The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) defines Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) as an approach that helps to guide actions needed to transform and reorient agricultural systems to effectively support development and ensure food security in a changing climate. Further, according to FAO, such an approach aims to tackle three main objectives: sustainably achieving agricultural productivity and incomes; adapting and building resilience to climate change; and reducing and/or removing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, where possible. Critical to achieving these objectives is a major shift in the way land, water, soil nutrients and genetic resources are managed with related shifts in local/national governance, legislation, policies, financial mechanisms and improving the farmers’ access to markets.
CSA, further, takes into consideration the diversity of social, economic and environmental contexts including agro-ecological zones/farming systems where it is to be applied. Implementation herein requires identification of integrated package of climate resilient technologies and practices for management of water, energy, land, crops, livestock, aquaculture etc at the farm level while considering the linkage between agricultural production and ecosystems services at the landscape level. Testing and applying different practices, experts opine, is important to expand the evidence base, determine which practices and extension methods are suitable in each context. This leads to identification of synergies and tradeoffs between food security, adaptation and mitigation.
CSA, thus, provides the broad enabling framework to help stakeholders, whether national or international, to identify sustainable agricultural strategies suitable to their local conditions. In this context, FAO actions in CSA e.g. policy structures, practices, investment and tools are a valuable repository for policymakers and administrators to learn about such agricultural strategies. This includes the critical baseline strategy to assess the past and future impact of climate variability on agriculture and consequent vulnerability of farming communities, especially, smallholder farmers. Needless to state that agriculture has the potential to mitigate between 5.5-6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (equivalent) annually (IPCC, 2007) with most of this potential in developing countries. Hence, to realize this potential, agricultural development efforts will have to support smallholder farmers for the uptake of climate smart practices at the farm and landscape levels and along the value chain, too.
The FAO success stories in various countries are a constant reminder that the magnitude, immediacy and broad scope of the effects of climate change is such that there is compelling need to ensure their comprehensive integration into national as well as provincial agricultural planning, investments and programs. These include preserving the agro-forestry system on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania; sustainable grazing for better livelihoods in Qinghai, China; menu of climate smart practices for small farmers under MICCA project in Kenya; conservation of agro-biodiversity of potato cultivation in Central Andes, Peru; data evidence building for climate smart practices in Malawi, Vietnam and Zambia; herd management and agricultural cultivations in Kiruhura District, Uganda; ecosystem approach to fisheries and aquaculture for food security in Nicaragua; promotion of urea deep placement in Nigeria; gender specific climate smart agricultural inventions in Andhra Pradesh, India and livestock waste management in East Asia.
The replication of the success story of the Urea Deep Placement (UDP) technique in Nigeria is worth detailing. The usual technique of applying urea, the main nitrogen fertilizer in rice, is through a broadcast application. This, experts opine, is a very inefficient practice, with 60 to 70% of the nitrogen applied lost, and rather contributes to GHG emissions and water pollution. In the UDP technique, on the other hand, urea is made into "briquettes" of 1 gram to 3 grams and placed at 7 to 10 cm soil depth after paddy is transplanted. This technique decreases nitrogen losses by 40% and increases urea efficiency to 50%. The adoption of this technique in Bangladesh has led to rise in small farmers’ income through increased yields and reduced fertilizers’ costs. This has also led to creation of local jobs in small enterprises, often owned by women, to make briquettes. Further, farm jobs have also been created since briquette placing by hand requires 6 to 8 days of labour per hectare. At the national level, as a result of the multiplier effect, imports of urea have been reduced with savings in import costs, government subsidies and increase in production. At the global level, application of the UDP technique has reduced GHG emissions caused by production and management of fertilizers thereby increasing the agricultural systems’ resilience.
Similarly, the results of the pilot projects launched by FAO under Mitigation of Climate Change in Agriculture (MICCA) in Kenya and Tanzania have contributed in refining the measurement and modeling methodologies associated with climate change mitigation and adaptation. It has also led to highlight the importance of site specific assessments of the productivity as well as adaptation/mitigation benefits of selected practices; the barriers and incentives for their adoption and their effects on food security, income and livelihood for small farmers.
