resilient-and-sustainable-indian-agriculture

CONTEXT

A basket of agreements was signed by groups of countries during the Glasgow Summit. There is a need to focus on agriculture and food systems and how India should prepare and act to fight the challenge of climate change in light of CoP26.

India’s pledge of Panchamrit (five-fold strategy) to fight climate change, announced during the 26th Conference of the Parties (CoP26)- 

  1. Reaching 500 gigawatt (GW) of non-fossil fuel energy capacity by 2030
  2. Producing 50% of energy requirements via renewable energy sources by 2030
  3. A reduction of 1 billion tonnes of carbon by 2030
  4. Reducing the carbon emission intensity of the GDP by 45% by 2030
  5. Achieving the target of net-zero emissions by 2070.

PREPARING AGRICULTURE AND FOOD SYSTEMS 

  • Sustainable agriculture policy action agenda:The sustainable agriculture policy action agenda was signed by as many as 26 countries at the summit to set a course of action to protect food systems and prevent loss of biodiversity against climate change.
    • The countries also laid down their commitments with the pledge to use land sustainably and put protection and restoration of nature at the heart of all.
    • India’s stand:  The agenda was not signed by India since its mission for sustainable agriculture, one of the missions under the national action plan for climate change (NAPCC), is already operational to deal with the issue of climate change in the agriculture sector.
  • Inflection point in agriculture: When the agriculture sector in the countries and across the planet are threatened by adversities due to climate change, the policy initiatives are a good way to re-invigorate efforts for promotion and practice of sustainable agricultural technology according to the present inflection point.
  • Major source of GHG emissions:According to the Third Biennial Update Report submitted by the Government of India in early 2021 to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the agriculture sector contributes 14% of the total GHG emissions (energy 75%; industrial process and product use 8% and waste 2.7%, as per 2016 data).
    • Hence, for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the agriculture sector effective mitigation measures and appropriate adoption technologies must be taken.

INDIA’S APPROACH 

  • Balance between growth and sustainability:India’s approach has been a balancing act between growth and sustainability in its climate change policy. India is also leading the developing nations to place agriculture in the ongoing negotiations.
  • National Mission on sustainable agriculture:The focus of the National Mission on sustainable agriculture as part of the national action plan on climate change has been to make Indian agriculture more sustainable considering likely risks arising from the climate variability.
  • Climate smart agricultural technologies: The Indian Council of Agricultural Research and International Agricultural Research Centres of the CGIAR system including International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), have developed climate smart agricultural technologies and approaches to assist the agricultural sector to be less vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change.

STRATEGIES TO MAKE INDIAN AGRICULTURE RESILIENT AND SUSTAINABLE IN CHANGING CLIMATE

Diversification

  • Better nutrition:The diversification to more nutritious and environment-friendly crops from existing cropping systems pre-dominated by rice and wheat in many unsustainable landscapes has often been suggested to address challenges of climate change and malnutrition.
    • However such a transition must protect the income base of farmers.
  • Potential environmental benefits:According to the research, the potential benefits of crop diversification including sorghum and millet and particularly in those tracts where the rice yields are low are immense.
    • It holds the potential to reduce imports and greenhouse gas emissions along with increasing nutritional value of the food system.
    • For instance, Agro forestry brings synergies between trees and crops or forages (such as trees on field bunds, inline agroforestry and high-density fruit orchards) to help diversify existing farming systems and achieve medium to long term sustainability.
  • Diversified diets:There is a need for promotion of healthy and diversified diets to be incorporated in the menu of Indian consumers for the success of crop diversification.

Agro-ecological approaches

  • Resource intensive production: Nitrogen leaching from inefficient use of chemical fertiliser or methane from rice paddies, nitrous oxide emissions are some of the key downsides of resource intensive approaches to production.
  • Natural farming techniques:The practices of natural farming have been practised since ages and have helped to bring synergy towards biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services.
  • Conservation agriculture:Conservation agriculture offers solutions to such pernicious problems with good agronomy and soil management such as no-till farming, crop rotation, in-situ crop harvest residue management / mulching, zero-till planters such as the Happy Seeder, among others. These practices could be very useful in significantly reducing GHG emissions.

Water use efficiency

  • Micro irrigation: There is a need to move from a supply based to demand based system to achieve the huge micro-irrigation potential.
  • Agronomic practices:The various agronomic practices like system of Rice intensification (SRI), alternate wetting and drying (AWD), direct seeded rice (DSR) and furrow irrigation have been suggested by experts for efficient use of irrigation water.
  • Suitable policies: The mantra of current public policies has been More crop-per-drop, suitable policies along with suitable incentives could lead to more farmers in adoption of technologies with an aim to irrigate the crop and not the land.
  • Convergence of schemes: Convergence of schematic interventions through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY), among others, for groundwater recharging, revival of traditional water bodies and creation of water harvesting structures would go a long way in conservation and usage of water for agricultural use.

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