It is predicted that climate change and rising temperatures will increase the demand for water used in agriculture and in urban areas. This poses significant risks for the livelihoods of rural communities and the food security of urban populations. In order to address these risks there is a need to understand issues surrounding water security in India. For instance, options that address increasing water scarcity through better co-management of water at the river basin are needed in many water-stressed areas.
In this context and with the goal to improve the understanding of water resource management and its relationship to climate change, a dialogue was organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the National Council for Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Public Leadership (NCCSD) on May 7th, 2016. The workshop was attended by 124 participants that included scientists, government officers, social workers, civil society members and 36 farmers and students. The workshop was undertaken as part of the India FSP, which undertakes studies and organizes policy advocacy dialogues to improve food security at the national and state levels in India.
Dr. Kirit N Shelat, executive chairman of the NCCSD, presented an overview on climate change, food security, water and energy security, environmental degradation and natural calamities in India. He specifically highlighted that despite achieving consistent annual agricultural growth rates between 2 and 4 percent in recent decades (except in the last two years) climate change is affecting the productivity of agriculture. An example given illustrated how increases in soil salinity in parts of Gujarat are affecting root development and productivity. He also emphasized that India does not have a comprehensive policy on river basin management. In effect, this means that India has no effective policy response to the concurrent floods that it is experiencing.
The workshop included a session on farmer Interaction which provided farmers with the opportunity to discuss their observations and problems with water salinization and climatic change. During the session the participants highlighted a number of issues that need to be addressed and produced a number of suggestions which they request are sent to relevant policy makers, the government, research organizations and agricultural universities.
The workshop also highlighted a number of successful initiatives that have been implemented in Gujarat that have addressed water scarcity in recent decades. An example of such an initiative is the “Narmada Water Cannels”, a massive water conservation program that links multiple rivers and provides large scale micro-irrigation. Another successful initiative is the participatory scheme for Communities water Conservation which has improved the Gujarat groundwater table. Overall, the Government of Gujarat has integrated approaches for water management that involve water conservation, inter-basin water transfer by interlinking, strengthening of existing canal system, participatory irrigation management, and micro-irrigation.
Despite these successes, climate change and two consecutive droughts are increasing the water stress communities in Gujarat are experiencing. Moreover urban-rural tensions are emerging as water levels are falling rapidly in rural areas due to increasing demand in new urban areas. Dr. Tushar Pandey, from the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) emphasized the urgency of developing climate smart agriculture, enhanced water storage, on demand irrigation, and improved resilience in farming livelihoods as effective strategies tackling water scarcity. This is especially relevant as on current trajectories India is expected to face a 12 percent demand supply water supply gap by 2025.
IFPRI began its enduring partnership with India nearly 40 years ago. In fact, IFPRI’s first Board of Trustees in 1975 included Vijay S. Vyas, Director of the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, India. IFPRI and India’s partnership played a particularly important role following the Green Revolution when that partnership analyzed the necessary policies to both promote domestic food production and to encourage farmers to adopt new rice and wheat varieties. IFPRI’s studies on the Green Revolution in India showed that agricultural growth had a strong impact on poverty alleviation and that further attention to agricultural growth was necessary to reduce poverty. In the late 1970s, amid stagnant food production, weather-related crop losses, and an ever-growing population, the Indian government sought food security solutions that extended beyond food aid; technology and rural development played leading roles in the IFPRI-India working relationship during that period.
During the 1980s, IFPRI’s research focused on India’s agricultural sector, particularly on agricultural growth linkages to the nonagricultural economy; the impact of high-yielding rice varieties in South India; and instability in foodgrains production, food subsidies, dairy development, and livestock demand. Research conducted during the 1990s included studies on topics such as public expenditure and poverty in rural India, incentives and constraints in the transformation of Indian agriculture, and high-value agriculture. Research topics since the 2000s have expanded to include malnutrition, public investment, climate change, value chains, capacity strengthening, and biofortification. As of 2015, the Institute has produced more than 450 publications on India’s food security and collaborates with dozens of Indian institutions.
IFPRI receives continuous financial and logistical support from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and the Department of Agricultural Research and Education within the government of India and works alongside dozens of research collaborators in the country. This brochure highlights some of the key collaborations between IFPRI and its Indian partners, describing recent and ongoing work.
Partially spurred by the recent droughts in several states in India, a conference was held in Telangana on October 15, 2015 focusing on “Mitigating Agrarian Distress in Indian Agriculture” as part of a series of dialogues being organized under the Indian Food Security Knowledge Platform and Policy Dialogue. The conference was jointly organized by IFPRI and Centre for Good Governance and took place at the CGG Conference Centre in Andhra Pradesh. Distinguished guests from government, national and international researchers, and private stakeholders participated in the event.
The workshop aimed to look at the problems the agricultural sector faces from the recent drought to formulate proper policies and programs, not only for achieving sustainable and inclusive development of agriculture but also integrated rural development. The main goal of the workshop was to frame a set of recommendations to resolve the agrarian crisis based on an evidence-based assessment of the situation.
