Today, the threat of climate change looms over humanity. Irrespective of geography, money, or social standing; every person is experiencing its effects in multiple ways. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been set, and pledges have been made, but good intentions need to be backed by action or else saving the globe may prove to be exceedingly challenging.
India’s agricultural production has been adversely impacted by climate change, due to inadequate irrigation facilities, deteriorating soil conditions, crop losses, and lack of livelihood diversity. The lives and livelihoods which are being most negatively impacted and threatened due to climate change are also the most vulnerable; they are the ones, who have historically had small carbon footprints. It includes 480 million (approximately) small land-holding farmers, especially women, and the landless rural population of India.
Lack of market opportunities
Additionally, due to the lack of market opportunities for their products, the impact of climate change is most evident in these weaker segments of our society. Thus, there is an ardent need for progressive sustainability and well-being of this vulnerable section to improve the climatic conditions in the country. Improvement in agriculture will parallelly improve the climatic conditions of the country.
Efforts are needed to plan and diversify farmers’ crop baskets and further strengthen the agriculture production cluster (APC) approach in rural India. Through this approach, farmers can be facilitated to identify locally suitable crops with high commercial value, commonly called “winner crops”; they can be empowered to target economies of scale for small landholdings and resource-poor farming households through coordinated production processes.
On the other hand, regenerative agriculture has been playing a transformational role in striking a perfect balance between the economic and ecological outcomes. During the past few years, a strategic shift has been made to help farmers shift from synthetic input-based agriculture to regenerative agricultural practices. Regenerative agriculture is being adopted widely to ensure- climate change resilient farming, natural resource rejuvenation for the future generations, healthy food for all, economic prosperity of farming communities. Rejuvenation of soil is helping improve soil microbial populations and enhancing soil organic matter through bio-inputs, crop cover, and plant diversity.
The good side of the story is that many CSOs, NGOs and corporate houses are now coming together to strengthen agricultural conditions in the country. Some government projects have started creating impact in several regions of the country. For example, Natural Resource Management (NRM) work picked up pace in Madhya Pradesh, with the Cluster Facilitation Team (CFT) project and the Madhya Pradesh State Rural Livelihoods Mission (MPSRLM).
Need to establish resource centres
While steps are now being taken to improve the agricultural produce and soil quality, a lot more needs to be done. There is still a major need to establish a local service system, which can be done by setting up BRCs, promoting FPOs, and indigenous seed banks, to build an overall ecosystem of easy input access and adaptation. There is also a need to rejuvenate natural resources, as a foundational condition for environmental sustainability and local economic development, particularly farm-based livelihoods. More and more farmer producer organisations (FPOs) resource centres need to be established to mitigate the unmet need for services for small-holder farmers. Over the past two years, these centres have helped in fast-tracking strategies to mobilize farmers. Goat and backyard poultry rearing, which is an important source of livelihood, especially for poorer sections of the community, should be expanded significantly with a Year-on-Year growth.
Projects in collaboration with public private partnerships can only make large-scale impact. Government organisations, private sector, corporates, NGOs need to work hand in hand to strengthen the larger ecosystem. This will help in creating high-impact evidence, grooming champions, and running multi-partnership programs to reach a significant percentage of the rural poor and improve the climatic and agricultural conditions of rural India. Once, the roots of India improve, the overall climatic conditions of the country will improve invariably.
The author is Executive Director of PRADAN (Professional Assistance for Development Action)