30 - 50 years
  2. Farming Experience: minimum 5 years
  3. Resident of the same village
  4. Major source of income of the family: Agriculture/farming
  5. ZBNF Practice: at least one year as Seed-to-Seed ZBNF Farmer, practicing ZBNF on their own land or as a tenant farmer
  6. Someone in the family should be taking care of the farming in her/his absence while they work as C.R.P s, in their villages or outside their villages
  7. Social mobilization capacity and ability to convince and mobilize farmers. Patience and Communication skills in convincingfarmers to adopt ZBNF. 
  8. Ability to read and write, studied up to Class 10
  9. Family consent to go for this fellowship and work as CRP
  10. Resolution of FSHG, or,woman S.H.G certifying the person ( for women CRPs ), or, the spouse of the CRP is in a woman S.H.G ( for men CRPs where F – SHG s have not been formed). 



Preference (additionally):

  • Resident in the same zone( in case they are to be considered for positioning as “Zonal” C.R.P in their own village).  
  • Experience in ZBNF for 4 crop seasons/2 years
  • Small/Marginal Farmer, Tenant, Single woman, and/or a member of poorest of poor families
  • Participation in Sh. Palekar’s Training
  • Having a desicow
  • Number offarmers in the village who have converted to ZBNF following his/her example
  • Willing to spare time to work with CRP in ZBNF spread within the village (or outside) and is willing to handle the  CRP responsibility during their absence.
  • Higher education - intermediate, degree and above will be given a higher weightage

4400+ CRPs are working for the Programme.

Natural Farming Fellows

RySS has been offering Natural Farming Fellowship to young dynamic graduates and post graduates in agriculture, horticulture, agriculture engineering, home sciences, botany etc. These natural farming fellows would be working in various thematic areas in the cluster over a period of time and support the cluster and district team in programme implementation.

RySS envisages to create a pool of young professionals who work on field and provide their support by means of knowledge and skills. It also serves as a platform to encourage agriculture graduates and post graduates to take up farming as an occupation and make it into a profitable business model thus making agriculture aspirational for the younger generations.

Selection Process:

  • In order to qualify as a natural farming fellow, candidates are required to go through an exhaustive selection process which includes:
  • Written/online/e-test and shortlisting for field immersion of about 1-month
  • Post field immersion assessment through field performance, report analysis, personal interview and behavioral event interview
  • Six-month induction for shortlisting candidates including: sandwich training comprising of classroom modules on poverty, communication, leadership, management and planning, various thematic related to RySS and working and learning by staying in a cluster along with exposure visit; taking-up ZBNF farming, training to community cadres; and research.
  • Post-induction assessment

200+ NFFs are in Natural Farming Fellowship with RySS.


Non-Government Organizations  

RySS believes that experience of NGOs will be very useful for the programme. RySS has initiated partnering with NGOs to take up the work in the field. Selection of field NGOs included the following process:

  • Against advertisement seeking interested NGOs to take up field engagement, Interested NGOs have sent an expression of interest to RySS during the preproposal stage.
  • Shortlisting by Desk Scrutiny, Field Assessment of external team, and independent assessment of detailed presentations to district/state panel(s)
  • Deliberations and Consultations of Working groups to develop and finalize modalities of engagement, plans, and MoU
  • MoUs have been signed for Field implementation support of NGOs in 75 Clusters

Monitoring and Learning are key elements of the programme that are led by the farmers community themselves. Village Organizations of women S.H.G s and federations of the farmers institutions have regular meetings where the work is continuously monitored and programme corrections, if any, are briefed to the CRP. There are regular CRP debriefing sessions after their field rounds, at the cluster level and district level.

A comprehensive ICT for programme management by farmers is under development. This includes:

  1. Farmer database
  2. E-tracking of progress on adoption of ZBNF practices
  3. Traceability maintenance for certification
  4. Data on crop conditions
  5. Performance monitoring of all functionaries
  6. E-Marketing
  7. Geo-mapping
  8. Climate information
  9. Video primers
  10. Crop cards

Various process indicators are being monitored and impact parameters are also being captured for yields, costs, net incomes etc.

