[Editorial Analysis] Farming in a warming world

Mains Paper 3: Economy

Prelims level: Agriculture

Mains level: Land reforms in India. Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth


• The pervasiveness of climatic aberrations and the associated socio-economic vulnerability are now widely recognised and experienced across the globe.

• The Sixth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on “Global Warming at 1.5°C” distinctly propagates.

• The need to strengthen and enhance existing coping capacity and to remain committed to the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

Vital highlights from this report

• The report establishes that the world has become 1°C warmer because of human activities, causing greater frequency of extremes and obstruction to the normal functioning of ecosystems.

• Climate-induced risks are projected to be higher for global warming of 1.5°C than at present, but lower than at 2°C (a catastrophic situation).

• The magnitude of such projections depends on in-situ attributes and the level of developments.

• A change in global warming, indigenous populations and local communities dependent on agricultural or coastal livelihoods are very vulnerable to the climate impacts.

Condition in India

• India, with its diverse agro-climatic settings, is one of the most vulnerable countries.

• Its agriculture ecosystem, distinguished by high monsoon dependence, and with
85% small and marginal landholdings, is highly sensitive to weather abnormalities.

• There has been less than normal rainfall during the last four years, with 2014 and 2015 declared as drought years.

• Even the recent monsoon season (June-September) ended with a rainfall deficit of 9%, which was just short of drought conditions.

• Research is also confirming an escalation in heat waves, in turn affecting crops, aquatic systems and livestock.

• The Economic Survey 2017-18 has estimated farm income losses between 15% and
18% on average, which could rise to 20%-25% for unirrigated areas without any policy interventions.

• These projections underline the need for strategic change in dealing with climate change in agriculture.

Steps needed

• There is a need to foster the process of climate adaptation in agriculture, which involves reshaping responses across both the micro- and macro-level decision-making culture.

• At the micro-level, traditional wisdom, religious epics and various age-old notions about weather variations still guide farmers’ responses, which could be less effective.

• Corroborating these with climate assessments and effective extension and promoting climate resilient technologies will enhance their pragmatism.

• Climate exposure can be reduced through agronomic management practices such as inter and multiple cropping and crop-rotation; shift to non-farm activities; insurance covers; up-scaling techniques such as solar pumps, drip irrigation and sprinklers.

• Several studies indicate increasing perceptions of the magnitude of climate change and the need for farmers to adapt, but the process remains slow.

• For instance, the NSS 70th round indicates that a very small segment of agricultural households utilised crop insurance due to a lack of sufficient awareness and knowledge.

• Hence there is an urgent need to educate farmers, reorient Krishi Vigyan Kendras and other grass-root organisations with specific and more funds about climate change and risk-coping measures.


• The SAPCC is an important platform for adaptation planning but it needs to evolve further in terms of climate-oriented regional analysis to capture micro-level sensitivity and constraints.

• Moreover, convergence of climate actions with ongoing efforts and several Central schemes with similar mandates is a must.

• Greater expertise and consultations are required for a systematic prioritisation of actions and fiscal prudence for building climate resilient agriculture.

Way forward

• Climate adaptation actions in agriculture are closely intertwined with rural developmental interventions, calling for a holistic new paradigm.

• At the macro-level, climate adaptations are to be mainstreamed in the current developmental framework (which is still at a nascent stage, as acknowledged in the Economic Survey 2017-18).

• The government document likely consequences of climate change, they lack systematic adaptation planning and resource conservation practices.

• Mainstreaming adaptation into the policy apparatus has the potential to improve the resilience of several development outcomes.

• The approach demands coherence across multiple policy scales as required for developing possible synergy between micro-macro levels and addressing several cross-cutting issues.

• Moreover, this enables identification of several barriers that prevent up-scaling efforts and adaptation by farmers.

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