Although there are already government policies in place to support irrigation in case of dry spells, including an early weather advisory system and power regulation, there are still many Indian farming communities feeling the impact of drought and entering a phase of agrarian distress. The worst fears of a second consecutive year of rain deficit have played out as 2015 saw the adverse effects of drought in states of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has reported 12 percent average shortfall covering 40 percent of India for 2015. With a 43 percent below normal deficit in rainfall, Karnataka is the only state to declare drought this year and many districts-- 27 out of 30-- are affected. Yet other states are suffering severely as well; Maharashtra is experiencing a deficit of 51 percent below normal rainfall, for instance.
The central government has released 591.35 million USD as a national relief fund for the state of Karnatakam and last year 617.6 million USD were released for state of Maharashtra. The states of Punjab and Haryana are able to better cope to drought this year due to advanced irrigation facilities than other parts of the country. The delayed rains of September may alleviate some of the further damage but it is unlikely to mitigate the damage already done to agriculture production for 2015. Hence, there is a need to address this agrarian stress which is multi-faceted through government policies.
The specific objectives this conference were the following:
Assess the socio-economic impact of recent droughts in India,
Document technological developments to reduce impact of drought.
Review government policies and programs which mitigate drought impact.
The impacts of droughts are multifaceted. They range from impacts on the quality and quantity of agriculture produce, on resources such as soil and surface water and depletion of productive assets, and on reduced demand for non-agriculture goods and services. Drought can exacerbate poverty, along with other socio-economic phenomena such as outmigration and overcrowding of cities. Drought can also impact prices of agricultural commodities according to one study presented at this workshop. It was also discussed that hot spots for extreme poverty, unrest, and outmigration are drought-prone areas which can cause effects to be exacerbated due to low resilience to shocks.
Coping with drought has been one of the underlying objectives for government of India for widespread public programs such as PDS (Public Distribution System), MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), and Agricultural Insurance (National Crop Insurance Scheme). Agricultural insurance is not taking off in India despite the sufficient supply because the willingness to pay for insurance is low in India. Thus, there is need for improvement in product design for selling insurance products in India. Insurance is particularly important in drylands as there is high production risk. There needs to be more studies to estimate whether insurance has improved household economy and improved livelihood opportunities. MNREGA which can also be applicable in scenarios of drought has prevented 14 million people from falling into poverty since the start in 2005. Less developed regions which use MNREGA show higher participation and higher rate of poverty reduction than more developed regions.
PDS as a vehicle for food security, is the oldest system designed by government of India and needs to be designed around three elements of ‘Availability’, ‘Acceptability’ and ‘Accessibility’ (3 ‘A’s) and active involvement of other states besides Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, and Haryana. Food availability is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for food security. The Abhijit Sen Committee (2000-2002) brought out the conundrum of availability of excess food and simultaneously food deprivation/starvation. Therefore, the focus of the policy instruments must be to improve access to food with proactive planning, particularly in areas prone to drought without waiting for manual-based declarations.
Presentations also highlighted the existing drought-proofing methods such as solar pumps, drought-tolerant seeds, cloud seeding, and diesel pumps. Cloud seeding was a new concept which is interesting technology used to seed small clouds to create artificial rain over the drought prone agricultural areas. Drought tolerant seeds is an agronomic intervention in which staple crops are bred for drought resistance (can tolerate dehydration in critical growth stages) and show early maturity helping them to escape dehydration. Solar pumps are another mitigation strategy used by Bihar government helped to bring down the cost of irrigation 266 percent when compared to conventional irrigation methods in the case of wheat.
The Telangana government programs includes several initiatives along with Universities to mitigate drought. The press is highly used in the months of high drought risk to spread the weather forecast of Indian Meteorological Department (IMD). The contingency plan in event of drought explaining the adaptation strategies, climate variability, and possible rainfall deficit is shared via video conferences and the farmers given sowing instructions for rainfed crops. The updated forecast is communicated to the officials of Department of Agriculture, farmers and scientists. Wide coverage of contingency plan is given via national television network and 14 other channels.
Bihar government programs for drought proofing include subsidies on shallow tube wells, diesel pump-sets, and investment in public tube-wells. Affordable irrigation is one of the essential components for creating resilient agriculture in Bihar which depends upon affordable power. The current solar-pump model needs immediate change, with farmers and solar companies requiring a modified financial model.
Some options discussed during the dialogue included-stress mitigation with relief measures and subsidies, reduction of single cash cropping, optimization of state reservoir capacities, crop insurance, and improvement of irrigation conditions, alternative government employment, and accessibility of low-interest institutional loans.
The summary conclusions of the dialogue include the following:
There is a need for better information sharing on the role of particular departments within the government as well as more coordination in dealing with drought; for example, between those doing remote sensing and those looking at the agricultural markets and production. More discussion is needed on the role of national markets which can reduce the burden of distress by allowing free trade among Indian Agriculture Markets.
Non-farm employment needs to be considered in policies, as it can be important insurance tool in the incidences of agrarian distress. The non-farm sector has high potential in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh states, for example.
