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Climate Change And Its Impact On Agriculture

Posted: July 13, 2020

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Climate-Smart Agriculture will increase agricultural productivity and incomes from crops, without having a negative impact on the environment.

The “Global Risks Report 2020” published by lists Climate Change as the top global threat over the next decade while the Global Climate Risk Index places India as the fifth most vulnerable country due to events catalyzed by climate change. The past few years have seen an increase in awareness of climate change impact on the Indian agricultural ecosystem both among policymakers as well as the general populace.


According to the Economic Survey, agriculture, at present employs around 49% of the Indian workforce while 16% of our GDP comes from agricultural and its allied activities. In addition to these, agriculture is central to the food security of the nation and any ripple in this sector is bound to cause a domino effect in the whole economy. Climate change and myriad issues associated with it such as greenhouse gas emissions, increased frequency of extreme weather outcomes, average annual temperatures taking a northward shift and rising sea levels will certainly impact agricultural productivity in India. In absence of any adaptation and mitigation measures, the yield of Rabi and Kharif crops are expected to go down by 12 and 15 percent respectively thus impacting self-sufficiency in food production and pulling down farmers’ income in rural India.

Indian agriculture remains largely dependent on monsoon with around 52% of agricultural land unirrigated. This has left it uninsured against the vagaries of weather clearly evident by volatilities in agricultural growth rate since independence and direct correlation between performance of agriculture and monsoon in India. The pattern of the Indian monsoon is expected to alter in the next decade both spatially and temporally with a change in arrival and departure dates, increased intensity of rainfall as well as larger breaks between bursts of monsoon. This will surely change the sowing and harvesting cycles and Indian farmers need to be prepared in advance. An economic survey indicates that unirrigated areas will face a greater effect of climate change-related impacts. Higher temperatures brought about by climate change will encourage weed and pest proliferation, impacting the nutritional status of crops. 


Farmers need to be taught and provided with an online system where they can exchange their crops with the nearby villages so as to earn and balance the market.

Enlarge the area under irrigation with the use of efficient irrigation techniques such as drip and sprinkler irrigation. Seeing the current situation of Covid-19, sensors can be also be used to water the field so that there is no physical contact with anyone.

We can grow border crops like- Moringa which needs a one-time investment and gives recurring income throughout as its fruit, flower and leaves can be used for multiple purposes. It also protects the crops, having no maintenance cost.

Development of genetic resources with greater adaptive capacity to cope with changing environments. The genetically modified crops have promised increased yields and protection against crops in recent years and need to be employed at a larger scale. Drought resistant varieties of seeds need to be developed to be grown in arid and semi-arid areas. Rich indigenous genetic resources in the field of crops, livestock and fisheries should be conserved and cataloged with the suitable legal framework developed to check bio-piracy. Dynamic seed development plans are required with the aim of increasing seed replacement ratio and varietal replacement ratio in the future.

Pushing farmers to adopt more sustainable modes of agricultural production such as inter-cropping, mixed cropping and mixed farming, crop rotation. Traditional farming systems such as organic farming, zero budget natural farming, vedic farming which use the minimum amount of inputs and are less dependent on external factors such as irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides, etc need to be encouraged through appropriate IEC programmes and subsidization for farmers who adopt these techniques.

Support research on energy-friendly irrigation policies, climate-smart agriculture, use of AI and IoT in monitoring plant health. Increase research on agricultural development to at least 1% of agricultural GDP from the current 0.3% and improve the functioning of agricultural extension schemes to bring more farmers into its ambit.

Design suitable crop insurance models with appropriate crop cutting experiments to insure farmers against the loss caused due to climate events. Bring more farmers within the realm of financial exclusion and extend credit support to them from institutional sources as the cost of agriculture is going to ramp up due to adaptation and mitigation steps taken against climate change.

Intended Outcomes

Climate-Smart Agriculture will increase agricultural productivity and incomes from crops, without having a negative impact on the environment. This, in turn, would raise food and nutritional security and build more inclusive and efficient food value chains, along with the resilience of the most vulnerable group. It will also reduce the exposure of farmers to short-term risk. Greenhouse gas emissions will reduce. These can be measured in terms of yield, income, and labor.


The above-proposed solutions will necessarily face challenges and these need to be figured at formulation and implementation stages.

Agriculture is one of the state subjects under List II of seventh schedule. This prevents the central government from implementing uniform policies in this field nationwide. Food and Agriculture organisation (FAO) says, “Agriculture currently is responsible for more than 80% of total water consumption in India. Per capita per year availability of water in India is projected to decrease from the current 1500 cubic meters to around 1100 cm in the next 30 years.”

In view of these developments, it becomes imperative to bring in sync the goal of increasing irrigation coverage with water conservation.

Few Scientific reports have published that yield from agricultural methods such as organic farming and ZBNF is lower than conventional farming while the output being more costly for the consumer. Intensive Research and development activities and pilot programmes in a few select areas need to be carried out before scaling it on a national level.

According to Food and Agriculture organisation, agriculture in India is characterized by an extremely fragmented landholding with an average farm size being around 1.15 hectares and around 85% of farmers falling in the category of small and marginal farmers. This makes it difficult for farmers to access credit or new technology and rising productivity due to the absence of economies of scale. Rural India still views agriculture as its primary source of livelihood and any reforms carried out in this area have huge ramifications for the political leadership of the country. This requires some amount of political will to pull these reforms off notwithstanding the fact that these will be painful in the short-run but will necessarily will be beneficial in the long term.

Image source: Pexels

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