New Delhi: National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), Ministry of Jal Shakti, organised the 10th edition of the ‘Igniting Young Minds Rejuvenating River’ Webinar on Thursday, September 08. The theme of the webinar was Natural Farming. In this special session, the need to effectively educate the youth about natural farming in Ganga basin states under Arth Ganga Project was discussed.
Giving the keynote address, DG, NMCG, G Asok Kumar gave an overview of the Namami Gange Programme and informed about the various steps being taken to make River Ganga Nirmal and Aviral. Kumar highlighted the concerns of the seepage of chemicals from fields into the river basin and the need for chemical-free farming on the banks of River Ganga for improved biodiversity and the quality of water. He said that natural farming is one of the most important pillars of Arth Ganga and it can address several issues related to Ganga Rejuvenation.
Recalling the vision given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the first meeting of the National Ganga Council in Kanpur in 2019, he highlighted NMCG’s efforts toward sustainable agriculture with natural farming being one of the pillars of the Arth Ganga model. He discussed Namami Gange’s efforts in identifying pollution sources and putting diversion systems to treat unclean water. “With Nirmal Jal Kendras (STPs), quality water is being put back into rivers,” he informed. On natural farming, he said that the chemical fertilizers used in farming flow into the river with rainwater and pollute the water bodies. It becomes a major nonpoint pollution source. He talked about the hazardous effects of chemicals on biodiversity and how natural farming is the way to keep Ganga and our environment clean.
He called for the ‘More Net Income Per Drop’ campaign, a step ahead of the ‘More Crop Per Drop’ slogan. This puts emphasis on the net income from the sale of crops in a monetised economy by reducing the expenditure of farmers through natural farming. This is in line with decreasing the usage of chemicals and employing natural means of crop production. With natural farming, he noted that we can save 50-70 percent of water in the economy wherein at least 85-90 percent of water is used in the agriculture sector. This will ensure efficient usage of water and save water being used for other purposes like drinking water.
He mentioned that interactions with farmers and many rounds of discussions with experts is being undertaken by Namami Gange, to educate farmers about the benefits of natural farming and bring a behavioural change in their farming practices. He also stressed the importance of supporting farmers through the process by handholding initially. He advocated for post-harvesting marketing strategies to help brand the produce coming from these farmers. “This will help in increasing the revenue of farmers growing crops through natural farming. Hence, the PM’s vision of linking people to rivers can be achieved through Namami Gange’s natural farming project,” he added.
Sharing his insights about the importance of awareness and participation, Ravikesh Srivastava, talked about improving the mindset about the relevance of clean water through school education. He propagated active participation of communities directly or indirectly living near the Ganga basin. He emphasised on the monetary evaluation exercises to see the ground impact of Ganga projects. He also noted the importance of giving premium product status to crops produced through natural farming. He ended his address with a suggestion to continue more focused research on natural farming in the agricultural universities of India.
Dr MK Singh talked about mixing the practices of natural and chemical-based farming. He also discussed zero-budget farming and various studies that showed reduced farming costs and increased farmers’ income due to natural farming practices. With natural farming, there has been a considerable improvement in soil’s physical and mental health.
Speaking about the difference between natural and organic farming, Mr Dinesh Chauhan, mentioned that India should focus on farm practices that show a minimal adverse impact on the environment and the health of the consumers. He recalled the ‘Beej Se Bazaar Tak’ slogan and highlighted the relevance of choosing natural farming practices. With issues in securing certifications required to sell crops from organic farming, small farmers run the risk of being unable to secure the right money for their products without proper certifications. He also highlighted the importance of employing traceability of crops produced through natural farming being done with the help of barcodes. It was noted that with the validation of crops, the profitability of the crops will increase and promote sustainable agriculture practices.
The panellists of the webinar included Dr Dinesh Chauhan, Agriculture Expert and Vice President of DeHaat; Dr MK Singh, Vice Chancellor, GNS University, Bihar; Dr Ravikesh Srivastava, Pro Vice Chancellor, IMS Unison University, Dehradun and Dr Vikas Dhawan, Pro Vice Chancellor, SGT University, Gurugram, along with students of Uttaranchal University- Abhishek Singh and Bandana Rawat. The session was presided over by the Director General, National Mission for Clean Ganga, G Asok Kumar. The webinar ended with an interactive session with students.
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