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Enhancing Climate Resilience of Farming Systems


Research conducted in the drought-prone Jalna district of Maharashtra sheds light on the effectiveness of different interventions in enhancing the climate resilience of farming systems.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Major Findings
  2. Major Impacts of Climate Change on Indian Agriculture
  3. Way Forward for Climate-Resilient Agriculture in India

Major Findings:

  • Research Scope: The study, featured in the International Journal of Water Resources Development, investigated the effects of agricultural development interventions in Babai and Deulgaon Tad, two semi-arid villages in Maharashtra, over a 15-year period.
  • Farming System Comparison: The villages represented two distinct approaches:
    • Babai: Interventions aimed at improving agricultural productivity and irrigation infrastructure.
    • Deulgaon Tad: Interventions focused on adaptive capacities and agricultural productivity improvement.
  • Watershed Development Impact: Implementation of watershed development interventions resulted in intensified agriculture and altered cropping patterns.
  • Unintended Consequences: Over time, these approaches led to declining groundwater tables and deteriorating soil health, revealing the limitations of conventional agricultural development pathways in semi-arid regions.
  • Enhanced Climate Resilience: Combining productivity-enhancing interventions with water management, soil health improvement, livelihood diversification, and food and nutrition security contributed to improved climate resilience indicators.
  • Key Components for Resilience: Monitoring, evaluation, learning, and adaptive decision-making were essential elements for enhancing climate resilience.
  • Babai vs. Deulgaon Tad Resilience: In 2007, Babai exhibited higher resilience due to better water resources and soil quality. However, the research indicates no substantial change in Babai’s overall resilience over the years. In contrast, Deulgaon Tad, with lower resilience initially, experienced improvements across all resilience attributes through interventions focusing on adaptive capacities and natural resource management.

Major Impacts of Climate Change on Indian Agriculture:

Altered Rainfall Patterns:
  • Climate change has disrupted rainfall patterns, including changes in timing, intensity, and distribution, leading to droughts, floods, and erratic rainfall.
  • Such variations significantly affect agricultural productivity and crop yields.
  • For instance, India witnessed delayed and deficient monsoon rains in 2019, resulting in reduced crop yields in many regions.
Rising Temperatures:
  • Increasing temperatures have adverse effects on crop growth and development.
  • High temperatures during the growing season can decrease crop yields and reduce the nutritional value of crops.
  • Heat stress also negatively impacts livestock health and productivity.
  • Recent heatwaves in India have particularly affected heat-sensitive crops like wheat and rice.
Pest and Disease Challenges:
  • Climate change influences the distribution and abundance of pests and diseases, posing challenges to agricultural pest management.
  • Changes in temperature and rainfall patterns can favor the spread of pests and diseases, impacting crop health.
  • Instances include the increased incidence of pests like the pink bollworm affecting cotton production in India and locust swarms resulting from erratic rain.
Water Scarcity:
  • Climate change affects water availability, especially in regions reliant on rainfall or snowmelt for irrigation.
  • Changes in precipitation patterns and melting glaciers can lead to water scarcity during critical crop growth stages, reducing agricultural productivity and intensifying competition for water resources.
Shifts in Crop Suitability:
  • Climate change can alter the suitability of different crops in specific regions.
  • Shifting temperature and rainfall patterns may require farmers to adapt their cropping patterns to maintain productivity.
  • Some crops may become less viable, while others may become more suitable. For example, coconut production is projected to increase on an all-India basis due to climate change.
Extreme Weather Events:
  • Climate change has been linked to an increase in extreme weather events like cyclones, storms, and hailstorms.
  • These events can cause significant damage to crops, livestock, and infrastructure, leading to yield losses and economic hardships for farmers.
  • An example is the recent Cyclone Biporjoy and its impact on agriculture.

Way Forward for Climate-Resilient Agriculture in India:

Engage Diverse Perspectives:
  • Facilitate a national-level dialogue involving diverse stakeholders to seek suitable solutions for the future of agriculture in India, considering the country’s rich diversity of farming practices.
Embrace Precision Farming:
  • Emulate advanced countries by adopting precision farming techniques that utilize sensors and scientific tools for precise practices and input applications.
  • Implementing high-tech farming methods can reduce costs, increase farmers’ income, and address scalability challenges.
Promote Agroecological Practices:
  • Encourage the adoption of agroecological practices such as diverse cropping systems and agroforestry.
  • Growing different crops together or integrating trees with crops enhances biodiversity, reduces soil erosion, and boosts climate resilience.
  • For example, intercropping legumes with cereals not only generates additional income but also improves soil fertility through nitrogen fixation.
  • Promote the cultivation of non-traditional crops that are resilient to climate extremes, reducing dependence on a single crop and mitigating risks. Drought-tolerant millets can be a suitable option in this regard.
Implement Climate-Smart Water Management:
  • Efficient water management is crucial for climate resilience in agriculture, especially in water-stressed regions.
  • Implement climate-smart water management practices to enhance agricultural productivity while conserving water resources.
  • Construct ponds, check dams, and farm ponds to capture and store rainwater, replenishing groundwater and providing irrigation during dry spells.
  • Stored water can be utilized during droughts or for supplementary irrigation, reducing reliance on unpredictable rainfall patterns.

-Source: Down To Earth

April 2024