What is climate change?
The United Nations defines climate change as “long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns.” Climate change affects agricultural practices on various levels, the changes experienced in temperature, and amount of rainfall have a direct impact on the quality and quantity of agricultural yield. The unfortunate part is that climate change is affecting almost all aspects of human life, and this environmental catastrophe is leaving its imprint of destruction unequally on different nations.
Impact of climate change on warmer regions
The regions with higher temperatures are suffering from less yield and increased pests. Such regions experience severe heat waves which imply higher chances of heat stress in the fields and crops and to compensate for this we require an increased level of irrigation. Therefore, the botanist is trying to work on new varieties of crops that can survive better during the droughts and in diverse weather conditions. These are all detrimental impacts on food security throughout the world.
In the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, snowfall would usually bring a layer to the wheat crop which would protect the wheat crop from getting damaged by pests. The snow prevented the use of chemicals but due to the warmer temperatures and less snow, the farmers are compelled to use chemicals.
Temperatures are rising in Delhi, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Rajasthan, and these states, especially the northern states are facing not only warmer temperatures but also rains. These states require a little less temperature than the current temperatures for the wheat crops to grow.
Similarly, sugarcane cultivators say that yield of sugarcane has reduced from 90 tonnes per acre to 40 tonnes per acre. Belgaum, Bijapur, and Ahmednagar are receiving fewer rainfalls which are resulting in lesser nitrogen in the soil. The use of fertilizers has increased and this is consequently bringing a slump in the yield. After Brazil, India is the largest producer of sugarcane but has frequent droughts in sugarcane-producing states like Maharashtra and Karnataka have affected total output.
As observed during the last year, due to scarcity of rainfall, white grubs started to grow. White grubs can be seen on the upper surface during warm and dry seasons. These canes can be only destroyed by rooting up the crops from the cultivated lands. The farmers say that due to this they are forced to again plant sugar cane despite the yield being already very less. The amount of sugar in the leaves is rising due to the increase in CO2 but the nitrogen levels are decreasing. This is an additional reason behind more damage by the pests. Thus, the increase in the overall temperature and increased CO2 emissions are proving to be more fatal for sugarcane crops. Experts say that we must move towards organic farming of sugarcane. This will preserve the soil and save water.
Besides sugarcane, talking rice, it is predicted that the rice yield will observe a drop of 5.5% globally if the temperatures continue to rise. Major rice cultivators like Vietnam, and Nigeria are likely to be the worst sufferers. Countries like Bangladesh have already witnessed the destruction of more than 160,000 acres of rice-producing area.
The production of potatoes is to decrease by almost nine percent globally. Potatoes require plenty of water to grow and given the present condition, it is believed that fewer areas will be apt for growing potatoes. For example, in Bolivia, for cultivating potatoes the farmers will have to spend more on irrigation.
When it comes to banana production, the production of bananas has decreased by almost 43% in the last two decades globally. Banana production is being affected due to the diseases in banana plantations, which mostly happen as a result of hot temperatures.
Demand for chocolate is always high, which means that the demand for cocoa is also constant, however, unseasonal rains and hot temperatures have led to a drastic change in the total production. Cacoa seeds only grow in certain weather conditions. Thus, its production is not as in earlier times when there would be regular rains and favorable temperatures.
Impact of climate change on agriculture of poor nations:
The poor nations are at risk of bearing the high cost of consequences due to the changes in the climate. In African nations, agriculture plays a pivotal role. Climate change is said to be the reason behind the slump in African economies, and due to the adverse impact of climate change on agriculture, hesitation is building up among agricultural investors. In such countries, besides temperature and rainfall patterns, significant changes are being observed in livestock. The economies of several African nations like Ethiopia rely majorly on agriculture. These countries in comparison to rich and developed nations lack access to the right fertilizers and chemicals along with having proper protections and insurance for crops.
The agricultural market is extremely unstable, in some years when the harvest is good, the farmers fail to gain full advantages as the market sales remain restricted and limited. There is no proper infrastructure for the storage of food grains and similarly, the transportation facilities are delicately built which makes it difficult for sales of crops in various markets which are distantly located.
Besides this, in some years when the crop fails the farmers, the farmers get trapped in the cycle of debts, either they are unable to pay their existing debts or they have to take new ones. Agriculture is an essential aspect of the economy for almost all developing countries, and India is no exception. Climatic changes in India have drastically reduced wheat production, the biggest reason behind this drop is said to be heat waves, similar is the story behind the decrease in rice yield.
Impact of climate change on agriculture of developing nations:
In the past six to seven years, India has lost 33.9 million hectares of agricultural fertile land, due to frequent floods, and similarly, around 30 to 35 million hectares of the land area deteriorated due to droughts. As per the Indian Meteorological Department, the rainfall in September 2022 in the state of Haryana was 82%, which was the highest ever after 1945. In the same state, unseasonal rains caused almost 20 percent of the land out of 1.3 million hectares of area under rice.
