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MPA FARMING

Updated: Nov 16, 2020

As the MPA Vision team explores the myriad ways to improve soils in the Umarkhed region, we are prioritizing culturally appropriate styles of agriculture. Attending to the culture and history of the region will make the prospect of transition more appealing to our community and suit the lifestyles of producers who participate in this paradigm shift.

MPA Farming is a Form of Farming With Nature


MPA Farming centers on the human-nature connection. It demonstrates how farming with nature engages our ability to harmonize rather than impose, creating balance rather than cycles of dependence. To these ends, MPA draws techniques and inspiration from Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF), western-style Regenerative Agriculture and Carbon Farming, holistic management principles, permaculture, and traditional farming practices.


In almost all cases, farming with nature calls for an improvement of nutrient, solar, and water cycling through the soil profile. At its most basic, various forms of farming with nature take advantage of the most abundant and free energy source at our disposal – the sun. As we accept solar energy into our agricultural systems, we maximize the chemical reaction of photosynthesis, yielding energy (in the form of green growing plants) to feed ourselves, feed our livestock, or feed our soils. MPA also builds on the foundations of carbon farming fundamentals by incorporating aspects of permaculture - grounded in three equally important tenets of Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share.

By moving Umarkhed’s agricultural system away from a singular focus on maximized production to a balanced arrangement between land, community, and self, MPA recognizes that no aspect of the human-earth ecosystem truly succeeds while the other struggles.

Grazing for Soil Building & Carbon Sequestration



One of the key principles of regenerative agriculture - by any name - is that nutrient cycling is essential for improving soil health. In a region such as Umarkhed, which is largely dry most of the year and experiences increasingly unpredictable monsoon rains, cycling of plant matter takes a considerable amount of time. However, utilizing bullock (oxen) and cows, livestock common on regional farms, and taking advantage of the humid, microbe-rich microclimate inside the ruminant gut, can improve and accelerate the cycle of nutrients through animals to the soil. Although many regenerative styles allow for increasing stocking rates (more animals/hectare) over time due to improved plant health, ZBNF forgoes the implementation of herd effect, occasionally dropping as low as one animal per forty hectares. MPA envisions a middle ground approach: Initially, we propose to combine local animals into a larger, collective herd, which would be rotated across the smallholdings of individual farms to the benefit of all participating farmers in a given village.


Additionally, MPA will incorporate multi-species grazing, which involves following the path of larger grazers with regional heritage breeds of chickens. Adding smaller animals to the system increases nitrogen deposition (as opposed to heavy carbon deposition), which balances the nutrient load in the soil, making it an even richer substrate for future crop production. Chickens also provide exceptional weed and insect control, which can reduce the need for pesticide and herbicide applications.

Secondary Benefits: Production of Hope, Promotion of Diversification

With soil health improvements comes increased water holding capacity and, consequently, reduced stress on croplands and plants. As the health of crops and the land beneath them strengthen, producers glimpse of a radically different, hopeful future. The intimate connection between land health and human health Smallholders in the Umarkhed region have an opportunity to take a step back from undifferentiated global markets and reassess the orientation of their own livelihoods. As chickpea and sugar cane prices continue to rise and fall, farmers can explore alternate or supplemental income opportunities on their own terms, with technical assistance from local and international organizations alike. Soil building initiatives have sprouted and grown across the globe: Some deliver direct payments to farmers (e.g., the 1% for Soils initiative of the Marin Carbon Project); others offer market premiums such as The Savory Institute’s Land-to-Market program; and some sidestep global commodity markets by facilitating direct farm-to-business arrangements (e.g., the direct-supply relationship between Epic Provisions and White Oak Pastures). The MPA-Transition Support Program will de-risk farmers’ transition to MPA farming by guaranteeing farm income during the farm’s supported transition years (as payment for program participation) and then assist farmers with accessing premium markets, building direct supply relationships, and setting up forward contracts.


Fair Farm & Food Economics

Smallholders in the Umarkhed region have an opportunity to take a step back from undifferentiated global markets and reassess the orientation of their own livelihoods. As chickpea and sugar cane prices continue to rise and fall, farmers can explore alternate or supplemental income opportunities on their own terms, with technical assistance from local and international organizations alike. Soil building initiatives have sprouted and grown across the globe: Some deliver direct payments to farmers (e.g., the 1% for Soils initiative of the Marin Carbon Project); others offer market premiums such as The Savory Institute’s Land-to-Market program; and some sidestep global commodity markets by facilitating direct farm-to-business arrangements (e.g., the direct-supply relationship between Epic Provisions and White Oak Pastures). The MPA-Transition Support Program will de-risk farmers’ transition to MPA farming by guaranteeing farm income during the farm’s supported transition years (as payment for program participation) and then assist farmers with accessing premium markets, building direct supply relationships, and setting up forward contracts.

MPA Farming is being conceived and will be modeled, studied, and iterated at GSG College. Given the press of the entwined climate, water, food security, and health crises in the Umarkhed region, the grim projections, and the need to rapidly implement alternative systems, GSG College and the MPA Vision team will elaborate and model a 1.0 version of MPA Farming and support farmers to transition safely.

At the same time, we will engage in research to assess the efficacy of MPA practices and refine recommendations accordingly. The college and its research partners, including CU Boulder MENV, will also connect with and evaluate similar projects around the world, examining methodological and contextual differences and collecting evidence of successes, failures, and surprising outcomes. Our model-implement-study-refine mode of deployment will enable transformative system change by 2050.



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