Climate change-induced effects like erratic rainfall and heatwaves are not just a threat to India’s food security but also to the livelihood of 45 per cent of the country’s population that depend on farming. In Punjab, for instance, the agriculture department’s initial estimates reveal that at least 40 per cent of the 35 lakh hectares of wheat sown has been affected by rain, wind, and hailstorms.
Policymakers, agri-scientists and farmers must come together to confront the challenge of climate change. Adaptation actions are needed, as these help reduce vulnerabilities. Also, there is an urgent need to enable farmers survive climate change.
For the first time, the Punjab Government has, in the FY 2023-24 Budget, earmarked ₹1,000 core for crop diversification. To support it, a State-level climate change management commission should be set up, dedicated to providing climate-resilient farming solutions.
In State agriculture universities, specially trained climate change research professionals are needed. Public-private partnerships are also required to focus not only on mitigation technologies but also adaptation.
The National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change (NMSKCC) seeks to build a vibrant and dynamic knowledge system that would help make agriculture climate resilient, by promoting location-specific integrated farming systems.
The National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change (NAFCC) was established in 2015 to meet the cost of adaptation to climate change for the States. But why are the funds dwindling to address this serious challenge? The grants released under NAFCC fell from ₹350 crore in 2015-16 to ₹27.76 crore in 2022-23, even as the sub-committee of the Finance Ministry has estimated that the cumulative expenditure for adapting to climate change would amount to ₹85.60-lakh crore by year 2030.
Investment in research and development (R&D), the bedrock of climate-resistant agriculture, is minuscule. According to the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), around 85 per cent of its budget goes towards salaries and other administrative/establishment expenditures, with little left for research. The same holds true for State agriculture universities. In India, the total R&D expenditure as a percentage of agricultural GDP has been stagnant at 0.3-0.5 per cent in the last two decades.
Extreme weather events
For a country that experiences near extreme weather every year, adaptation and resilience building must be a priority.
An analysis by the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water found the frequency and intensity of extreme climate events have increased by almost 200 per cent since 2005, and three out of four districts in the country are facing extreme climate change. According to a study by the World Meteorological Organisation, India is estimated to have suffered an average annual loss of around ₹6-lakh crore from climate-induced changes.
Farmers should focus on higher crop diversity — from staples to high-value crops, fruits and vegetables. Integrated farming with the inclusion of dairy, poultry, beekeeping, fisheries and mushroom cultivation can give additional high-energy food without affecting the production of foodgrains. There are four sustainable ways farmers can produce more food and adapt to climate change at the same time.
Farmers need hand-holding in the early phases. Support them for knowledge exchange with skill-intensive practices.
Support technology innovation and adaptation to minimise the vulnerabilities of climate change with sustainable agriculture practices.
Instead of input-based subsidies for fertiliser and power, incentivising outcome-based support could encourage innovation among farmers and allow the adoption of alternative approaches.
R&D must focus more on impact studies than conventional farming across agroclimatic zones.
The writer is vice-chairman, Sonalika group, and vice-chairman of Punjab Economic Policy and Planning Board. Views are personal