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Climate Change And Agriculture in Semi Arid Regions of India

Background:

Climate Change (CC) is the among the most important global environment concerns. CC is having significant impacts on the most vulnerable communities. Considering characteristics, agriculture can be considered as one of the most affected sector and thus most vulnerable to climate change. Susceptibility and sensitivity of agriculture to the variance of the climatic parameters is responsible for the fact.

Agriculture having the significant contributor in national GDP, translates the susceptibility of national economy and growth to climate change. In context of India the GDPs 60% share is agriculture and approximately 60% population's livelihood is depends on farming co emphasizing the need of resilient systems and strategies for agriculture sector and farming community. In which semi-arid regions are considered particularly most vulnerable to climate change.

Challenges:

Semi arid regions being particularly less resilient to the non-favourable climatic conditions, lead to more negative impacts. Bundelkhand has faced severe drought years in recent past (five drought years in last seven years). Last year was not the hydrological drought but delayed monsoon resulted into the failed Kharif season in most part of the Bundelkhand region. Increasing frequency of the drought in the region is causing the farmers to take extreme steps in frustration. There have been incidences of farmers letting their in fields as the crops would not yield anything, in cases of delayed monsoon.

Even though farmers are facing these challenges, haven't yet realized that these droughts are not incidental but reflecting the trend of reducing rainfall and erratic character and these are going to be more common incidents in future. Thus there is dire need not only of identifying strategies to fight climate change but also to make the vulnerable sections aware about the climate change and make them ready to adopt the strategies for adapting to climate change.

Mitigation and Adaptation:

There are several factors and sectors, which are responsible for Green house gas emissions and thus climate change. Agriculture sector remained most unmanaged till yet due to i) non point source emission of GHGs, ii) need and priority of higher productions to feed the ever growing population. As mentioned above, agriculture sector is also most susceptible to climate change contributing into the vicious cycle.

Inefficient agricultural practices causes the GHG more emissions, which accelerating the CC, resulting into the lower production. To compensate this, farmers tend to put more resources whenever and wherever are available in terms of fertilizer, water etc. which are the main factor for inefficiencies in the farm sector.

Effects of Climate Change and Solutions:

In bundelkhand region, calculations of the climate reflect that after 25 years, rainfall is expected to reduce by 20% and the productivity of the existing crops may reduce by 15%. Decreasing landholding per farmer is going to have enhanced negative impact of these projections.

Thus the expected facts after 20-25 years would be:

* Reduced rainfall, thus
Less availability of surface water
Deepened ground water level
Low returns of rain fed agriculture
* Smaller landholding
* High input costs in agriculture
* Lower profitability per unit of land
* Higher risks of crop failures

Above estimations on reduced productions are based on the existing crops and practices. Our adaptation strategies need to be focus on the methods which can nullify or reduce the effects of the unreliable climatic conditions. Such as:

* Adopting low water requiring/ drought resisting crops/crop verities
* By reducing the water losses in agriculture and by irrigating the crops/plants not the land
* Using improved practices to save the applied water like mulching etc
* Reducing the input costs by appropriate application of inputs
* Adopting and promoting the alternative models for duel/multiple use of land like different forms of agroforestry or multi cropping
* By having fall back options like alternate income sources/crop insurance etc.

Where is will there is a Way

Approach which has been adopted to take up and fight with climate change is two sided, i) Identifying the technical options and interventions required, ii) making community aware and helping them to take lead to fight climate change.



Identification of interventions

Drought resistant varieties are available at different stakeholders. However the adoption is not much as farmers are not aware about these varieties and characteristics of these crops/crop varieties. Such varieties have been promoted as they are the important option which can provide reliable production level even in extreme conditions.

There are various methods and ways available for reducing the water losses in irrigation. Sprinkler and drip methods can reduce the water application significantly. Similarly, mulching can reduce the water loss from the soil. For flood irrigation also contour cultivation, and making the check basins or borders depending on the land slope and soil type, can increase the water use efficiencies significantly. Information on these options is being made available to the farmers through different stakeholders including the research organizations.

It has also been observed that the quantity of seed we use per acre of land is quite higher than required for optimum production. This, not only increase the input costs but also reduce the productivity by creating unnecessary competition within the crop itself. Appropriate use of manure and fertilizers, minimal tillage is the practices which reduces the input costs and enhance the profitability of the particular crops.

Agro-horticulture and other forms of Agro-forestry can be one way of reducing the dependability of the output of our efforts on the erratic monsoon, thus, stabilizing the incomes of the household and also its distribution across the year. For the purpose of reducing the risks of crop failure, government is also promoting the efficient irrigation systems like drip and sprinkler for agro-horticulture use.

Government has also various other schemes to protect or at least protect partially ourselves from the risks of the crop failure from several reasons. National Agriculture Research Scheme (NAIS) is one of them. We can get our crop insured under this scheme and in case of crop damage due to any o the enlisted reasons, we can get the benefits of the schemes.

It is also worth knowing at this point of time that quite of the options available are more accessible for the groups. Let's join hand together to access the information and take the challenges posed by climate change.

Creating Institutional Systems for Adaptation

Adaptation is the community and social initiative, which needs community actions. For sustainable farming society initiative, three tier institutional systems has been formed, at village level farmers groups consists of active farmers. The objectives of the farmers clubs is to keep interactions and ensure access of farmers to knowledge and resources bases in terms of the meetings with scientists and extension workers, ensuring appropriate seed varieties and technologies etc. At second tier representatives of the farmers groups have formed the cluster of the farmers group.

These clusters are responsible for managing and creating cluster (cluster of geographically nearby villages). Top level tier is the federation level institution which takes the responsibility to resource building for all three levels of the institutions and establishing backward and forward linkages with markets.

In fact these institutions are playing their role effectively and have shown the capacity. Several activities have been taken up by them. These three-tier system is part of the Farmers adaptation cluster.

During the first year of operations, the Farmers Adaptation Cluster, has established linkages with different institutions like Water Technology Centre, Indian Agriculture Research Institute, Krishi Vikas Kendras (KVKs), National Research Centre for Agro Forestry) NRCAF, etc. and had arranged exposure visits for its member farmers, introduced high yielding varieties and appropriate practices affecting the yield enhancement by 35 to 40%. It has also recorded the reduction in required inputs due to information and appropriate technology propagation.

It can be said that the approach for creating the institutions involving the target group and disseminating the appropriate practices and technologies is an appropriate response to climate change suiting both the adaptation and mitigation strategies.
The above efforts have been the initiatives of Development Alternatives (www.devalt.org) with support of Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, a not for profit organization, in Bundelkhand Region of central India, which is typically a example of Semi Arid regions

About the Author:

Sonal Kulshreshtha is working in the field of Water Security and Climate Change with Development Alternatives. The above details reflect the work done with Development Alternatives (www.devalt.org) with Support of Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The document has also been shared with the knowledge exchange platform known as Bundelkhand Knowledge Platform (www.bkpindia.net)

By Sonal Kulshreshtha

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