Special collaborative research projects  are planned for scientific validation of practices and results.

Internally, planning and review meetings happen once every month at district and state level.

A periodic field verification process is conducted by inter-district or intra-district teams at least once in a year.

Crop Cutting Experiments are conducted across the state on both ZBNF and non-ZBNF plots to demonstrate to farmers the benefits of ZBNF. Third-party CCEs are also being conducted.

The programme was initiated by the Agriculture Dept in June 2015 and the field level implementation has commenced from Kharif 2016. In a short span of 3 years, the A.P ZBNF has gained huge traction among farmers. It has also won the appreciation of many national and international organizations.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India and the State Government are supporting the programme under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) and the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY).

The Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives (APPI) has been the earliest champion of the A.P ZBNF programme. It has been supporting RySS since 2017 through technical support grants. APPI has been working closely with RySS in jointly reflecting, learning and mid course improvements to the programme. Through APPI’s support, a strong Technical Support Unit comprising of experts, professionals and natural farming fellows has been put in place in RySS. In addition, APPI is also  extending support to commissioning independent research studies that will help in building a convincing case for ZBNF. This includes the Socio-economic impact studies, Soil and land health monitoring studies and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from ZBNF vs Non-ZBNF.

The plan is to cover 500,000 farmers in 3000 villages. The financial support required for the ongoing programme is to a tune of Rs. 1250.0 crores by 2021 – 22. This will be mobilized from the programmes of Ministry of Agriculture and of the State Govt. The State Govt. is bearing the expenditure on the Staff from the Agriculture Dept, at the State and District level. As on September, 2018, ZBNF was being practiced across 13 districts by 354,000 farmers in 970 clusters, 3015 villages, 662 mandals. The intensive farmers enrollment in all the villages is in progress and will be completed by October, end. It is expected that the enrolment of farmers will be 500,000.

Farmer-to-Farmer extension is being carried out in the clusters by 4426 Community Resource Persons (CRPs).


Status of ZBNF by District(September 2018)

Disrtrict wise enrolment of ZBNF farmers and Extent

Sl no


Farmers Enrolled

Extent (in Acres)






















East Godavari






West Godavari



























































ZBNF Results vis-à-vis Non-ZBNF

A total of 1,614 Crop Cutting Experiments (CCEs) conducted by Ry.S.S in ZBNF and Non-ZBNF crops in Kharif 2017 have shown extremely encouraging results:

  1. 88% of CCEs (1,421 CCEs) have shown increase in Net incomes due to increase in yield and decrease in cost of cultivation
  2. 10% of CCEs (167 CCEs) have indicated increase in Net incomes although there was a decrease in yield but was compensated by reduction in costs thus resulting in overall increase in net incomes.
  3. Only in 2 % cases, was there decrease in net incomes – the cost reduction was not compensated by reduction in the yields.


Increase in yield was observed across all major food crops and cash crops during Kharif 2017. ZBNF and Non-ZBNF comparative yields are provided in the table below:


Yields in Food Crops –  Kharif 2017 ZBNF vs Non-ZBNF CCEs

Food Crops

State Avg Yield


ZBNF Yield (Kgs/ha)

Non-ZBNF Yield (Kgs/ha)

% change

Paddy (Irrigated)




+ 9%

Guli Ragi




+ 40%




+ 17%










+ 21%


Yields in Cash Crops – Kharif 2017  ZBNF vs Non-ZBNF CCEs

Cash Crops

State Avg Yield


ZBNF Yield (Kgs/ha)

Non-ZBNF Yield (Kgs/ha)

% change





+ 26%




+ 36%





+ 11%





+ 26%


Farmers are earning higher net incomes from ZBNF crops compared to Non-ZBNF crops. This is observed across all major crops. This data is presented in the following tables:

