Article written by Eshwer Kale published in the Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) (Vol. 52, Issue No. 3 dated 21 Jan, 2017)
The need for a climate resilient approach to agriculture is critical for India where more than 80 percent agriculturists are small-holder farmers. The insights, lessons, and experiences gained from WOTR’s climate change adaptation project are formulated into a series of Position Papers on various themes.
This position paper "Towards Resilient Agriculture in a Changing Climate Scenario” captures the ground realities of small- holder farmers in rainfed Maharashra, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. It presents WOTR’s approach towards climate-resilient agriculture. The paper also suggests recommendations for policy that will help increase the response capacity of farmers. It also draws attention to the need of enhancing the resilience of the ecosystem so as to reduce risks posed by climate change.
- Indian agriculture today faces a multipronged set of challenges pressured simultaneously by several sectoral and non-sectoral demands. All this is further aggravated by the extreme weather variations that are being experienced.
- The majority of farmers are small and marginal landowners who are resource-poor. They are most affected due to their low adaptive capacity and risk-taking ability. By incorporating various adaptation measures in the agriculture system one can increase the resilience and adaptive capacity of the small land holders.
- Agriculture in a climate change context requires a multi-sectoral and multi-agency approach. Government policies, and the various departments and development agencies need to synchronise their efforts towards achieving sustainable agriculture productivity and food and nutrition security, particularly for the small and marginal farmer.
- Integrated and participatory watershed development should be the centre-point activity for agriculture as it improves the natural resource base around which other development initiatives are founded, particularly in semi-arid and arid regions of the country.
- For building the response capacity of farmers, especially the small land holders, the model advocated promotes agriculture for the market while it simultaneously ensures food and nutrition security and ecosystem resilience.
- Preparedness for weather variations is critical. To better equip farmers to respond appropriately to climate variations and minimise risks, local automated weather stations at appropriate distances will help generate locale-specific crop-weather advisories; together with Contingent Crop Plans specific to the sub-agri-climatic zone, they will increase the response capacity of farmers and will minimise losses.
- There is an urgent need to promote/revive indigenous crop varieties and reverse the loss of agro-biodiversity caused due to market drivers. Indigenous crops are more resilient to climate variations, farmers have better knowledge of handling them, and traditional crops generally meet the food preferences of communities, making it all the more important to create measures to promote and revive them.
- Reduction of waste of agriculture produce at all stages – from farm to plate – is essential, especially during the post-harvest stage. Decentralising the storage facilities and improving storage possibilities along with localised value addition to perishable goods is essential and will reduce the carbon footprint simultaneously.
- Adaptation is always a local phenomenon. Hence, there is a need to integrate traditional knowledge with the scientific to develop locally suited adaptive strategies for agriculture.