A. Amarender Reddy and Tulsi Lingareddy
INDIAN agriculture needs to gear up for tackling climate change in order to secure the nation’s food security and protect farmers’ livelihoods. Extreme weather events have resulted in significant damage to agricultural production in recent years. An estimate by the Ministry of Agriculture indicates that nearly 340 lakh hectares of cropped area was damaged between 2015-16 and 2021-22 primarily due to floods, while a similar amount of cropped area was lost due to drought. This is a perilous situation for the farming community, especially the smallholders who account for over 80 per cent of India’s farmers.
Transforming and reorienting agricultural systems
- Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is an approach that helps to guide actions needed to transform and reorient agri systems to effectively support development and ensure food security in a changing climate
- 75% of world’s food-insecure people rely on agriculture & natural resources for their livelihood
- 84% Following drought, agriculture absorbs up to of the economic impact in developing countries
- Climate financing & agriculture investments are critical to a global transformation to sustainable agricultural practices
The adoption of sustainable agricultural practices is a must. The Green Credit Programme (GCP), as per the notification released on June 26 as part of ‘Lifestyle for Environment’ (LiFE) under the Nationally Determined Contributions, is a timely step in the right direction.
The agriculture sector is marked by diverse soil and climatic conditions across the country. The highly fragmented landholdings pose a challenge for the adoption of practices and technology for climate change mitigation and adaptation. A common approach for selecting the activities under green credits and their implementation framework for the country as a whole may not work. In order to be successful, the GCP for the agriculture sector needs to address the existing complexities while devising a comprehensive framework and implementation mechanism.
India is divided into 15 agro-climatic regions based on parameters such as topography, soil, geographical formation, rainfall pattern, cropping system, irrigation etc. Agro-climatic region-specific information is critical for understanding, evaluating and addressing the challenge of climate change and its impact on agriculture in each region. This will, in turn, help in efficient planning for judicious use of natural resources with suitable crops and cultivation practices, thereby achieving desired results.
The involvement of local farmers and other stakeholders while planning and developing the framework for the GCP is essential for its successful implementation. The agro-climatic region-specific approach can facilitate active participation of local stakeholders. Planning and framework development can be a two-step process. First, a broader framework may be developed at the central level. Second, regional or district-level authorities can be tasked with customising the framework suitable for agro-climatic, soil and crop conditions prevailing in the respective region or district.
Further, there is a need to establish a mechanism for collection of feedback from the stakeholders to update the processes of the GCP on a constant basis, in line with changing scenarios of climate change and its impact on the ecosystem in general and agricultural production in particular.
The average size of operational holdings declined from 2.28 hectares in 1970-71 to 1.08 hectares in 2015-16, according to the Agricultural Census by the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare. The smallholder farmers are extremely vulnerable to crop losses. Cooperative or community farming can be an apt solution to attain economies of scale for the adoption of climate-smart agricultural technology and practices.
Cooperative farming can help smallholder farmers in three major ways. First, it can facilitate the successful adoption of sustainable agricultural practices to earn green credits. Second, it can help in trading the green credits on the proposed trading platform. Third, it can contribute to enhancing farm incomes through efficient use of resources. It can also help in producing uniform quality of farm produce that can be easily aggregated to get a better price, instead of individual farmers producing the same crop of varying quality, leading to problems in aggregation and consequently lower prices.
There are a large number of successful farmers’ cooperatives in the areas of animal husbandry, fisheries and horticulture. However, in the case of agricultural crops, the widespread presence of farmers’ cooperatives is largely confined to post-harvest management of the produce. Hence, there is a need to promote cooperative farming not only for the successful implementation of the GCP but also for the efficient use of natural resources, enhancing farmers’ incomes and adoption of technologies such as drones.
The national agricultural research and extension system under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research is an established network with district-level Krishi Vigyan Kendras and block-level agricultural offices. The system connects farmers across the country and helps in the transfer of knowledge and technology, thereby facilitating its successful adoption. The outreach and implementation of the GCP can be more effective if the established agricultural extension system with its network of stakeholders is optimally utilised.
A big impediment is the lack of awareness among farmers about climate change and the extent of risks arising from it, the need for adopting sustainable agricultural practices for mitigation and adaptation, apart from the technological know-how about specific activities and practices for availing green credits. There is a need for creating awareness among farmers and other stakeholders about the impact of climate change and the need for undertaking mitigation and adaptation activities, which can be incentivised through the GCP. The agricultural extension system can play a vital role in reaching out to the farmers and other stakeholders.
Thus, successful implementation of the GCP needs to consider two important aspects — addressing the challenges and vulnerabilities of Indian agriculture; and adopting a coordinated approach to benefit from institutions equipped with information and outreach networks to connect with farmers and other stakeholders.
With comprehensive planning and a coordinated push, the GCP can become a potent instrument for enabling farmers to adopt transition pathways towards climate-smart agriculture, besides improving overall farm incomes by bringing economies of scale and resource-use efficiency.
Reddy is Head, Design and Analysis, ICAR-Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture, Hyderabad; Lingareddy is Consultant Economist, Sustainable Finance, Agriculture and Markets. Views are personal
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