Net Income in Food Crops – ZBNF vs Non-ZBNF CCEs

Food Crops

Cost of Cultivation

(in Rs. /ha)

Net Income

(in Rs. /ha)

% change







Paddy (irrigated)





+ 51%

Guli Ragi





+ 54%






+ 25%






+ 54%






+ 43%

Net Income in Cash Crops – ZBNF vs Non-ZBNF CCEs

Cash Crops

Cost of Cultivation

(in Rs. /ha)

Net Income

(in Rs. /ha)

% change












+ 135%






+ 61%






+ 87%






+ 53%

Source: Internal survey conducted by project team with a sample of 533 poorest of the poor farmers from 13 districts.

Andhra Pradesh government is interested in scaling up ZBNF in a universalization mode in an attempt to achieve three objectives: farmers’ welfare, citizens’ well being, and, environment conservation.  The objectives sought to be achieved are:

Farmers Welfare

  • Reducing costs and risks
  • Increasing yields – short term as well as long term
  • Regular streams of income throughout the year
  • Food and Nutrition Security of farm households
  • Climate change resilience

Food security and improved health to all citizens

  • More Food
  • Safe Food
  • Nutritious, diverse foods

Conservation of environment

  • Improved Soil health
  • Better Water infiltration and water holding
  • Resilience to droughts and floods
  • Increased bio diversity – beneficial insects, bees, butterflies, birds, earthworms, etc
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Reduction in other GHG emissions


Potential for Transformative Impacts

Converting the agriculture sector of Andhra Pradesh to 100% regenerative agriculture, zero budget natural farming through 60 lakh farmers will deliver transformative benefits for the economy, environment and equity. It will present a first-of-its-kind blueprint for sustainable production that reverses biodiversity losses and preserves ecosystem services, and provides an opportunity for reclaiming planetary boundaries. Moreover, 14 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals are dependent on the status of natural resources and successfully scaling up of ZBNF will deliver an effective cross-sectoral strategy for achieving SDGs targets.

 It is our understanding that the Z.B.N.F programme offers the best means of safeguarding our collective future.

A presentation made to NITI Aayog on the ZBNF programme is accessible here:

The intervention in a GP begins in a zero-th year; thus, ZBNF work began in Kharif 2016-17 in 704 GPs. The first year or the first 6 months are seen as preparatory phases. Thus these villages are in   their first year in 2017-18. Similarly, preliminary work has begun in 2175 GPs in 2018-19.

The overall phasing of the GPs is as shown in this table.


Phasing of Implementation



Cumulative GPs





















 (in about 2585 Clusters)


The overall target is to reach  60 lakh farm-families in A.P cultivating  80 lakh hectares of agricultural land across 12,924 Gram Panchayats in the state of Andhra Pradesh.The vision is to make entire state of Andhra Pradesh as a natural farming state, practising regenerative agriculture and free from synthetic chemicals.


In 2018 -19, 5.0 lakh farmers will be enrolled into ZBNF.

The Funds required to cover all 60 lakh farmers are estimated to be Rs. 16,452 crore.The scale-up strategy and HR plan is explained further here.

The scale up strategy – Gram Panchayat level onwards

At the Gram Panchayat-level

The average number of farm families in a Gram Panchayat (GP) is estimated to be 465. The programme target of RySS is to cover in the first 3 years 400 farmer families per Gram Panchayat, which is 86% of the total number. (Note: The balance farmers join the programme at their convenience. The expenditure on that is not reckoned in these calculations. It is expected to be met out of the budget  for the 86% farmers).

