Small farmers and crop production are under stress in the face of climate change

The impact of climate change is unfolding at a pace that is much quicker than predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), stated a new research study released here in the Capital recently.

The study conducted by Action Aid with Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, further stresses that more than 80 per cent of farmers in India, who are mainly small and marginal farmers and contribute about 50 per cent of the total crop production of the country, will be the most affected by the changing climate.

The study was shared and deliberated upon at a national consultation on Climate Change and Agriculture – Adaptation and Mitigation by Small and Marginal Farmers organised in the Capital.

“The pattern of rainfall has changed and it is so scattered that at times it rains in the village but fields remain dry.

The rainfall pattern was not like this about 10-15 years ago, and we are unable to understand it,” said Birendra Sahariya, 40 year old farmer from Sipri village in Lalitpur District of Bundelkhand region in Uttar Pradesh who was in Delhi to share his testimony.

“In the 1980s we started using chemical fertilisers and pumping up water from the ground. But these technologies have only put our land under stress and our livestock are also facing shortage of fodder because of this,” he added.

Huge investments

“I have lost everything due to changing weather and government programmes that are there require huge investment. One of my sons committed suicide unable to pay back a loan of Rs. 2 lakh. I had to sell my ancestral house, ox, cows and sheep to repay this loan,” said a woman farmer Laxmi, 48, from Pathakotha Cheruvu (Guntakal)village, Ananthpur District of Andhra Pradesh. “My younger son has gone to Tirupati as a daily wage labourer, as he does not want to get into this trap like his brother,'' she adds. The Action Aid study noted that after the nutrient based subsidy scheme was introduced and manufacturers were given a free hand to fix the price, the cost of fertilisers except urea has increased by more than 300 per cent.

Despite this, there is an increased dependency on chemical fertilisers to meet the soil fertility needs, given the emphasis on the chemical fertiliser-intensive Green Revolution model.

“The small and marginal farmers who are the largest food producers of our country can only sustain their production system if the policies and practices on climate resilient sustainable agriculture is widely adopted,'' said Amar Jyoti Nayak of Action Aid India.

According to various estimates, it is suggested that agriculture in India contributes around 25-30 per cent of national Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and contributes to a huge ecological loss in terms of increased soil and water pollution with nitrates.

“In this context, the role of small and marginal farmers calls for due attention by the policy makers,” said Sandeep Chachra of Action Aid India.

“Almost 80 per cent of our farmers, categorized as small and marginal land holders are dependent on rain for their agricultural operations and cannot afford the cost of inputs of the Green Revolution model. They can bring in climate resilient agricultural system which will not only contribute to adaptation but will go a long way to mitigate the climate crisis,” he added.