Giving Compass' Take:
- Omair Ahmad discusses the impacts of climate change and water scarcity on India's smallholder farmers and explains the ongoing crisis that has led to protests across the nation.
- How can funders provide support to those who are most vulnerable to the consequences of this global crisis?
- Read about how climate change is driving global inequality.
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According to the Indian government, 54.6% of its population worked in the agricultural sector in 2011. 52% of these people have no means of irrigation, and are dependent on rain-fed agriculture, according to government estimates.
These are the people most affected by climate change. As global temperatures have risen, rainfall has become more erratic, with longer dry spells (droughts) and shorter periods of more intense rainfall (floods). Not only does this directly impact productivity, research has also shown rising carbon dioxide levels are bringing down the nutritional value of crops.
The impact of these changes on those dependent on rainfed farming is devastating, but those with access to irrigation are not spared either. Unpredictable rainfall patterns mean that crops have less time to grow, producing less over time. Farmers resort to higher use of fertiliser and water to compensate, degrading the quality of soil as well as lowering groundwater levels, while spending much more to grow the same amount – or less – on the same acreage. Insecticide use has also increased, not just to save the smaller amount of crops grown but also because pest populations change with climate patterns. In January 2019, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare estimated that wheat production will decline by 6-23% by 2050 due to the impacts of climate change.
Climate change, causing uneven production, already impacts price points. With production – both nationally and internationally – hostage to weather patterns, there is no surety whether a crop planted by a farmer months in advance will hit the market during a shortage or a glut. With the vast majority of farmers unable to store their harvests, the negotiating power rests with those who can – primarily middlemen or other buyers.
The climate crisis is forcing a rise in input costs to the point where farming is no longer profitable for a very large number of farmers.
Read the full article about climate change and agriculture in India by Omair Ahmad at The Third Pole.