A typical gram panchayat would consist of -

  1. 40 Farmer Self Help Groups and 40 women S.H.G s
  2. 2 Village Farmer Federations, and 2 women S.H.G federations
  3. 2 Active/Lead Farmers (1 man, 1 woman) per 10 Farm Families
  4. Community resource persons (CRPs) – 8 (1 GP level CRP, 5 Junior CRPs and 2 Institution Building CRPs – described below)
  5. 2 ZBNF input/output Enterprises

Each GP has one L2 CRP. One Internal Community Resource Person (L3 CRP) is positioned for about 80-100 farmers. There will be 2 IB CRPs (L3) in every village for building farmers institutions and for convergence with women SHGs. On an average, 5 Gram Panchayats constitute a cluster. It takes 5 years to saturate all 5 GPs in a cluster. There will be a cluster level federation of village level men farmer federations and  village federations of women SHGs.

Each cluster would have the following human resources, who are inducted in a phased manner:


CRPs are best practicing farmers who are responsible for motivating farmers to convert to ZBNF and are responsible for providing close handholding support to the farmers in the transition process.


L1, L2, L3 are different levels of CRPs based on hierarchy, farmer outreach and geography. 


L3 CRPs  work closely with farmers in the, as they cover only 80 – 100 farmer families.   L3 CRPs are planned to be about 2 per Village Organisation (VO) (i.e 2 per 200 farmers). We have 3,518 L3 CRPs as of Sep 2018.


L2 CRPs are GP-level CRPs who stay in a village and supervise the work of L3 CRPs in that GP. L2 CRPs are planned to be deployed as one per 450 farmers. Currently we do not have anyone positioned in this level. They will emerge from the pool of L3 C.R.P s.


L1 CRPs are Cluster-level CRPs who supervise all GPs in a given cluster. They have emerged from the previous CMSA/NPM programme ( which ran from 2005 to 2014). They are positioned one for every 2000 farmers. As of Sep 2018, 908 are positioned as L1 CRPs.


Progress in a GP over 5 years

It takes about three years to reach to every farmer in a GP. A farmer, after 6 months to one year of introductory efforts, will become a ZBNF Farmer and take 3 more years to convert his/her entire holding into ZBNF. Out of these, 86% farmers become full fledged seed to seed ZBNF farmers, in  five years. All the ZBNF farmers become part of the farmers self-help groups (FSHGs). In due course, the SHGs of women and men come together into farmers’ federations at village level and the village SHG federations of women and men come together to form a Cluster Farmer Federation.

Using this model, progress in a GP in 5 years (in numbers) are:

Progress in a GP over 5 years










Farmers - Cumulative Coverage








Farmers - Seed to Seed (cumulative)








Farmers' Groups (cumulative)








Village Farmers' Federations (cumulative), along with the village women SHG federations








Cluster Farmers' Federation (cumulative) (1 for 5 GPs)








Lead/Active Farmers (cumulative)








Master Farmers (cumulative) [who can become CRPs]








Access to Input-Output Enterprises








Market Support to Farmers (cumulative)







The State Government’s approach is to saturate each village ( cover more than 80% farmers) in 3 years from the year of entry into that village. The plan is to reach more than 80% (400 farmers) of the village by Year 3. Each farmer takes 3 years to cover entire holding. Thus in 5 years, the village becomes a ‘bio-village’.

Whole Village Approach


A typical farmer’s adoption pattern

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3


Year 1

Year 2

Year 3



> 80%




Full area


By 2013, the following was the picture of the project:

The CMSA programme shows what institutional mechanisms and what Management Information Systemsmight aid such massive transitions. A World Bank report (2009) called “Ecologically Sound, Economically Viable Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture in Andhra Pradesh, India”captures the implementation processes as well as key lessons related to design and implementation of such programmes.  The current A.P Z.B.N.F program builds upon the experiences of CMSA in quickly  reaching out to larger number of farmers using practicing farmers as resource persons, using community videos, management information systems and related people’s institutional architecture.

