The idea of Amrita Bhoomi, which means “Eternal Earth”, was conceived by and for farmers in 2013. In the last few decades, increasing dependence on expensive chemical inputs and poor access to the market has driven more than a quarter of a million Indian farmers to suicide. And in arid regions like the state of Karnataka, farming communities are also struggling to adapt to a climate that grows ever harsher.
Amrita Bhoomi was envisioned as a space for Indian farmers to build their own models of resilience and autonomy for the future.
Part of La Via Campesina -- a global network of 200 million farmers -- the agroecology school in South Asia, Amrita Bhoomi promotes farmer-to-farmer training in community based natural farming (formerly zero budget natural farming, or ZBNF). The agroecological practice is fast gaining ground in India as a way to boost farmer health, incomes, and sovereignty, while nourishing the land. (The term ‘Zero Budget’ referred to the net cost of production, as the inputs used to nourish seeds and soil are freely available in the form of cow manure and cow urine.)
The Agroecology Fund has awarded Amrita Bhoomi Agroecology School, La Via Campesina and the Zero Budget Natural Farming Movement two grants to scale up these region-specific agroecology practices across South Asia. The movement is growing quickly, with the neighboring state government of Andhra Pradesh reaching over half a million farmers, and committing to reach 6 million more. In Karnataka too, there is promising public investment in ZBNF. So far, Amrita Bhoomi has encouraged more than 100,000 farmers to move away from chemical farming and adopt agroecological practices. It seeks to influence state policymakers to adopt the program in Karnataka. Their results so far are proof that agroecology can be scaled up and out with the help of supportive policies and investment.
The Fund supports the center’s short-term farmer training camps and its year-long program, which focus primarily on women and youth. Amrita Bhoomi works to revive interest in indigenous livestock; they have developed seed banks, as well as several model farms, which are managed by peasant youth interns under the guidance of expert farmers. In this way, the center is a hub for the next generation of farmers to learn modern day practical skills -- such as how to market their produce to consumers -- as well as age-old traditional knowledge.
Amrita Bhoomi’s goal is to reach ever more farmers across South Asia, and to demonstrate that a prosperous, equitable and environmentally sustainable future is within reach. So far, the collaboration has successfully replicated these agroecology practices in Sri Lanka and Nepal.
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