In the above context, Haryana in northern India, is a landlocked State that is scaling up implementation of the "Climate Resilient Agricultural Practices -Climate Smart Villages" Project. The objective is to strengthen the adaptive capacity of 75,000 farming families/communities in 250 villages of 10 largely paddy/wheat growing districts (Yamunanagar, Ambala, Kurukshetra, Karnal, Jind, Kaithal, Panipat, Sonepat, Sirsa and Fatehabad) to climate change and variability. The project was earlier piloted in 27 villages of District Karnal jointly by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), National Innovations in Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA) Project under Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Department of Agriculture & Framers Welfare, Government of Haryana. The climate smart villages in this pilot project successfully adopted a portfolio of interventions for managing water, weather, nutrient, carbon, energy and knowledge.
According to the 2011 Census of India, Haryana is home to approximately 10,93,000 small and marginal farmers (having land of 0-2 hectare). Factors that have been affecting different aspects of crop production for such farmers, as per the Haryana State Action Plan (HSAPCC) in the 10 selected districts include crop season shifting, temperature alterations, increased requirement of water for irrigation by agricultural crops and consequent over exploitation of groundwater resources, declining soil organic carbon, multiple plant nutrient deficiencies, development of herbicide resistance, crop residue burning etc. There is also evidence of large yield gaps, more particularly, ‘management yield gaps’ (crop loss due to poor management in farmers fields) in crops such as wheat, paddy and maize.
The scaled up project proposes adoption of sustainable agricultural practices in model fields on community lands: e.g. zero tillage, raised bed planting, direct seeded rice, alternate wetting & drying in rice, crop residue management/mulching; cropping diversification (horticulture, bee keeping, mushroom cultivation etc), site specific nutrient management, precision water management (laser leveling/micro irrigation),seed/fodder banks powered with value added weather forecasts; skill development; ICT based advisories and capacity building & knowledge sharing.
In the backdrop of these robust climate smart agricultural practices being implemented in the State there are critical nationwide challenges that need to be addressed too. According to a Background Paper published by the Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances, Government of India, "Agriculture – Doubling Farmers Income" (2017) some of the impediments to doubling farmers income in India by 2022 include – need for more awareness in handling temperature sensitive agricultural produce adding to low quality cold chain facilities, need for adequate integrated facilities for aggregation of agricultural produce, post harvest infrastructure for storage, sorting and grading at farm level; inculcation of more efficiency of usage and harvesting of fresh water through micro irrigation in conjunction with suitable crop planning; focus on quality of inputs e.g. planting materials/ nutrient management and mitigation of price fluctuation through measures such as contract and organic farming; strengthening risk management/insurance to cover wildlife, damage to mechanical operations due to lightening strike, illness etc; greater access to finance at different stages of farmers business cycle; strengthening the National Agricultural Market (e-NAM) for its last mile connectivity and development of multipurpose market yard complexes with cold chains.
Despite being one of the largest agricultural zones in the world, India’s share in the global food market is less than 2%. World average yields per hectare in crops such as paddy, wheat, maize, pulses etc of countries such as USA, France, Canada, China, Vietnam, Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia and Myanmar are still higher than India’s. Besides, international markets, e.g. EU, Japan, US have specific quality requirements which include traceability of the produce at the farm level and requirement of certification of the farming practices followed by farmers. Mr. R. Jagannathan, writing in the Hindustan Times () (Tuesday, June 20th, 2017), rightly points out that the economics of agriculture in India is not going to change dramatically with or without loan waivers. He further adds that the road to farm rejuvenation involves increasing the farm sizes by allowing surplus labor to find nonfarm jobs so that those who remain farmers can borrow and invest in raising productivity by adopting, modern technology and mechanization. He also advocates that India needs to become one market for farm produce by encouraging states to bring down the barriers to interstate markets.
Without doubt, overcoming these challenges, as we ground the much needed climate smart agricultural practices for small /marginal farmers, will continue to require significant pan India innovative interventions and investments across policy, regulatory and infrastructural segments of the agricultural and allied sectors. Alessandro D. Pinto, Kieth D. Wiebe, Mark W. Rosegrant in their IFPRI Policy Brief, 2016 sum up aptly that improvements in agricultural technology and management are expected to increase food security, but if we do address climate change, climate related losses in crop and livestock productivity will reduce those gains. (The views expressed are personal).
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