The 2010 evaluation by Extension Education Institute of Ministry of Agriculture, Government of Indiashows that in terms of awareness and knowledge of 3200 samples respondents about major interventions initiated under the project, 60% had medium range of knowledge, and 25% had high level of awareness. 78% of sample respondents were found to be members of the Sasya Mitra groups promoted under the project and have participated in project activities. The evaluation also pointed out that lack of awareness of practices amongst farmers, less technical competence among field functionaries, lack of good market linkages for organic produce etc., as the perceived problems by respondents and stakeholders. The evaluation recommended that seed banks be extended to more crops. The report also suggested to undertake more capacity building programmes and encourage trained farmers to be facilitators to spread appropriate technologies to neighbouring farmers by farmer to farmer extension.

An FAO publication in 2012 called Stocktaking of Livelihood Projects in India (prepared under FAO/World Bank Cooperative Programme) captures a 3-state study of 3 World Bank rural livelihood projects, covering CMSA also: 3 on Agriculture Based Livelihoods, page 54-64). Implementation strategies used in the programme like village immersion, farmer field schools, ICTs for information sharing and reviews, community seed banks, custom hiring centres, NPM shops, support to the Poorest of the Poor, Rainfed Sustainable Agriculture in conjunction with MGNREGS etc. are described. PoP strategy with 251 households (mostly single women) showed that net incomes ranged from Rs. 4000 to Rs. 12000, in addition to meeting the family food needs, on an intensive farming system model on just 36mX36m. The overall PoP strategy (on 0.5 acre, including leased in land) delivered incomes ranging from Rs. 15000 to Rs. 40000 based on the cropping patterns adopted. Amongst impacts captured were reduction in number of cases of pesticide poisonings, and that pest outbreaks did not happen in project villages. The study observes that approaches like FFS have very low risk of failure. For certain interventions like water conservation, more capacity building was recommended. Hindrance to convergence with line departments like agriculture department was noted. CRP based extension was appreciated. SHGs being springboards for farming families to be organised into cooperatives for more focused work along the value chain was recommended.

Internal data collection by the programme showed that as early as 2008, many farm households have been able to take back lands that they have kept mortgaged with input dealers and money-lenders, after joining the CMSA programme. A booklet called “In the Hands of the Communities” captured village level changes in the words of the community representatives, after a “write shop” taken up with them. Experiences included out-migrants coming back into the villages to even lease in land and take up NPM crop cultivation, to earn profits.

All in all, adoption of agro-ecological practices in CMSA, even if they hovered around 60-70%, delivered on considerable positive impacts for the farm households and farming communities.

The current ZBNF scaling up is in experienced hands at the helm. Co-Vice Chairman of RySS and in charge of implementation of the programme is Shri T Vijay Kumar, IAS (Retd), Adviser to the Government. Shri Vijay Kumar has immense experience in scaling up of socially and environmentally relevant programmes for almost 20 years, like organising rural poor women into collectives of Self Help Groups, federating them into Village Organisations at village level and higher level federations of Mandal, District and State level federations in the undivided state of Andhra Pradesh under the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP). Shri Vijay Kumar also spearheaded the scaling up of CMSA within SERP in Andhra Pradesh. Later, he took the concept to Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana (MKSP) in the National Rural Livelihoods Mission, Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, as Jt. Secretary and later as Additional Secretary. The concept of women’s SHGs was also sought to be universalised in the NRLM across all states, under his leadership as Mission Director.

The following is the estimated cost per Gram Panchayat and per farmer household over 5 years.




GP costs (in Rs)


Cost for converting one farmer household (in Rs)


Capacity building





Institution building and funds to farmers’ institutions





One-time Subsidy/Support for access to inputs, tools etc., to Farmers and Farmers' Institutions





PGS Certification, Quality Assurance, Tracking and Monitoring





Marketing Capacity Building and Marketing Support





Technical Support and Overall Programme Management beyond the Cluster










The above costs are arrived at by assuming that a typical GP would have 465 farm-families on an average and our programme would atleast covert 86% of them i.e 400 farm-families.


