APRSS – ZBNF Funding opportunities:

ZBNF, the name itself is self-explanatory with emphasis on Zero budget. We need not take it with dictionary meaning, but certainly, low cost with volunteerism have to be the core of the finance structure. APRSS with experts drawn from VELUGU, APRLP with decades of experience in poverty alleviation shall bring cost-effective viable models with sustainability as a core. At the same time, the withdrawal strategy has to be zero burdens to state. In an idealistic situation, it shall be revenue generation model with positive cash flows. It is not appropriate to limit our innovations and go for comparisons with GOI models and get into self-satisfaction mode.

India experiences with World Bank loans particularly on poverty reduction programs are not so good. The poverty reduction and social empowerment are resting in beautiful documents submitted in volumes. In the field, the expenditure on welfare programs such as free rice, NREGS works increased manifold with an increase in BPL cards across the Nation. God only knows what empowerment happened through SHGs, the village health, education systems completely derailed, alcoholism is showing fancy growth rates, and atrocities on women are beating year after year records. If we still claim it as a big success, it’s like cheating ourselves.

Keeping the above experiences as riders, the ZBNF program design, staffing patterns, interface with other agencies, integration with state Agri institutions etc., are to be relooked before thinking about scaling up the program. It is important to rope in natural farming activists like Vandana Shiva, Palekar Ji, out of the box thinking evaluation agencies who can get into deep insights and throw challenges. Challenges only can bring innovations. Involving “YES BOSS” agencies will do more damage than good.

GOI funding, AID funding, CSR funding etc., shall be tapped with a focussed approach. The projects can be split into the unit and target CSR funding. Loans from banks or International agencies with state guarantee for repayment shall be avoided, as they tend to become an additional burden on the already cash-starved state. CSR or philanthropic funding with time frames and staff structure becoming part of each mandal unit (can classify as FPO and access FPO funding) will bring accountability and reduce future staff claims on a state for regular employment.

APRSS – Government Funding for ZBNF:

GOI realized the importance of organic farming and separate wing “Parampara Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY)” under “National Mission of Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA)” is established with joint secretary exclusively looking after the subject. National Centre for Organic Farming (NCOF) is carrying the task of reaching out farmers with “WASTE DECOMPOSER” which is a big hit, as it is a very simple application. To ensure tractability and certification issues “PARTICIPATORY GUARANTEE SCHEME” is introduced involving NITI AYOG approved NGOs along with national and state institutions.

The request from AP Government to include ZBNF in PKVY is readily accepted and came forward to fund AP ZBNF Program. In PVKY plan, the program is designed to implement by engaging state department, Agri Universities, Krishi Vignan Kendras, and Research Institutions along with National institutions like ICAR, IARI, and NIRD. APRSS proposed a different approach to capacity building through the SHG model. APRSS is trying to fit its model into PKVY and submitted proposals to get considerable funding. The conceptual clarity is not there, mainly due to sustainability issues in capacity building model through contract employment. APRSS, the lead organization in promoting ZBNF in large scale shall come with solutions within the administrative system instead of looking for International loans, which will be a burden to the state. In fact, there is a great scope to scale up PKVY with huge budget allocations as Agriculture is on top priority list particularly during election years. Azim Premji Foundation sanctioned about 100 crores to take the program on a pilot basis with sustainability as a core issue.

APRSS – International loans for ZBNF:

“VELUGU” design with SHGs replicated in APRSS ZBNF model with ICRPs as a core of program backed up by SHGs is designed. The idea was sold to political bosses as capacity building exercise with the agenda of public mobilization. The idea sounded good and scaling up without proper piloting is approved. Obviously, the whole scheme of thought requires huge funding which GOI cannot give to one particular state. With earlier experiences with VELUGU, APRLM with World Bank funding, the state felt it’s easy to tap international loans to scale up ZBNF without proper piloting and documentation.

United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) having targets under sustainable development goals (SDGs) is looking for partners and APRSS is seen as a potential soft target. Sustainable India Finance Facility (SIFF) jointly set up by UNEP, World Agroforestry Centre (WAC), PNB Paribas (European Bank) is seriously looking for some soft targets under SDGs and APRSS fit into the bill. The plan is to rise over 16000 crores loans arranged by PNB Paribas under this program. We have to understand that it is a loan, not grant and state have to stand guarantee for repayment. Is it wise to raise such a huge loan for a program which is still under the piloting stage?

CBN who is fascinated for any innovations and will be a front runner to prove his mettle in technology interface got carried away with these fancy proposals presented by APRSS. CBN was the chief guest at a conference organized on the sidelines of UN General Assembly in Sept 2018. Though the theme mention about sustainable land management and nature, the main purpose was to discuss financing sustainable agriculture. SIFF opening its office in AP, not in Delhi is a clear indication of how they are pushing AP into a debt trap. A few months back it was reported in BBC news about Mr. Erik Solheim, Chief of UN Environment’s lavish spending on travel by audit team and serious comments was made above their concern for the global environment. Now one can understand what will happen to the globe with such people in UNEP and APRSS joining them as active partners. In November 2018 he was replaced by Mr. Mostafa Kamal Tolba as Chief of UNEP.

While seriously perusing the loan through PNB Paribas, APRSS knocked the doors of kfW Bank, Germany and got 2046 crores loan sanctioned for ZBNF program. Through GoAP, APRSS approached GOI (GO NO.8 Dt 02.01.2019) for permission to draw the loan with a state guarantee. APRSS certainly have to look back on the proposal. If the concept is zero budget and its natural farming with inbuilt traditional Indian practices, why such huge loans? APRSS have to take a serious look into the existing system before thinking about scaling up the program in the same pattern and then decide on loans.


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