Mr.Narendra Singh Tomar, the Minister of Agriculture said that the government is determined to consider the changing weather conditions in agriculture while framing the policies. The government then prohibited and banned the export of broken rice as there were various issues regarding fulfilling the Indian demand.
In the recent parliamentary session, the ministry of agriculture showed data that almost 33.9 million hectares of land had been destroyed due to floods and rainfall, and nearly 35 million hectares of land were lost due to the droughts. The states that experienced droughts and floods are not of the same geography which means that climate change is increasing. For example, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka were the worst hit due to drought, and states like Uttar Pradesh and Odisha bore the burnt from the floods.
The agricultural ministry has said in the parliament that the government has done trials of 177 varieties which were researched and developed by the ICAR, Indian Council of Agriculture Research. However, as per the scientists and experts, more than these initiatives are needed as we are still waiting to come up with a scientific measure that is strong enough to handle climate change. As per the experts, we need to work on building a better irrigation system, practicing sustainable agriculture, and building a safety net for all the farmers but more specifically for the poor and small farmers.
Impact of agriculture on developed nations:
Similarly, developed and rich nations are not protected against annihilation due to climate change in agriculture. The most recent news was about the United Kingdom, UK is known for its wet landscape, but the rise in temperature and increase in the dry lands has led European countries to think about what other crops to grow that suits the current and changing climatic conditions.
The UK is planning to start the cultivation of nuts, earlier growing nuts was not possible for a country like the UK. It is more feasible to grow them in warmer temperatures, however, now they can be grown even in the UK as temperatures are increasing. On one hand, climate change is allowing the UK to choose new crops to grow, but on the other, it is also destroying the old and traditional crops.
The ongoing issues of food security in the UK are a warning alarm for all countries to get alert. The UK is facing a severe food shortage, a few reasons behind this are post-pandemic disruptions, Brexit, and climate change. Let’s focus, here on how climate change is responsible for the current state of this former colonizer nation.
The UK is a cold nation that receives less sunlight for crops to grow, thus it requires greenhouses that function on electricity. The cost of electricity rose in the UK, due to the Russia -Ukraine war, which made it difficult and a cumbersome task for the farmers to grow crops like tomatoes. Thereafter, the UK moved toward imports of food grains. Unfortunately, countries like Morocco suffered bad crops due to the recent floods, hence the country moved towards a restriction on exports. From this, we can conclude that climate change is the main reason behind crop failures and the present food shortage in the UK.
Some of the recommendations/suggestions on ways to combat the impacts of climate change on agriculture would be –
- To reduce the negative impacts of climate change on agriculture, the most essential part is to efficiently manage the resources. The resources are drastically reduced throughout the world, and the heat waves and heat stress would further cause low rainfall and less yield.
- To compensate for this, some of the basic steps can be taken such as drip irrigation, installing some shade nets for keeping the temperature a little low, and adopting the practice of crop rotation, as this will keep the soil healthy and in check and will help the soil and crops to sustain drought and floods.
- Developing seeds, working on improving seeds, and coming up with new varieties of seeds will help the farmers cope with changing climate conditions.
- To strongly work on strengthening and building a concrete crop storage system which would lead to less wastage of crops and grains.
- To discourage the practice of stubble burning. Stubble burning is a way of removing crop residues, in which one crop is burnt to plant a new crop. This is becoming one of the biggest reasons behind air pollution and deterioration of the Air Quality in north India.
- The Indian government should build a system that continues to provide financial assistance to the farmers at all times so that the farmers don’t bear the losses in monetary terms due to the harmful impact of climate on agriculture.
- The financial assistance given to the farmers should cater to the need of adopting eco-friendly farming methods and technologies. The efficient coordination between the Centre, state, and local government will help the farmers in receiving full advantage of the scheme.
- Climate Resilient Agriculture, which is also known as Climate Smart Agriculture should be strongly practiced as this will help in developing agriculture given the harsh reality of climate change.
- the government has launched various schemes such as the National Adaptation Fund, State Action Plans on Climate Change (SAPCC), National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture, etc. These schemes carry a lot of potentials however, they are not implemented properly and the paucity of funding creates a major obstacle in bringing about a change.
- Teaching the farmers and creating awareness amongst them about the Krishi Vigyan Kendras, will enable the farmers to get financial help in mitigating the threats caused due to climate change.
- Along with these, the investment and funding of Research and development must increase as this will help in bringing about new ways of practicing climate and environment-friendly agriculture.
Measures that could be taken at the local level-
The disappointing reality of climate change is a harsh fact for each one of us now. The blind pursuit of economic profits and rushing towards development is pointless when we struggle with the essential aspect of our life. Agriculture is by and far the most vital part of human society to survive. Modernization and urbanization are fruitless when we are risking the health of our very own planet. Progress where in the end our existence and the existence of the coming generation will be impossible due to the dearth of basic natural resources and food.
Lastly, it is high time that we start considering that fighting against climate change and its impact on agriculture is a united drive and all the countries and governments have to come up with strategies and solutions to combat it.
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