Diversified conglomerate ITC Ltd is focused on developing climate-smart agriculture systems to address the environmental and social impacts of climate change and boost farmer incomes , enhance the resilience of agri-value chains, and enable higher productivity while also reducing emissions, according to its annual report (2023).  

It says its climate-smart agriculture programme has so far benefited over seven lakh farmers, across 23 lakh acres in 17 states. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of select crops have been reduced by up to 66 per cent and net returns of farmers increased by up to 90 per cent from 2016 to 2021, the report said.

To provide additional support to farmers dealing with climate risks, 9.5 lakh linkages were facilitated through six major government schemes. Its collaboration with CGIAR’s ‘Climate Change and Food Security Programme’ to build climate smart villages was expanded to over 4,800 villages across 11 states, covering 10 lakh acres.

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Further, according to CGIAR’s estimates, ITC’s climate smart village intervention in Madhya Pradesh demonstrated average increase in yield of 38 per cent in soyabean and 15 per cent in wheat. Reduction in cost of cultivation along with yield improvement led to an increase in net income by 93 per cent in soyabean and 46 per cent in wheat over the baseline, and average GHG emissions reduced by 66 per cent and 13 per cent for soyabean and wheat, respectively.

“ITC’s climate smart agriculture programme attempts to de-risk farmers from erratic weather events through the promotion and adaptation of climate-smart agriculture premised on dissemination of relevant package of practices, adoption of appropriate mechanisation and provision of institutional services,” the report said.

Assessments in three states show that 70 per cent of the villages moved into the high-resilience, high-yield category, thus becoming climate smart, it added.

The company plans to promote the climate smart village approach in core agribusiness catchments spread across 3 million acres by 2030.

Climate risk modelling

Sanjiv Puri, CMD, ITC, recently said the company was looking to undertake climate risk modelling to identify hotspots for extreme weather conditions, to help undertake mitigating measures customised to local needs. ITC had, in 2020, undertaken a countrywide climate risk modelling on a macro basis. The current exercise would be more “granular” and “site specific”, Puri had said.

The company has engaged experts for climate risk modelling using big data analytics. Climate risk modelling has been completed for pulpwood and wheat value chains and is currently underway for other crops such as potato, spices and rice, among others.

“The company is actively working towards climate proofing its operations and agri-value chains by using latest climate risk modelling techniques, and developing site-specific adaptation strategies,” the report said.

The multi-dimensional measures include introduction of heat-tolerant varieties, crop-cycle approach, in-situ and timely planting, broad-bed and furrow system, mulching, critical irrigation, and use of heat-ameliorating sprays to reduce heat stress, among others.