A two-day workshop titled “Climate Change and agriculture” was organized by CECODECON & PAIRVI in association with Madhyanchal Forum on 10th & 11th February 2015 in Indore. The workshop was attended by a range of stakeholders like farmers, agriculture experts, farmer leaders, water policy experts, NGOs as well as other civil society members from various districts in MP.
The workshop was started by Alok Vyas from CECODECON to introduce the participants about the objectives of the workshop and the background of climate change and its impacts on agriculture.
Mr. Arun DK, an agri-scientist provided some mitigation strategies for farmers to cope with climate change like:
Keeping plot sizes small and bordered with shrubs will help retain water in the fields
Shrubs around the fields will also provide biomass to the land and help in increasing the carbon content in the soils
Adopting organic agricultural methods
Sprinkling seeds in the soil and letting them grow
After lunch, Mr. Tapan Kumbhkar began an interactive session with the farmers. Farmers raised her concerns on how the soil quality has worsened over the years, and has become hard due to excessive use of chemical fertilizers. Farmers blamed the government for increased promotions of hybrid seeds which has made them dependent on the market for seeds for next year. He shared some recommendations on good agricultural practices which would help the farmers in climate change adaptation like:
Intercropping Toor with Jowar will prevent pests in the fields
Traditional cotton varieties when grown in intercropping with moth (Vigna aconitifolia) will prevent new weeds to arise in the fields and will also increase the nutrient profile of the soil
Traditional seeds should be adopted again by the farmers since traditional varieties could be changed by the farmers with regular seed exchanges (fasal chakra) which have now declined due to huge promotion of hybrids by the government and large-scale adoption of these by the farmers.
Mr. Narendra Kumar Tambe, an agronomist, discussed the impacts of not only climate change but also the impacts of changed agricultural practices on farmers. He discussed the problems of new pests and diseases the farmers are currently facing. He also mentioned some adaptation responses farmers could adopt in the face of climate change:
Instead of just soybean, farmers should also start growing more cereals or maize intercropped with either moong, urad or cowpea to improve the soil quality
Soybean should be intercropped with sesame (til), maize or jowar
Crop rotation should be in a pattern that a cereal is grown after pulses or cereals after oilseeds
Soybean oil can be replaced with sunflower oil and cultivating sunflower would prove to be more profitable since it is drought resistant and endures lower pest attacks
His suggestion to the government was that chemical fertilizers should be banned and organic farming should be promoted. He recommends the government to get “land to lab” so that agri-scientists would start studying traditional varieties and high yielding varieties more deeply and make the farmers accept them rather than hybrid varieties.
Dr. W.R. Deshpande described the theory and practices of organic farming.. He gave some very useful adaptation responses for farmers to deal with low yields due to climate change:
If organic carbon of the soil is increased to more than 3% (currently it is <0.5% in MP), the soil will absorb 1300 litres of water per acre per day
Keep more distances between seeds while sowing them. This will give more tillers (an average of 40-45 tillers per plant). This will save cost, since less seeds are being used, save water and retain more nutrients in the soil.
Intercropping cereal or oilseeds with pulses will help retain the nitrogen quality of the soil
Mulching and pruning the extra biomass that go above the main crop can help in weed management.
A. Observed changes in climate
In the group discussions, farmers reported increased intensity of summers and decreased intensity of winters. Time of winters has also reduced. Previously winters used to arrive by November, but now they arrive by mid-December. Rainfall pattern was also observed to have changed quite drastically. They also reported increased frequency of hailstorms.
B. Observed Impacts of climate change
1. On livelihoods
Due to poor availability of water, women have to travel farther distances to fetch water which has increased the workload for women. In some households, men go to fetch water when water availability is not nearer, thus increasing the workload for men as well. Previously, houses were made from straw or mud, but now due to increased frequency of hailstorms, houses are being made with bricks and cement.
2. On agriculture
Soil has become harder to till due to hotter summers. Also, there is a decrease in soil organisms due to which nutrient quality of soil has decreased leading to low yields of crops. Changes in rainfall patterns have shifted the cropping patterns. Kharif crops used to be sown by June but now due to indefinite time of monsoons, sowing has shifted to end July and yield has considerably reduced. Heavy rainfall during rabi season has led to failing of rabi crops as well like wheat. Effects of climate change are prominent on the yield of the crops. This year farmers faced either low yields or their crops completely failed, majorly due to shifted rainfall pattern.
3. On diseases, pests & weeds
New pests and diseases have surfaced and the attack of pests has no definite time.
4. On livestock
Farmers used to rear various kinds of livestock previously, but now only cattle are being reared for milk production. Decrease in pasture lands and lack of availability of water has made it difficult for farmers to sustain livestock. Milk production in cattle has also decreased due to lack of availability of nutrient-rich food for them.
C. Adaptation responses of the farmers
During the group discussions, there were varied responses as to how farmers are adapting to the challenges presented by climate change. Though many farmers practiced no adaptation practices, some farmers had innovative methods of dealing with climate change. Some farmers shifted to organic fertilizers and traditional seeds, while some bought new kinds of hybrid seeds of soybean which would grow in just 45 days thus saving their rabi season and getting some yield from kharif season as well which has shifted due to delayed monsoons. Some farmers relied on groundwater (handpumps & tubewells) for irrigation due to lack of rains.
D. Expectations from the government
Farmers expect the government to do something about the soil quality so that they could have increased yields. They also want traditional seeds revived and more seed banks to be set-up. Government blocks sell seeds of low quality and even the quantity is not enough. Famers want good quality and sufficient amount of seeds to be available in the block office so that they aren’t dependent on the market for seeds. To cope with lack of water, farmers want the wells to be recharged, new stop dams to be installed and ponds to be deepened for easy availability of water for irrigation. Some farmers wanted newer varieties of hybrid seeds made available to them and expect subsidy on seeds and fertilizers from the government. Farmers also want insurance for their crops as well as livestock. Farmers also want to remove the middlemen from the agriculture scenario.