1. Success Story

This Karnataka Farmer Earns Rs. 25 Lakhs Per Year From His Five Acres Land

Fifteen years ago, Krishnappa Dasappa Gowda, a paddy farmer from Mysuru’s Pannur village, had no idea about Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF). Continuing his hereditary occupation, the farmer grew paddy after season, using chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

Ayushi Raina
Karnataka Farmer Earns Rs. 25 Lakhs Per Year
Karnataka Farmer Earns Rs. 25 Lakhs Per Year

Krishnappa Dasappa Gowda, a paddy farmer from Mysuru's Pannur village, had no idea about Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) fifteen years ago. Continuing his ancestor's business, the farmer planted paddy after season, employing chemical fertilizers and pesticides. 

Although the 25-acre farm demanded substantial investments to sustain the crops and gave less yield, it provided a decent livelihood.  

However, a meeting in 2005 with Subhash Palekar, fondly known as ‘Krishi ka Rishi’ in farming communities across India, changed everything. Overnight, Gowda ditched chemicals and pesticides and shifted to ZBNF.  

On five acres, Gowda successfully plants more than 170 varieties of trees using natural methods (of the total 25 acres). What's truly remarkable is that the forest-style farming approach has improved the annual revenue of the 10th-pass farmer's annual income to 25 lakh! 

"ZBNF has massively improved my production and soil fertility." My profits are no longer dependent on the outcome of a particular crop because of the diversification of my farm. Furthermore, cropping strategies reduce water consumption to 10% of conventional farming. The transition has also benefited my health—I used to have severe skin conditions, but not anymore." Gowda says. 

It is a self-sustaining model devised by Palekar after the agriculturist discovered how chemical fertilizers and pesticides degrade soil fertility, resulting in health problems for individuals for those who consumed the grains and vegetables. 

Crops are cultivated naturally using this method by replacing harmful fertilizers with biological ones such as cow dung, cow urine, jaggery, and pulse flour. It necessitates a minimal monetary investment, hence enhancing the farmer's income. 

Cows are an integral part of the harvesting cycle since they aid with grazing and their waste (urine and dung) is used to coat the seeds, a process known as beejamrutham. Meanwhile, the jeevamrutham process (wherein cow dung and urine are mixed with jaggery and flour) boosts soil microbes and keeps pests at bay. 

"Every month, an acre of soil requires 10 kilos of cow dung. Since the ordinary cow produces 11 kilos of dung every day, dung from one cow may help fertilizer 30 acres of land," Gowda adds. 

Successful in the First Year 

Gowda began ZBNF as an experiment on one acre of land. However, getting rid from any kind of dependence is difficult, and the same is true for soil and plants. 

His crops did not respond well to the homemade fertilizer, and nearly 50% of them were damaged in the initial period of gestation.  

But he didn't give up and spent months learning about the soil and plants' requirements. During this period, he assessed the health of his farm and chose seeds appropriate for the weather and soil conditions of the field. 

"I was in constant touch with Palekar sir.  I implemented each of his suggestions and patiently waited for the results.  The plot of land flowered with fruits, vegetable and grains after a year of hard work and mockery from fellow farmers. I was astounded to see multiple plants growing together, such as bananas, lentils, marigolds, onions, and pumpkins," he says. 

Massive profits validated the company's success during the first three months of production. 

"I planted several plants using a multi-cropping method with an investment of merely Rs.5000 and got a profit of Rs.16000.” 

He also employed cow dung to improve soil fertility and nutritional value of the soil. 

"Cow dung contains billions of beneficial microorganisms that decompose the dried biomass on the soil and turn it into ready-to-use nutrients for plants. This process is prevalent in forests where healthy plants develop naturally without the need of chemicals. Since most farmers use chemicals, it kills the microorganisms,” says Gowda, explaining the science behind this step. 

After attaining success, he implemented this method on five acres over the years. 

On One Acre, a Five-Layer Farming Model 

This method involves cultivating five different varieties of crops at the same time, each with a different height and rooting pattern. Multilayer cultivation makes the most use of available space, both horizontally and vertically. 

Gowda cultivated everything from long to medium-height trees to bushes, creepers, grass and here's his multi-cropping model:

  • He planted 30 coconut trees for the tallest layer, and since each tree yields around 300 coconuts per year, that equates to total revenue of Rs.1.80 lakh.

  • Gowda plants 30 Orange or Mosambi trees on a rotational basis (Sweet Lime). "A single tree yields a minimum of 15 kilos and a maximum of 100 kilos.  I earn about Rs.1.5 lakh from the middle layer," Gowda adds.

  • 200 banana and 400 areca nut trees are planted as the third layer. Annually, he earns around Rs 3 lakh (Rs.60000 from banana trees and Rs.2.4 lakh from areca nut) from this layer.

  • The fourth layer, like the second, operates on a rotational basis. He either plants 200 cocoa or coffee trees, each of which yields 2 kilos. He's also planted 200 gliricidia, 200 vanilla, and 400 black pepper creepers.

  • Gowda planted ginger and turmeric in the final layer. "Annually, I get up to 10 quintals of turmeric." "Depending on the variety, I sell one quintal for Rs.200 to 2000."

Other plants grown by Gowda include drumsticks, spinach, bottle guard, brinjals, lemons, pulses, and so on. 

 He earns around Rs.5 lakh each acre, for a total of Rs.25 lakh from five acres. 

The ZBNF's Four Pillars 

Gowda follows four cultivation concepts that serve as pillars for the five-layer model. These are jeevamrutham, beejamrutham, mulching, and water ratio maintenance. 

As previously stated, jeevamrutham provides nutrients for plant growth, whereas beejamrutham (a mixture of cow dung, urine, lime, and water) protects seeds and roots against fungus. 

Mulching is critical for soil health because it "retains moisture in the soil, reduces weed development, and encourages biodiversity," he explains. 

Before seeding, Gowda digs a three-foot-deep trench and fills it with tree branches, fruit residues, coconut leaves, and sand. "This aids in the absorption of nitrogen from the air and its distribution to plants." 

In terms of water, Gowda claims that his land is both moist and rain-fed. "The nutrient-rich soil creates carbon and nitrogen that inhibits evaporation and I save lakhs of liters of water," he says, adding six litres of water to one kilo of humus (decomposed organic matter) that suffices for an acre. 

Gowda is convinced that adopting the ZBNF model will reduce agricultural-related concerns such as heavy loans, pesticides, monetary loss, and, most importantly, farmer suicides. 

If you have any questions concerning ZBNF, please contact Krishnappa Gowda at 9880587545. 

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