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Indian farmers need to be climate smart: experts

Jan 29, 2013

With the majority of marginal farmers being from South Asia and 41 per cent of the world’s poor belonging to this region, South Asia needs to tighten its belt to escape the adverse impact of climate change.

South Asia, having the largest concentration of poverty in the world along with widespread nutrition insecurity, will have to prepare itself to meet the challenges ushered in by climate change, experts cautioned at the International Conference on Agriculture and Climate Change, in New Delhi. The conference was organised by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), as part of its annual global conclave, the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS).

Dr B Venkateswarlu, Director of India’s Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), advised the Indian farmers to become climate smart to limit the challenges brought in by the climate extremes. Talking to OneWorld South Asia, Dr Venkateswarlu, said that Indian farmers are loaded with all kinds of survival pressures and need practical information on climate change, which he can apply to his farming practices, than academic lectures.

Anna Kalisch, a technical expert from GIZ, the German government development agency, said that successful practices of adaption to climate change can be replicated through the Indian government’s sponsored schemes like the MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act).

South Asia has to deal with the dual challenges of fighting poverty, hunger and malnutrition on one side and take care that this development happens without adversely affecting the natural resources of the country, says Vibha Dhawan, Executive Director at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).

Dhawan explained that with the majority of farmers in South Asia being marginal landholders, climate change has an extreme impact on their livelihoods. Nepal has the highest number of farmers engaged in subsistence farming at 90 per cent, while Bangladesh at 87 per cent. In India, 80 per cent of the farmers have small landholdings, while in Pakistan 36 per cent of the farmers classify as marginal landholders.

Dr M M Roy, Director of Jodhpur-based Central Arid Zone Research Institute, said that climate change will be a double whammy for the arid areas. Dr Smita Sirohi, an agricultural economist from India’s National Dairy Research Institute gave another angle to the effects of climate change and warned that increased commercialisation of dairy farming will have an adverse impact on the consumptive water use.

Dhawan, put the matter in perspective by saying, "South Asia with just two per cent of the world’s income, sustains 23 per cent population of the world and is home to around 41 per cent of the global poor. With average food productivity in South Asia much lower than the rest of world, the region becomes very vulnerable to the adverse impact of climate change."

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