HP’s natural farming becomes learning ground for foreigners too

04:50 PM Sep 26, 2021 | PTI |

Shimla: “If we want to sustain ourselves in a more natural way, non-chemical farming is a great option,” said Carole Durand, 28, from Averon, France.


Durand is in Himachal Pradesh with her friend, Shahzad Parbhoo, 36, from Raigad, Maharashtra, to have first-hand knowledge of the low-cost climate-resilient natural farming technique being promoted by the state government under Prakritik Kheti Khushhal Kisan Yojana (PK3Y) over the last three years.

Devised by Padma Shree awardee Subhash Palekar, the technique is named as Subhash Palekar Natural Farming (SPNF) technique in the state.

As many as 1,33,056 farmers on 7,609 hectares have already adopted it partially or fully after training organized by the State Project Implementing Unit (SPIU), PK3Y, a state official said.

Durand is a nurse and came to India five years ago as she was interested in Yoga. Together for the last three years, she, along with Parbhoo, a management professional, has been exploring the possibilities of non-chemical agriculture as a livelihood option.


“My grandfather, who was a strawberry farmer in Correze in France, died of brain cancer supposedly because strawberries required frequent chemical sprays. The chemical farming has done much damage to the health of farmers in that area,” said Durand.

She said there is awareness among people about organic farming in France, but natural farming is amazing.

“I had incidentally met Dr. Rajeshwar Singh Chandel, Executive Director, PK3Y, last year while I was doing a one-year apprenticeship at an agriculture farm (based on bio-dynamics) near Anand in Gujarat. He told me about the natural farming initiatives in Himachal Pradesh, wherein the farmers are not using any chemical fertilizer or pesticide.

Durand and Parbhoo visited a number of farmers earlier this month, who are practicing natural farming of vegetables, cereals, pulses, and fruits, on part of their land in Kangra, Mandi, Shimla, and Solan districts and both of them find themselves enriched with knowledge on the concept.

“In Maharashtra, the development has eaten up agriculture fields near urban areas in a big way. In Himachal, we saw agricultural farms everywhere. Most of them are taking multiple crops from the same field after they switched to natural farming,” observed Parbhoo.

He said the farmers in HP were quite aware of the advantages of nonchemical natural farming in the long run. “A number of them said they were fed up with the overuse of chemicals which was increasing their expenditure, while crop production was either stagnant or declining.”

Parbhoo said the farmers, who have already tested natural farming on a portion of their land, are ready to do it despite challenges in the switch-over.

The duo was all praise for Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA) staff, working under SPIU, for regular connect with the farmers for emerging issues.

“It has been a great learning,” they said, while sharing their experience with Executive Director, PK3Y, Dr. Rajeshwar Singh Chandel, State Project Director, Rakesh Kanwar, and Secretary, Agriculture, Dr. Ajay Sharma in Shimla and said it had been great learning for them.

Durand said the farmers were so warm. “We stayed with one of the apple growers, Rajpal Gejta, an ex-serviceman, a progressive farmer from Rohroo, who is doing natural farming on 5.5 bigha. He talks high about it. He told us about the challenges of keeping an indigenous cow.”

She said even in France, there is a concept of farmer families like she saw in Himachal Pradesh, where the entire family works in fields.

Durand and Parbhoo were impressed with the zeal of hill women farmers to take up natural farming initiatives. “We met some women farmers who are collectively doing natural farming in Rathi village in Shimla district. The women do contribute to agriculture in Maharashtra, but they are not so organised in Maharashtra as in Himachal,” said Parbhoo.

He said a good thing was that the farmers are using natural farming techniques with their need-based innovations with SPIU’s technical support.


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