Solan: In a significant step towards realising the Sustainable Food Systems Platform for Natural Farming (SusPNF), an inaugural one-day workshop organised at the prestigious Dr. YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry (UHF), Nauni. The event, witnessed the presence of Rakesh Kanwar, the Secretary of Agriculture for the Government of Himachal Pradesh, as the Chief Guest and Padam Shree Nek Ram Sharma as the Guest of Honor. This workshop marks a crucial milestone in the collaborative efforts between UHF Nauni, Prakritik Krishi Khushal Yojana (PK3Y) of the Agriculture Department, and NABARD, all with a shared mission to empower natural farmers and foster innovation in the agricultural sector.
At the event, Rakesh Kanwar highlighted the pressing need for sustainable food systems in the face of contemporary challenges. He pointed out, “The recent natural calamity in the state has brought the question of whether we will be able to practice agriculture in the same way as it is presently. Climate change has made the concept of a food crisis a reality. Though the sustainable solutions to tackle this threat will be local, the efforts must be global to succeed.” Kanwar stressed the importance of finding low-cost, cluster-based decentralised technologies for farmers and encouraged FPCs to view this project as a stepping stone toward financial independence.
Himachal’s “Millet Man” and Padam Shri awardee, Nek Ram Sharma, lauded the initiative and urged farmers and scientists alike to increase the cultivation and consumption of millets and other forgotten local foods. He emphasised how changing food habits have impacted what we grow and called for renewed attention to water, forests, and land.
University Vice-Chancellor Prof. Rajeshwar Singh Chandel shared a historic moment by declaring the University a Producer Organization Promoting Institution (POPI) for Natural Farmers Producer Companies (N-FPCs). He underscored that this project would pave the way for roadmaps incorporating the success stories of natural farmers across the country. In collaboration with other participating organisations, Prof. Chandel expressed the University’s commitment to providing guidance, developing market connections, and extending FPCs’ reach to financial institutions like NABARD.
Director Agriculture, Dr. Raghbir Singh, pointed out that the world is now looking to study the Himachal model for natural farming. He acknowledged the challenge posed by small land holdings among farmers and endorsed FPCs as a viable solution to enhance their bargaining power. Dr Singh also called for developing low-cost, small-scale storage facilities that could benefit hill farmers. Dr Inder Dev, Director of Extension Education, emphasised that this initiative aims to increase farmers’ income and enable the University to present a comprehensive sustainable food system model. He mentioned that University students actively participated in the workshop, with many identified as future master trainers.
The workshop featured several technical sessions, including discussions on the CETARE certification system for natural farming. Participants engaged in talks about establishing a robust support ecosystem for natural farmers, encompassing critical resources such as post-harvest assistance, alignment with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and various technical support mechanisms. An exhibition showcased the diverse range of innovative products developed by FPCs rooted in natural farming.
The event attracted a diverse audience, including Ashok Chauhan, AGM NABARD, statutory officers, HoDs of the University, stakeholders associated with the project, the State Project Implementing Unit of PK3Y, CEOs, and Board of Directors of natural farming-based FPCs, as well as University students and scientists from various institutions attending the national training on natural farming at the University.