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Farmers poised to survive as climate change destroys crops, and scientists say the situation will only get worse — RT India

In India’s largest state, it doesn’t rain when they plant and it rains when they’re supposed to harvest. The result? Another bad harvest

As he sips tea from his stainless steel cup, Shailendra Shukla tells his wife that if he suffers another agricultural loss, he will lease his land and move to town to find work.

A resident of the village of Tandpur, in India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, Shukla, 45, is a traditional farmer who inherited his trade from his ancestors. He owns about 13 acres of land but has faced losses for the past three years due to unseasonable weather conditions.

“Last year was the most difficult, as more than 80% of my paddy rice was destroyed by heavy rains when the crop was ready to be harvested, and there was no need for water at that time. that time. » he says. “Once again, the excess rainfall destroyed my potatoes and it was not just me, but all the farmers in the area who suffered losses. »

The farmer says he lost nearly $2,400 to bad weather and had to take out a loan to plant corn last season. This situation is a far cry from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2017 promise to double farmers’ incomes by 2022, and it does not look set to change unless farmers find solutions to cope with the change. climatic.

Awadhesh Shukla, who is unrelated but lives in the same village, has a similar story. The small farmer who owns just 1.6 acres has made no profit in the past two seasons.

“The rain comes when it is not needed and there is no water when it is needed, neither in the canal nor by precipitation. » he says. “Indra, the god of rain, has been unkind to the farmers for the past three years and expects a bali (sacrifice).”

The Indian Meteorological Department reported that Uttar Pradesh experienced unusually heavy rains in October. It was not a season, as October is normally the time when rice farmers prepare for harvest. The untimely rains affected more than 60 out of 75 districts in the state, which is India’s second largest rice producer.

According to the Climate Transparency Report 2022, India lost around 5.4% of its GDP in 2021, valued at $159 billion, due to extreme heat. The heat waves have negatively affected key sectors of the Indian economy, including manufacturing, agriculture and construction. The report states that between 2016 and 2021, extreme weather events such as cyclones, flash floods and landslides damaged crops on 36 million hectares of land in India. This caused an estimated $3.75 billion in losses for farmers nationwide.

The 2022 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also indicates that the production of rice, wheat, pulses and coarse grains in India could decrease by around 9% by 2050. If emissions remain high, maize production in the south of the country could fall. up to 17 percent.

Yogesh Kumar, agricultural meteorologist at Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University, says the impact of extreme weather conditions on farmers that we see today will increase in the future.

“Climate change does not only affect agriculture but also food security. » he says. “If crop yields are affected, it will affect availability, access and consumption. Climate change is currently the most visible in terms of its impact on agriculture. In times to come, we will see four to nine percent impact of climate change on agriculture in India every year. We must take effective steps in this direction very soon. »

Impractical crop insurance adds to the woes

Shailendra Shukla says he searched in vain for insurance for his lost crop, but found nothing.

“The procedure for obtaining insurance benefits is very complex,” he says. “The estimate of my lost crop was not done in time, so I couldn’t get it either. I was hoping to get some money that could have helped me financially, but it all failed.

RT spoke to more than nine farmers in the village of Tandpur, but none received benefits under the government’s crop insurance scheme.

Dr Daya Srivastava, Senior Scientist at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), says: “It is undoubtedly a very difficult time for Indian farmers, as the weather has become extremely unpredictable in recent years. There is a distinct lack of rainfall when it is most needed, during the key monsoon season. And conversely, there is excessive rainfall when it is not necessary, outside the monsoon periods. The current weather conditions have no continuity or consistency with previous decades, which has resulted in immense losses for farmers.

“The unpredictability of rainfall, combined with other factors of climate change such as rising temperatures, have made agriculture extremely precarious. The models that farmers have relied on for generations to plan their plantings, harvests, water management, etc., have now become unreliable. This lack of weather predictability inflicts many hardships on the community and the livelihoods of farmers across India. » Srivastava told this reporter in a phone conversation.

The lead scientist further explained that “To adapt to these climatic changes, I think Indian farmers will have to learn and implement multiple cropping patterns on their land. A more diverse multi-cropping system, supported by irrigation and other resources, might be a more sustainable approach today. ” He added :

“The biggest problem I see with Indian farmers right now is that they are working in isolation, on an individual basis. If farmers instead start working in clusters and unified collectives, losses can be better managed through a joint problem solving.”

Becoming self-sufficient is the key

“Furthermore, Indian farmers need to adopt techniques that can make their farming practices more sustainable. For example, learning to grow seeds helps save seeds from one harvest until they are planted for the next season’s harvest. Similarly, on-farm preparation of organic manure and fertilizer through composting and other techniques can significantly reduce external input costs. » said Srivastava.

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“The adoption of green manuring practices of burying crops such as legumes in the soil, as well as efforts to improve soil fertility through the use of compost, vermicompost, etc., can promote overall soil health. This will help crops grown in such rejuvenated soil better withstand uncertain rains or higher temperatures. Building the intrinsic resilience of soils is key to making agriculture climate resilient.

Another ICAR senior scientist said, speaking on condition of anonymity, that the government claims to be helping farmers a lot, but in reality these efforts are not reaching them.

“ICAR publishes a weekly advisory for farmers based on IMD forecasts, but these advisories never reach farmers” he said. “Also, our farmers don’t know about the climate-resistant varieties developed by agricultural organizations, but they know about the expensive seeds that have achieved a very prominent place in the market. If the government really wants to help farmers, it must work on these two points.”

“I know that our Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) pledged to double farmers’ incomes when he came to power, but believe me, profiting from agriculture is now a distant dream,” said the scientist. “All these promises, we now consider them as ‘promising the moon to a lover’.”


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