Big impact of climate change on India’s farm yields: World Bank

May 25th, 2009 - 7:38 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 25 (IANS) Dryland farmers in Andhra Pradesh may see their incomes decline by 20 percent, the sugarcane yield in Maharashtra may go down 30 percent, and there may be much more flooding in the Orissa coast, says a new World Bank report.
Pointing out that this will have a serious impact in a country where 57 percent of the people are directly dependent on agriculture, the report, Climate Change Impacts in Drought-and Flood-Affected Areas: Case Studies in India, says the country can improve its resilience to climate change through a combination of measures and right incentives aimed at multiple levels of government.

The report, the first of its kind in South Asia, was released here Monday. It looks at options of adaptation to climate change in two drought-prone regions of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra and a flood-prone region in Orissa.

“Although climate change impacts may take decades to manifest, there is a need for action now to avoid higher future costs and missed opportunities associated with a development path that compromises on climate risk management,” said Richard Damania, environmental economist in the World Bank and leader of the study.

“For example, the report says incomes on the small rain-fed farms in Andhra Pradesh could decline by five percent under modest climate change and by over 20 percent under harsher conditions, bringing farmers closer to, and in many cases, under the poverty line.

“Many of the actions and policies that would build future climate resilience produce development benefits here and now. Focussing on these measures would thus yield a double dividend for development and climate sustainability.”

At the release of the report, acknowledging the need for action, J. Mauskar, additional secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Forests, said: “This report endorses our approach and shows the way forward in addressing future problems.”

The report makes a strong case for a shift in agricultural systems in order to overcome future climate change pressures. For example, climate models predict that under the climate change scenario, sugarcane yields are expected to decline by nearly 30 percent in Maharashtra, as a result of increased moisture stress caused by warmer climate in the future.

“While much is already occurring across the country and there is research in dryland farming for rice, horticulture, and numerous other crops, small and medium farmers in dryland areas will need greater support with knowledge and policy assistance to make this transition work on a large scale,” said Priti Kumar, senior environmental specialist, World Bank, and co-author of the Study.

Water management also remains a formidable challenge. The climate change projections indicate that even when farmers have largely adapted to arid cropping patterns, increased demand and consequent water stress could severely jeopardise livelihoods and diminish agricultural productivity.

Amongst its several suggestions to better manage climate risks, the report has called for setting up a climate information management system to help integrate baseline information into policy, planning and investment decisions.

It advocates building climate risk assessment as a requirement for all long-lived infrastructure projects; explores new and innovative financial instruments to promote income diversification in rural areas; emphasises the need for aggressively pursuing water conservation and controlling groundwater demand at a larger geographical scale and suggests strengthened support for agricultural research and extension to promote sustainable modes of dryland farming.

The report also warns of high risks associated with complacency. It predicts considerable and mounting human toll from climate change and highlights the need for mitigating avoidable costs, particularly among the vulnerable sections of society.

Its recommendations include exploring “new and innovative financial instruments to promote income diversification in rural areas”.

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