There are many existing policies such as MNREGA, PDS, and NIAS, demonstrating the government’s active role.However, new policies should be built around and in coordination with the programs in place and formulated in the context of the Indian political economy as.as these programs receive a great amount of funding but are not reaching the desired results on poverty reduction.
Tweaking already existing programs cannot give a sustained solution for solving the existing issues. Thinking outside the box is needed along with provision of skill-development programs and crop diversification with livestock, for example.
There is need for pragmatic policies which are based on real-time data and multi-programed technology. Climate-smart agriculture methods are needed as well as a location-specific understanding of the impacts of drought.
The increasing frequency of altered rainfall patterns in India has heightened the vulnerability of the agricultural sector, already susceptible to rainfall-related volatility. The impact extends beyond macroeconomics and into the households and lives of hundreds of millions of people. In Bihar, for instance, the poorest and third-largest state in India, 24 of its 38 districts are considered extremely vulnerable to climate change and a large portion of the state experienced droughts in four out of five years between 2009 and 2013.
In 2008, the government of Bihar launched one of the largest conditional cash transfer schemes (CCT) in the world in an effort to mitigate the effect of drought on crop area and farming. The CCT scheme uses a non-distortionary subsidy of diesel in drought-affected to encourage farmers to use groundwater for irrigation of their kharif crops. Paddy is Bihar’s staple crop and is primarily vulnerable to drought because of the high cost of irrigation.
Given the state’s great needs, limited resources, and the large-- and growing—investment in this program, it is important to have a clear impression its effectiveness. It is also a prime case study to research the impact and functioning of cash transfer programs in the agricultural sector and adaptation policies to mitigate the impact of climate shocks on crop production. IFPRI researchers Avinash Kishore, P.K. Joshi and Divya Pandey present the first evaluation of this CCT scheme in their paper “Drought, distress, and a conditional cash transfer programme to mitigate the impact of drought in Bihar, India.”
The authors use several sources of data to conduct their evaluation including district-level rainfall during monsoon months combined with crop area and yield to measure the impact of drought on area and yield of paddy. Relying upon the standards of the Indian Meteorological Department, they classify a district as drought-affected if the total rainfall from June–September is 80 percent or less of its long-term mean. The authors also use unpublished district-level data on allocation and uptake of the diesel subsidy from the state government’s records, published data from the minor irrigation census of India on the number of pumping sets in each district, and agricultural data (e.g. net sown area, crop yields total value of crop output) to identify factors that drive the large inter-district variation in use of the diesel subsidy. Last but not least, they survey 240 real and potential beneficiaries of the scheme in 16 villages of the Nalanda District, as well as block and panchayat-level government officials responsible for grass-roots monitoring and implementation.
The authors that between 2001 and 2012, drought reduced paddy yield by an average of 450 kilograms per hectare and the cropped area of paddy was reduced by 4750 hectares. The authors note however, that although the diesel subsidy scheme launched in 2008 has steadily increased in value over time, has not had the intended effects. They note an uptake ranging from 2% to 100% and from the primary survey, they note limited awareness of the scheme, high transaction costs, and poor targeting. As a result, they find that the scheme has not been effective in mitigating the impact of drought on paddy production. The authors note “at present, it works more like a drought-relief programme where some farmers, especially the better-off ones, get some cash from the state in a poor monsoon season, and not like a CCT or a drought-mitigation programme that would encourage farmers to do something they would not otherwise do – maintain their cropped area and crop yields by using more groundwater to make up for the shortfall in rains.” The authors recommend changes in the subsidy transfer including doing away with the requirement to produce diesel purchase receipts, transparent mechanisms for declaring a block drought-affected, and information-sharing through mobile networks. The authors also recommend creating permanent irrigation infrastructure as an affordable and sustainable way to provide assured irrigation to all farmers.
A fuel subsidy to lower the cost of irrigation is a popular policy for drought-proofing in South Asia, and the lessons learned in their study can be applied not only in the region but in other drought-prone parts of the world vulnerable to rainfall shocks.
Agriculture is highly vulnerable to even short term weather change, therefore even a small shift in climate poses direct threat to farmers, who not only have to secure his livelihood but also need to produce sufficient food to feed the growing population. Despite significant achievement in food grain production, farmer’s today face the challenge of deteriorating land, water and soil, along with growing impact of climate change thus deepening the complexity for their sustainability.
With major presence of small holder farmers, who are vulnerable to the changing climate shocks need timely support to ensure their food security but they also need to be prepared for uncertain future. Efforts are needed to develop interventions on Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) to counter climate change risks. CSA brings in together improved technologies, value added advisory services, application of information and communication technology, and agricultural insurance, which improves the adaption capacity of farmers against climate change and also minimize the greenhouse gas emission. Overall, CSA (i) raises agricultural productivity and farm income, (ii) minimizes risk that arise due to climate change, and (iii) reduces Green House Gas emissions.
Signals of the shifting climate change are visible across the country, but the extent of damage differs, therefore government policies, new technologies and adaptive measures should blend together to reach farmers. Process such as, training of trainers to develop capacities of progressive farmers, NGOs working with farmers and the extension workers on Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) is a step forward.