Sunday, December 5, 2021

Climate Smart Agriculture and Need for Appropriate Innovation System

Towards the close of the twentieth century, many of the ideas came in the call for sustainable development. “Brundtland Commission” in 1993 defined sustainable development as development that meets the need of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The Commission amalgamated environmentalism with social and economic concerns in the world development agenda. Right from the early scriptures to the present day writings on futurology we find abundant predictions of doomsday. Environmentalists are increasingly cautioning of the phenomenon of climate change and global warming that is in the offing in a big way.

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Climate experts in FAO coined a new expression, climate smart agriculture, which is nothing but the reincarnation of the concept of sustainable agriculture. The World Bank propagates climate smart agriculture towards achievements of three major objectives.

  1. Increased Productivity ii) Enhanced Resilience and iii) Reduced Emissions.

World Bank defines climate smart agriculture as an integrated approach to managing landscapes crop land, livestock, forests and fisheries that address the interlinked challenges of food security and climate changes. Currently in 13 countries projects on climate smart agriculture are being implemented with WB support. In Maharashtra, the projects on climate resilient agriculture is one of the largest projects which the bank financed to an extent of US $ 420 million. The project beneficiaries are reported to have adopted climate smart practices in 56,602 ha of land so far.

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Climate change is viewed as a major hurdle for feeding the teeming millions in the country in future. The frequent and escalating droughts, heat waves and floods in the country in recent years saw some advancement in farm technologies, knowledge flows, institutional learnings and strategies to cope with them. Yet, they are not sufficient as most of them remain as square pegs in round holes. For each and every ailment in crop production, we cannot blame it on climate change. However, there is bound to be a significant variation across crops in response to climate variability. The variations also range from one place to the other based on the availability of land space and irrigation facility. One fit solution for all cases is not possible. Asking farmers to change to millet crops en masse for sustainability and health is besieged with several difficulties and impracticalities. It is also to be kept in mind that global level climate change discussed is based on learnings from advanced countries and the experiences of developing countries is not well documented. For example, in India, levels of emissions are being attempted to be getting contained consciously and the greening of terrain is occurring on a large scale. In contradiction, excessive greening and plant canopage may do more harm resulting in more ground water depletion and evapotranspiration. There are misconceptions pervading among those who lay emphasis on ground water in preference to flow irrigation and raise horrors of ground water depletion. The ground water development is a fait accompli. It is common knowledge that while the number of old tube wells becoming deferent, the new ones are springing up. One wonders whether nature finds its way to balance itself!

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Studies found that irrigation, paradoxically decreases the regional and surface maximum and minimum temperature by nearly 30c to 40c respectively, during heavy irrigation months of April- May – June (Pre monsoon). This explains why there is a decrease in temperature in some parts of India (Eg. Indo- Gangetic Planes). Thus, according to studies, irrigation is shielding from temperatures not rising as anticipated. It is also observed here the extreme temperatures are relatively flat over time. However, it is also found that excessive irrigation leads to varying rainfall patters and reduced quantum of precipitation.

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The effect of frequently induced events in agriculture due to climate change spurs the farmers to adopt different farming practices. The first one is an automatic response for climate aberration. In this the farmer adjusts the timings of sowing and harvesting of the crop. The second is adaptation of cropping choice cropping choice consciously and chalking out a prior with response patterns interactive.

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For all the farm activities farmers need appropriate innovation system, partnerships of stakeholders and exchange of experiences and knowledge. 

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Prof. Sivamohan Marepalli
The writer is a researcher, consultant and teacher. He worked at ASCI and had brief stints at Cornell University, IWMI and other international organizations.

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