A blueprint for inclusive development? Zero-Budget Natural Farming and the SDGs in India

Led by Abbie Yunita

The agricultural sector employs more than 50 percent of India’s workforce and has direct bearing on most – if not all – of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In light of this, the Government of India’s Strategy for New India at 75 strongly promotes Zero Budget National Farming (ZBNF) – a climate-resilient regenerative agricultural method – as an integrated strategy to meet multiple sustainable development goals. There is, however, some apprehension over framing ZBNF as a blueprint for inclusive development, as questions abound as to the extent to which it works, how it works, and for whom.

This research contributes towards a better understanding of the interplay between the SDGs and (sub)national politics in shaping how the SDGs are translated in domestic policy processes. Central to this are questions of how, and the extent to which, the SDGs help propel ZBNF into the national development agenda and whose knowledge are represented (or omitted) from the process. Based on semi-structured interviews, document analysis and a stakeholder perception survey, it deconstructs the policy process that won ZBNF its political saliency as a coherent solution to sustainable rural development despite the uncertainties surrounding its efficacy. This is instructive to understand how the SDGs affect coherence building, the domestic factors that influence this process, and their implications on inclusive development.