Farmers are already experiencing climate variability – the precursor and manifestation of a profound long term shift underway in climate dynamics and they are largely unprepared for it. Centuries of farming wisdom, born of closely observing and responding to broadly stable and predictable weather patterns, is proving unable to anticipate and provide a plan for unfamiliar changes in temperature, rainfall and the increasing incidence of extreme weather events.
In the drought-prone Sangamner Taluka of the Ahmednagar District, in the last 10 years (2001-2010) alone, there have been 65 days when the temperature exceeded 40˚ C as compared to 40 days in the preceding decade (1991-2000). The last 40 years weather data shows longer periods of dry spells, late-onset and early withdrawal of monsoon. Drought, for example, which usually occurred once in a five year period before 1980 has now been observed occurring twice in five years during the last 30 years (1981 to 2010). The amount, intensity and frequency of rainfall limit the choice of crops a farmer can plant; choices which are predicated on uncertainly and unknown variables – practically a gamble, a throw of the dice.
This unpredictability and severity of weather behaviour – the “unknown-ness” – that confounds the farmer, reduces his ability to adapt and also, often so, exceeds his capacity to cope with it. Farmers need to get timely and reliable weather forecasts together with crop-specific advisories in order to enable them to cope with erratic weather behaviour. In particular, they need alternatives and management advice to handle different contingencies arising from extreme or unforeseen meteorological occurrences.