Council on Energy, Environment and Water Integrated | International | Independent

Policy Study on Sustainable Agriculture

Sijo Abraham, Shanal Pradhan, Apoorve Khandelwal
March 2023 | Sustainable Food Systems

Suggested citation: Abraham, Sijo, Shanal Pradhan, and Apoorve Khandelwal. 2022. CMRETAC-CEEW. Policy Study on Sustainable Agriculture. Jaipur: Chief Minister's Rajasthan Economic Transformation Council.



This study was done in collaboration with the Chief Minister's Rajasthan Economic Transformation Advisory Council (CMRETAC) to explore the suitability of natural farming in Rajasthan and propose a strategic roadmap for a successful scale-up. A combination of mixed methods was utilised that included a review of prominent state initiatives on sustainable agriculture, an assessment of the state's agriculture sector using more than 100 indicators, primary survey with CSOs, field visits to districts in four different agro-climatic zones, and state-level roundtables and workshops to co-create the roadmap.

Our study analysed the suitability of natural farming using three parameters: expected benefits, risk of unfavourable trade-offs, and ease of implementation or adoption. It recommends scaling up natural farming in a phased manner with adequate risk mitigation plans and provides actionable inputs for a suitable institutional structure and budget requirements.

Key Highlights

  • Variability of natural farming in Rajasthan: Ground visits revealed that the local understanding of natural farming is highly diverse and often influenced by the organisation promoting it. In Rajasthan, natural farming covers the six key principles and four practices of natural farming, including nearly 12 sustainable agriculture practices.
  • Benefits for farmers: Through focus group discussions with 22 local Civil Society Organisations, the study found that natural farming reduces the cultivation cost by up to 60 per cent for moong (green gram). The farmers also reported an average reduction of 25 per cent in water consumption and a 50 per cent average reduction in fertiliser consumption. However, these reductions are highly dependent on the crop and the region.
  • Benefits for the government: The reduction in the use of chemical inputs and irrigation water can reduce the subsidy bill for the Centre and state governments. Based on our estimation, even if 20 per cent of farmers across Rajasthan switch to natural farming, it would reduce their average water consumption by 30 per cent, and save approximately INR 781 crore in power subsidy annually.

Potential power subsidy savings under different policy scenarios

Source: Authors’ analysis

  • Roadmap of natural farming: Scaling-up natural farming should happen in a phased and cautious manner with a strategy that targets scaling up in low-risk regions while investing in evidence generation in irrigated areas.
  • Continuous evolution: There is still limited evidence regarding natural farming's impact in Rajasthan. Therefore, the programme will also need to evolve continuously with emerging evidence.

Key Recommendations

  • Suitable areas for scaling up: Western and southern regions of Rajasthan were identified as more suitable for the first phase of the scale-up. Phase 1 should focus on scale-up in the identified 12 districts (Barmer, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Pali, Sikar, Jalore, Sirohi, Banswara, Dungarpur, Pratapgarh, and Udaipur) while simultaneously generating evidence in other districts through pilots.

Regions selected for scale-up of NF

Source: Authors’ recommendations from the literature review, consultations, and field observations

  • Budgeting for the programme: The recommended total budget for three years is about INR 600 crore. It would cover ~3 lakh farmers in ~700 gram panchayats (GPs) from 12 districts.
  • Saturation: Saturate the number of farmers practising natural farming at the GP  level to minimise farmers' return to conventional practices through various behavioural nudges. Additionally, create contiguous natural farming fields to enable commercial viability of aggregation (for inputs and produce).
  • Sequentially enable support services for natural farming in a targeted manner: Begin with relevant capacity building of all stakeholders (including government officials and farmers) and provide targeted support to farmers during the initial transition period. Simultaneously, develop transformative market-side interventions and expand markets in regions where downstream steps in the natural farming value chain become commercially viable.
  • Institutional structure: The study recommends an institutional structure that was co-created in consultation with the Rajasthan government capitalising upon the learnings from the Odisha Millet Mission and Andhra Pradesh Natural Farming Programme. Institute a dedicated hierarchy of officers solely responsible for driving NF scale-up to ensure focused efforts embedding the CSOs for on-ground support.
​"These recommendations on the state's strategy and roadmap have been co-created with input from stakeholders who will be impacted as well as those who will drive the impact. Translating the strategies into action the Government of Rajasthan has allocated INR 6 billion (INR 600 crore) to the Rajasthan Organic Farming Mission and kickstarted the transformation."

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