Climate change: In big relief, FAO says agriculture in India on right path

Indian agriculture can overcome problems of climate change and take the path of sustainable and climate-smart agriculture according to Shyam Khadka.

Even private parties are entering agricultural research. (Reuters)
Even private parties are entering agricultural research. (Reuters)

Indian agriculture can overcome problems of climate change and take the path of sustainable and climate-smart agriculture (CSA) by using mitigation techniques and adapting technology and new crop patterns, according to Shyam Khadka. Khadka, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) representative in India, was speaking at a conference organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). “The good news for India is that it has well-developed agriculture systems. Besides, it has several agricultural universities. Even private parties are entering agricultural research. Put together they not only have agricultural research systems, but capacity to do the research. It has produced results since 1960s, taking food production up 5 times by now,” he said at a meet on sustainable and CSA.

While stating that India’s numerous agro-climatic conditions pose a challenge to its manoeuvrability in the wake of climate change, Khadka said that India has already identified the direction it has to take in terms of crop shifting, citing the ‘Go East’ policy announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Drawing example from sugarcane cultivation in Maharashtra, Khadka said that water-intensive crop was not suitable for the water-starved state, but was suitable to states in the Gangetic plains like Bihar and Brahmaputra— irrigated Assam. “Eventually it has to be realised that there are underused resources there and over-extraction of resources here (in Maharashtra),” he said.

“As a country, policy directions are there for India. The Prime Minister has talked about the ‘Go East’ policy. That means the focus will be on Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Assam and Odisha. It is just that it has to be implemented on the ground,” Khadka explained. Developed by FAO of the United Nations, the concept of Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) is an approach that helps to guide actions needed to transform and reorient agriculture systems to effectively support development and ensure food security in the changing ecosystem.

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Khadka said that the 5th IPCC report shows that under the greater stress of climate change, food production quantity and quality will be seriously impacted in a negative way. Climate Change will multiply the threats to food production and in this context, CSA is making agriculture sustainable, taking climate change into account.Punjab is guzzling 6 billion cubic meters of water a year, taking the ground water levels from 125 feet to over 400 feet. Centrifugal pumps have become obsolete and only submersible pumps can come to the rescue, he said.

Some states have already initiated remedial measures. Through its integrated water and soil management scheme called ‘Jalyukta Shivar’, Maharashtra has decided to bring out 25,000 villages out of water scarcity. Work in 5,018 villages is already completed, making them water neutral. Shankar Venkateswaran, conference chairman and chief, Tata Sustainability Group (Tata Sons), said that the time has come for the idea of ‘eat right and manage food waste’ to manage global food supplies better. Stating that the world population will rise to 9 billion by 2050, from 7 billion at present, Venkateswaran said that this will double the food supply needs, if the available food is not managed properly.

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