The Centre has so far not addressed the problem of climate change impact on agriculture and food sector, a panel of experts participating in a national conference on ‘Ensuring Food Security in a Changing Climate' observed here on Saturday.
While it is estimated that agriculture in the productive areas of South Asia will be amongst the worst affected, with predictions that almost 40 per cent of the production potential could be lost, the government is unprepared to meet the problem.
Adapting agriculture to climate change is the key to reducing its impact on agricultural productivity and rural livelihoods. For this, the government must extend specific budgetary support to the water, food and agriculture sectors, the conference concluded.
M.S. Swaminathan, Abhijit Sen, Som Pal, P.K. Aggarwal, Suman Sahai, Hiamshu Pathak., M.R. Garg, Celia Chalam, Himanshu Kulkarni, Ramesh Rawal, Kirtiman Awasthi and Jayadeva Ranade were some of the experts who participated in the two-day conference.
Director-General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research S. Ayyappan, who is a fisheries expert, explained how due to the rise in the sea surface temperatures, the breeding ground and the spawning seasons had changed. Stocks of fresh fish like carp were diminishing.
National Network on Climate Change Research Coordinator P.K. Aggarwal warned that the food production variability would increase with time due to the frequent occurrence of floods and droughts and therefore there was urgent need to work on developing adaptation strategies.
Suman Sahai of the Gene Campaign, which is involved in the conservation of agro-biodiversity, said climate change would bring about turbulence in all agriculture production systems. Therefore, the greater the genetic variability in hand, the better would be the coping capacity of farmers.
M.R. Garg of the National Dairy Development Board, Anand, spoke of how the increase in temperatures had diminished the reproduction efficiency of dairy animals. However, indigenous breeds of livestock were coping better than cross-bred cattle. Research showed that just balancing the nutrition in the feed helps not only to reduce methane emission from cattle, but it also increased milk yield.
Sandeep Chachra of ActionAid, India, pointed out that the present economic development model being followed had led to the climate change crisis.
The conference called for higher budgetary assistance to farmers by providing value-added weather services for transition to adaptation technologies and maintenance of production through the turbulence of climate change. It suggested that biogas technology be adapted for mitigation of greenhouse gases from biomass and development of long-term land use plans for ensuring food security.
The government must reorient its subsidies to benefit farmers who rely on indigenous methods rather than chemical fertilizers and provide better extension and financial services to small and marginal farmers who would be worst hit by climate change.
Over 200 people from 22 States participated in the deliberations organised by Gene Campaign and ActionAid, India. The recommendations would be sent to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for policy interventions.