Climate Resilient Villages for Sustainable Food Security in Tropical India: Concept, Process, Technologies, Institutions, and Impacts

Rao, C. S. et al. | Advances in Agronomy | 2016 | Peer Reviewed | Review |


The world population is expected to increase by a further three billion by 2050 and 90% of the three billion will be from developing countries that rely on existing land, water, and ecology for food and well-being of human kind. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its fifth assessment report (AR5) stated that warming of the climate system is unequivocal and is more pronounced since the 1950s. The atmosphere and oceans have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen. Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850 and the globally averaged combined land and ocean surface temperature data as calculated by a linear trend show a warming of 0.85 degrees C (0.65-1.06 degrees C) over the period of 1880-2012. World Meteorological Organization (WMO) ranked 2015 as the hottest year on record. Climate change poses many challenges to growth and development in South Asia. The Indian agriculture production system faces the daunting task of feeding 17.5% of the global population with only 2.4% of land and 4% of water resources at its disposal. India is more vulnerable to climate change in view of the dependence of huge population on agriculture, excessive pressure on natural resources, and relatively weak coping mechanisms. The warming trend in India over the past 100 years has indicated an increase of 0.6 degrees C, which is likely to impact many crops, negatively impacting food and livelihood security of millions of farmers. There are already evidences of negative impacts on yield of wheat and paddy in some parts of India due to increased temperature, water stress, and reduction in number of rainy days. Significant negative impacts have been projected under medium-term (2020-39) climate change scenario, for example, yield reduction by 4.5-9%, depending on the magnitude and distribution of warming. Since agriculture currently contributes about 15% of India’s gross domestic product (GDP), a negative impact on production implies cost of climate change to roughly range from 0.7% to 1.35% of GDP per year. Indian agriculture, with 80% of farmers being smallholders (<0.5 ha) having diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, is monsoon-dependent rainfed agriculture (58%), about 30% of population undernourished, migration from rural to urban regions, child malnutrition etc., has become more vulnerable with changed climate or variability situations. During the past decade, frequency of droughts, cyclone, and hailstorms increased, with 2002, 2004, 2009, 2012, and 2014 being severe droughts. Frequent cyclones and severe hailstorms in drought prone areas have become common. Eastern part of the country is affected by seawater intrusion. Reduced food grain productivity, loss to vegetable and fruit crops, fodder scarcity, shortage of drinking water to animals during summer, forced migration of animals, severe loss to poultry and fishery sectors were registered, threatening the livelihoods of rural poor. Enhancing agricultural productivity, therefore, is critical for ensuring food and nutritional security for all, particularly the resource-poor, small, and marginal farmers who would be the most affected. In the absence of planned adaptation, the consequences of long-term climate change on the livelihood security of the poor could be severe. In India, the estimated countrywide agricultural loss in 2030 is expected to be over $ 7 billion that will severely affect the income of at least 10% of the population. However, this could be reduced by 80%, if cost-effective climate resilient measures are implemented. Climate risks are best addressed through increasing adaptive capacity and building resilience which can bring immediate benefits and can also reduce the adverse impacts of climate change. Climate resilient agriculture (CRA) encompasses the incorporation of adaptation and resilient practices in agriculture which increases the capacity of the system to respond to various climate-related disturbances by resisting damage and ensures quick recovery. Such disturbances include events such as drought, flood, heat/cold wave, erratic rainfall pattern, pest outbreaks, and other threats caused by changing climate. Resilience is the ability of the system to bounce back and essentially involves judicious and improved management of natural resources, land, water, soil, and genetic resources through adoption of best bet practices. CRA is a way to achieve short-and long-term agricultural development priorities in the face of climate change and serves as a bridge to other development priorities. It seeks to support countries and other actors in securing the necessary policy, technical and financial conditions to enable them to: (1) sustainably increase agricultural productivity and incomes in order to meet national food security and development goals, (2) build resilience and the capacity of agricultural and food systems to adapt to climate change, and (3) seek opportunities to mitigate emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and increase carbon sequestration. These three conditions (food security, adaptation, and mitigation) are referred to as the 'triple win' of overall CRA. The concept of climate resilient village (CRV) has been taken up by Government of India, to provide stability to farm productivity and household incomes and resilience through livelihood diversification in the face of extreme climatic events like droughts, cyclones, floods, hailstorms, heat wave, frost, and seawater inundation. Development of CRVs warrants establishment of a host of enabling mechanisms to mobilize and empower communities in the decision-making process to manage and recover from climate risks. The overall program of establishing CRVs have structured village level institutions such as Village Climate Risk Management Committee (VCRMC), custom hiring center (CHC) for farm implements, community seed and fodder banks, commodity groups etc. The establishment of CRVs was based on bottom-up approach with village community taking a central role in decision making on institutional requirements, technological interventions and supporting systems with able support from experts. In our knowledge, the CRV network of National Initiative on Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA) is by far the largest outreach program involving farmer's participation ever undertaken in the field of climate change adaptation anywhere in the world. Planning, coordination, monitoring, and capacity building of the program at the country level is the responsibility of the research organization (ICAR-Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture). At the district level, Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK; Farm Science Centre) under the Division of Agricultural Extension under Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), All India Coordinated Research Project for Dryland Agriculture (AICRPDA) centers and Transfer of Technology divisions of various ICAR Institutions across the country are responsible in implementing the project at village level through farmers' participatory approach. To address the climate vulnerabilities of the selected villages, different interventions were planned under the four modules; however, the specific intervention under each module for a particular village was need based and decided based on climatic vulnerability and resource situation of the particular village. The four intervention modules being implemented are (1) Natural resource management (in situ moisture conservation, biomass mulching, residue recycling, manure management, soil health card-based nutrient application, water harvesting and recycling for supplementary or life saving irrigation, improved drainage in high rainfall/flood prone villages, conservation tillage, and water saving irrigation methods). (2) Crop production module consisting of introduction of short-duration and drought/flood-tolerant varieties, modifications in planting dates for postrainy (winter) season crops to cope with terminal heat stress, water saving paddy systems (System of Rice Intensification, aerobic, direct seeding), frost management in fruit/vegetables, community nursery in staggered dates to meet delay in onset of monsoon, energy-efficient farm machinery through village CHC with timely completion of farm operation in limited sowing window, location specific intercropping systems, and suitable agroforestry systems. (3) Module III covers livestock and fisheries interventions through augmentation of fodder production, fodder storage methods, prophylaxis, and improved shelters for reducing heat stress in livestock, management of fish ponds/tanks during water scarcity and excess water, and promotion of livestock as climate adaptation strategy. (4) Module IV consists of village level institutions, collective marketing groups, introduction of weather-based insurance, and climate literacy though establishment of automated weather stations. Impacts of these climate resilient interventions in the villages were assessed through various resilience indicators, importantly, improved farm productivity, farm income, livelihoods at household and village level. Environmental impacts were assessed on improved soil carbon sequestration, groundwater recharge, vegetation and forest cover, and measurements of GHG emissions which were correlated with ex ante assessment of village level carbon balance and overall contribution to global warming potential. These 151 CRVs are learning sites for further expanding resilient villages to adjoining clusters and districts so that large number of villages will become part of the overall adaptation-led climate change mitigation mission in the country.