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The Journal of Peasant Studies

29 October 2017

Taking agroecology to scale: the Zero Budget Natural Farming peasant movement in Karnataka, India

Ashlesha Khadse, Peter Michael Rosset, Helda Morales & Bruce G. Ferguson

This paper analyzes how peasant movements scale up agroecology. It specifically
examines Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF), a grassroots peasant agroecology
movement in Karnataka, India. ZBNF ends reliance on purchased inputs and loans
for farming, positioning itself as a solution to extreme indebtedness and suicides
among Indian farmers.

The ZBNF movement has achieved massive scale not only because of effective farming practices, but because of a social movement dynamic – motivating members through discourse, mobilizing resources from allies, self-organized pedagogical activities, charismatic and local leadership, and generating a spirit of volunteerism among its members. This paper was produced as part of a self study process in La Via Campesina, the global peasant movement.

Keywords: agroecology; KRRS; La Via Campesina; scaling-up agroecology; Subhash
Palekar; Zero Budget Natural Farming


There is a growing call to scale up agroecology from various sectors intergovernmental
bodies like the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), social
movements like La Via Campesina (LVC), scientists and civil society organizations (Parmentier 2014; La Via Campesina 2013; Altieri, Nicholls, and Funes 2012; Rosset 2015; FAO 2015). This is because of the inherent unsustainability of industrial agriculture and its contributions to the ecological and agrarian crises, and to hunger. Based on empirical and scientific evidence, the growing consensus is that agroecologically diverse farming not only is more productive, but also brings a host of ecological and social benefits (Parmentier 2014; De Schutter 2010; Varghese and Hansen-Kuhn 2013; Rosset and Martínez-Torres 2012; Altieri and Nicholls 2008; Badgley et al. 2007; Pretty, Morison, and Hine 2003; Altieri and Koohafkan 2008; Van der Ploeg 2008; IAASTD 2009; Altieri and Toledo 2011).

Our understanding of how to scale up agroecology is nascent. We believe that there has been a tendency to privilege investigation on the technical aspects of agroecology, while research on its social aspects remains weaker (Rosset 2015; Rosset et al. 2011). Agroecology is not just a set of farming practices, or a scientific discipline based on ecological theory, but also a growing social movement (Wezel et al. 2009). Analyzing the social aspects of agroecology can provide critical insight into how to achieve scale.


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