The costing envisaged for ZBNF in Andhra Pradesh is similar to the Government of India’s Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) revised guidelines of 2018, and is in fact rationalised to suit the conditions of Andhra Pradesh, given that such flexibility is allowed in the PKVY guidelines. 


The year wise funds requirement is as follows:



Yearly fund requirement

(in Rs. Crore)

Cumulative fund requirement

(in Rs. Crore)





























Yearly and cumulative benefits to farmers have been projected, based on experience so far. It is expected that by 2025-26, while the annual benefit to farmers will be around Rs. 27,000+ crore, for the overall investment made of Rs. 16,452 crore, benefit to a tune of Rs. 118,040 crore is envisaged.

 Sources of funds for scaling up:

The ZBNF programme is highly beneficial to farmers of the State and to the citizens of the state. In terms of direct benefits, the benefits to farmers are 13 times the investment required for the transition process. Hence, the State Govt is very keen to complete the universalization process at the earliest.

The State Government is looking at multiple sources of funds: from the schemes of the Ministry of Agriculture, Govt of India, from multilateral/bi-lateral agencies like World Bank, IFAD, JICA, KfW, etc., from  NABARD; and from both domestic and international markets.  

Funding will be on terms and conditions most favourable to the State Govt. And funding will be for a farming paradigm of the kind that ZBNF represents (and not based on external inputs that are sold to farmers) and not by compromising on the self-reliance to be built in the natural farming paradigm.

The repayment will not be done by individual farmers but by the state government of Andhra Pradesh.

Strategic collaborations:

The task of a system wide scaling up, on such a large scale is very daunting and requires strategic partnerships. The Government of AP is partnering with Sustainable India Finance Facility (SIFF) promoted by UNEP, to achieve the objectives of universalization of ZBNF to cover 60 lakh farmers and 80 lakh hectares by 2024.

Sustainable India Finance Facility (SIFF)

The United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment), the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) and BNP Paribas have partneredto establish the Sustainable India Finance Facility (SIFF) with the avowed objective of bringing long-term finance to projects and companies that stimulate green growth, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve livelihoods of marginalized communities, especially vulnerable populations and women. This innovative finance facility will assist India in promoting economic development while contributing to achieving its climate targets as stated in its Nationally Determined Contributions. The core objectives are to scale investments in sustainable agriculture and agricultural commodities production resulting in better food security while reducing deforestation and biodiversity losses.

SIFF is working with the Government of Andhra Pradesh to support the scaling up of the Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) programme with investments targeted at Rs. 16,452 Crore (USD 2.3 billion). 

Specific Terms of Partnership include:

  1. Collaborate to enable rural and marginalized communities to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations through the scale out of ZBNF throughout Andhra Pradesh.
  2. Collaborate to augment and facilitate the availability of requisite financial, human and other resources to implement ZBNF scale out in Andhra Pradesh.
  3. Connect the global scientific and development community to best practices and lessons learned through ZBNF and facilitate national and global exchange on ecologically friendly agricultural production, with a particular emphasis on gender, climate resilience and smallholder farming.
  4. Collaborate to bring the best international graduate expertise in field level data collection and sustainability research into ZBNF and Andhra Pradesh through the Fellowship and Internship programmes.
  5. Promote the incorporation of consultation and engagement with women and tenant farmers by providing replicable models through ZBNF of bottom-up participatory transition to chemical free farming and integration of traditional knowledge, fostering the development of innovative investment opportunities and policy innovations.
  6. Collaborate on transformative opportunities for agriculture, health and food security by bridging the gap between the government, private sector and communities through ZBNF, and coordinating cross-functionally to bring about large-scale natural farming based interventions in developing countries and positive change on the ground.

To this effect, a Memorandum of Understanding for partnership between RySS and SIFF has been signed in June 2018.

It may be noted that S.I.F.F is  a facilitating agency. The funds will be borrowed by Govt of A.P from multiple sources, facilitated by S.I.F.F.



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