इंडियन आवाज़     27 Nov 2022 07:11:18      انڈین آواز

COP27: Focus on Agriculture is ‘crucial’ for climate adaptation  

A man digs a water canal to let the water irrigate his vegetables.©FAO/Mayak Akuot.

By Asha Ramachandran

For the first time, food systems and agriculture are figuring at a Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) and The Rockefeller Foundation are hosting the official Food and Agriculture Pavilion at the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) being held from 6 to 18 November at Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt.

This welcome move comes at a time the world is faced with unprecedented drought, heatwave and floods. At the same time the Ukraine war has left one of the biggest impacts felt world-wide in the area of food security. All this has dented food production across the globe and agriculture is seen to be vulnerable to extreme weather events brought on by climate change. Drought across Europe, the US and Africa, heatwave in India and floods and drought in Pakistan and China are evidence that climate change has spared no one.

Organisations representing over 350 million farmers and producers wrote an open letter to world leaders November 7, calling for adaptation finance to help subsistence farmers in poor nations. Small-scale farmers from developing countries produce one-third of the world’s food, yet they only receive 1.7 per cent of climate finance even as they are forced to cope with droughts, floods, cyclones and other disasters.

Ironically, while agriculture is a victim of climate change, it is also responsible for more than a third of all greenhouse gas emissions.

“The Food and Agriculture Pavilion will put the transformation of agrifood systems at the heart of the COP agenda for the first time as an important part of the solution to the climate crisis,” the FAO said in a statement. The array of discussions over the two weeks include adaption for resilient agriculture in Africa, climate security for drylands, vulnerability of food systems to global food crisis, conflicts and trade shocks, and low emission climate resilient development strategies.

Dina Saleh, the Regional Director of IFAD called on world leaders from developed nations to honour their pledge made 13 years ago at COP15 Copenhagen to provide $100 billion a year in climate finance to developing nations and to channel half of that amount to climate adaptation.

Ms. Saleh cautioned that there is a “narrow window” to help rural poor people to survive and protect their communities, and that crop yields could reduce by as much as 50 per cent by the end of the century. “The choice is between adapting or starving,” she warned, urging COP27 to be about action, credibility and justice for the invisible and the silent. To address these issues, the COP27 Egyptian Presidency launched on 11 November a new initiative Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation (FAST), to improve the quantity and quality of climate finance contributions to transform agriculture and food systems by 2030.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization(FAO), along with other UN agencies, will be the facilitator of this initiative, which, according to Zitouni Ould-Dada, Deputy Director of the agency’s Climate and Environment Division, puts agriculture at the heart of efforts to tackle climate change. “The message really is to recognize that agriculture must be an integral part of the solution to the climate crisis,” he said.

India story

While Indian agriculture is adversely impacted by climate change, the sector also is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As per the Third Biennial Update Report submitted by the Government of India in early 2021 to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the agriculture sector contributes 14 per cent of the total GHG emissions.

India’s approach has been a balancing act between growth and sustainability in its climate change policies. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research and International Agricultural Research Centres of the CGIAR system (a France-headquartered public agricultural innovation network), including International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), have developed climate smart agricultural technologies and approaches to assist the agricultural sector to be less vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change.

Agriculture remains the backbone of India’s economy and smallholder farmers constitute the bulk of the country’s agrarian population. However, Indian farming is highly dependent on rainfall, which continues to defy projections and has been increasingly erratic in recent years.

To meet the challenge posed by climate change, while meeting food and energy needs in an environmentally and socially sustainable way, climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is becoming popular around the globe. CSA is defined by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) as a strategy to transform agri-food systems to be more environmentally friendly and climate-resilient. CSA thus focuses on adapting and building resilience to climate change. It is an approach to transform agriculture systems to effectively respond to the challenges posed by climate change and ensure food security.

At the COP26 conference in Glasgow, Scotland, last year, scientists and farmers called for more climate-resilient food and energy systems while highlighting the existing technology. They pressed on the fact that transformative agricultural systems exist and agriculture can be climate-friendly.

India has seen in recent years, improved technologies and practices for better water management and climate-smart agriculture. Some of these CSA methods include solar-based irrigation systems and Direct Seeded Rice (DSR).

Taking this CSA method further, a rural development NGO, S M Sehgal Foundation has developed a two-pronged approach to build resilience in agriculture and create mechanisms to cope with or adapt to the effect of climate change in agriculture. Under its

Agriculture Development programme, the Foundation’s team works with farmers to promote water use efficiency in agriculture, soil health and nutrient management, renewable energy, appropriate farm machinery, protected cultivation and salt tolerant varieties of cereal and vegetable crops.

The programme promotes sustainable livelihoods by building the capacities of farmers, including women producers, on improved agricultural practices and new technologies. Smallholder farmers in rain-fed and irrigated areas are facilitated to adopt improved and advanced agricultural practices that include soil health management, crop production management, input-use efficiency, small farm mechanization, water-efficient irrigation techniques, horticultural development, livestock management, and the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in agriculture.

“A planned approach to adaptation in agriculture and development practices are necessary to cope with climate change and make agri-production resilient to climate changes and shocks,” the Foundation has said. Using a “learn-by-doing” approach, the programme helps build the farmers’ capacity to maximize their crop productivity and manage soil health. Results are demonstrated on the farmers’ own fields with side-by-side control and treated fields.

 Water-saving agri techniques

Irrigation and water-use efficiency can be improved through micro irrigation, mulching, laser leveling, direct seeded rice (DSR) and use of water absorbents to maintain soil moisture. The use of these water-saving irrigation practices reduces the consumption of water by 25-85 per cent, while reducing the cost of labour and the incidences of weeds and diseases in crops.

Zero tillage and laser levelling are not known to most farmers in India. Zero tillage preserves moisture in the soil thereby reducing the irrigation cycle for crops. Laser-levelling technology, which has huge potential to save irrigation water, is a precision levelling technique for agricultural fields, which levels the field and reduces the slope.

Promotion of renewable energy is another crucial facet of improved agriculture technique. Adoption of renewable energy in farming practices without compromising on productivity reduces input costs, particularly as an alternative for petroleum products. These measures include solar water pumps and solar sprays.

Greenhouse farming has been promoted to support growth of crops within sheltered structures for favourable growing conditions and protect crops from vagaries of weather and various pests.

Sehgal Foundation has also conducted pilot initiatives in some areas, including subsurface irrigation that uses buried diffuser that supplies water directly to the root zone and are 15-20 per cent more efficient than drip irrigation, and use of zeba that maintains the soil moisture.

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