Towards the creation of “smarter” villages
An important initiative in India’s efforts to combat climate change has taken place in Indian villages. The idea of developing ‘climate-smart’ villages – first mooted in 2011 – has now gained momentum and will become more entrenched with new models evolved over the years becoming more and more visible. in our rural landscape as we strive to meet our climate goals. .
So what are climate-smart villages?
Dr. Sreenath Dixit, Group Leader, ICRISAT Development Center and Acting Director of the Resilient Agriculture and Food Systems Global Research Program, explains: “A village is considered ‘climate-smart’ when it can cope with the adverse effects of climate change. It doesn’t happen overnight – it requires technical support, funding and most importantly community involvement. The ability of the entire village community to respond to climate change determines whether the village is “climate smart” or not.
A few sporadic attempts were made in the first decade of this millennium following a significant commitment from the central government in launching the “National Initiative for Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA)”. The coordination of this project has been entrusted to the Central Research Institute of Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
Since the launch of this initiative, many models have evolved for different agro-ecosystems. They include drought management, high intensity rainfall management, rejuvenation of traditional rainwater harvesting patterns, among others. It has been going on for a decade in nearly 150 districts assessed as vulnerable to climate change.
“You have to change your mindset”
But bringing about a transformation at the village level is not an easy task and requires a change of mentality of the local population. “There are a lot of challenges. As well as being a resource-intensive exercise, both financial and technical, it is also time-consuming, as communities need to be engaged for some time to appreciate how small collective actions can help them deal with associated vulnerabilities. to climate change,” says Dixit.
Intercessions include the scientific management of natural resources (such as soil, water, crops and livestock); good choice of crop, timely farming operations and mechanized farming. Changes are also needed to improve timeliness and efficiency, integration of livestock with livestock, and diversification of agricultural and agro-industrial enterprises to reduce the risk of crop failure.
Besides these interventions, careful use of rainwater to increase cropping intensity, value addition to agricultural products through aggregation, primary processing and collectivization are also needed. And last but not least, the institutional capacity of villagers to access markets, both input and output markets, needs to be developed.
“Drawing lessons from the experiences of more than a decade of work in this area, we know that all of agro-extension and agro-education needs to reorient itself to address the climate vulnerabilities of different agro- ecosystems. We also need to invest heavily in evolving mitigation strategies. This is a more expensive and time-consuming option. But we won’t have many options in the future if we have to feed more than 1.5 billion people. We need to invest more in post-harvest loss prevention and primary and secondary processing,” says Dixit.
Protection against drought is crucial
India has paid a huge price for being drought prone as its agriculture is highly dependent on monsoon rains. And because of climate change, the monsoons will play truant more. Droughts will pose a major threat to agricultural productivity.
Careful analysis of the data shows that in recent years the onset of monsoons has been delayed. There are longer and longer breaks between monsoons, which also retreat earlier than before. This results in a compression of the length of the crop growth period. However, “climate-smart” villages would be much less affected since they would be prepared for such an eventuality.
Take for example Srikakulam district, Andhra Pradesh (AP). Here, the onset of the monsoons brings heavy rain, followed by a prolonged period of light rainfall. Thus, rice grown here should ideally be water resistant initially and then drought resistant. Ditto for groundnut crop grown in Anantapur district of AP, where more than 5-8 lakh hectares are cultivated in an area of low rainfall and low water availability. Here, farmers had to adopt rapid mechanized sowing when the rains set in.
In the case of cattle, look to the high-yielding cows from Punganur in AP and Malnad Gidda from Karnataka for better returns on investment, Dixit says. He also believes that now that the national project has made significant progress and developed innovative models, it is time to broaden its scope and reach by involving state governments, as agriculture is a state subject. Building on past experience, other states can coordinate their own programs to climate-proof their villages in vulnerable areas.
July 24, 2022