Earth Day 2022 - Climate Smart Farming for a Sustainable Future

Climate Smart Farming for Better Future
Climate Smart Farming for Better Future

The pressing need for sustainable agricultural practices is a global concern. Out of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) as proposed by the United Nations in 2015, the ‘End of Hunger’ goal lays a primary focus on sustainable agriculture, and one of its 2030 targets is to ensure the full implementation of food production systems that are sustainable, and of resilient practices, that can double agricultural productivity as well as income of smallholder farmers. 

The Government of India initiated multiple schemes to increase investment in the agriculture sector such as upgraded institutional credit to farmers, scientific warehousing infrastructure for the increased shelf life of produce, and setting up Agri-tech Infrastructure and funds to make farming competitive and profitable.

Despite these developmental measures, lack of knowledge among farmers causes hindrance to the practice of sustainable agriculture. The usage of harmful pesticides and fertilizers has become a serious concern as it involves damage to human health and the environment. There is a requirement to create awareness about the usage of environmentally safe pesticides to prepare farmers to practice sustainable agriculture.

A focused approach to farming can bring equilibrium into the pest control measures and also promote environmental-friendly practices, thus enhancing the overall wellbeing of the crops while protecting the environment.

Besides pests, multiple climatic factors affect the quality and quantity of crops. The future of agricultural growth will be highly impacted by climate change, hence there is an imminent need for initiating a paradigm shift in agricultural development approaches that can mitigate the effects of climate change and make agriculture sustainable.

Climate change has already been impacting the livelihoods of farmers by exacerbating droughts, heatwaves, floods, and other extreme weather events, not to mention the influx of new pests and diseases. Agriculture and climate change are inextricably linked, hence, unless the emission trends alter additional changes in global climate will only increasingly devastate vulnerable agricultural communities. Nations across the globe hence need to address climate change through a developmental framework, so that strategies can help in:

  • Enabling enhanced economic development for farmers via maintenance of crop yields and a reduction in input costs

  • Increasing the resilience of agricultural practices to climate change results in increased food security at the local and national level

  • Minimizing agriculture’s future emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs)

Circling back to India, key emerging themes in the nation’s adoption of sustainable agriculture practices include:

Knowledge: Most sustainable agriculture practices are knowledge-intensive, which means that to facilitate successful adoption, knowledge exchange and capacity building is required amongst farmers.

Reliance on Farm Labour: Since the practices are niche, things like mechanization for various input preparations, weed removal, and harvesting in a mixed cropping field, are not mainstream yet. Owing to this, sustainable agricultural practices have become labor-intensive, which ends up hindering their adoption by medium to large farmers.

Motivation: The long-term negative impact of ongoing conventional agricultural practices or not questioning farmers to look out for an alternative. Apart from this, farmers who are working in a resource-constrained environment, who do not use extensive external imports, are now willing to make a shift in sustainable agriculture practices.

Food and Nutrition Security: Factually speaking, agricultural practices can help in improving farmers’ food security, by diversifying their food and income sources. Additionally, they also enhance nutrition security for countries that subsist on agriculture.

Sustainable agriculture, thus, has become extremely important for farmers to help in the reduction of harmful gases. Subsequently, they can also help in the optimal usage of natural resources that are depleting rapidly. Once agricultural sustainability is promoted in full swing in India, the food production capacities will increase significantly. Contributing to this nuanced discussion, here are a few key recommendations:

Scaling of sustainable agriculture practices should begin with rain-fed areas, as they are already practicing low-resource agriculture, have low productivity, and would benefit from the transition.

Restructuring of governmental support is required for farmers, by aligning incentives with resource conservation and rewarding outcomes such as total farm productivity or any and has ecosystem services, as opposed to mere output such as yields.

Broadening the perspectives of stakeholders across an agricultural ecosystem can make them become more open to alternative approaches. With technological intervention showing great results today, use case application and rigorous evidence generation would make compelling evidence for adoption.

Short-term transition support should be extended to individuals who are generally liable to be adversely affected by a large-scale transition to sustainable agriculture.

The visibility of sustainable agriculture practices should be enhanced by the integration of data information collection on the practices, in the prevailing national and state-level agricultural data systems.

As we look to promote and propagate climate-smart agricultural capital in the nation, it is imperative that last-mile delivery mechanisms should be strengthened to achieve the agriculture-related SDG goal by 2030. Ranging from sensitization of district administration to knowledge dissemination regarding specific technologies that can support important metrics such as weather forecasting, and market intelligence advisories - smart ties between the government and the private sector can help in the scaling of sustainable agronomic practices with the convergence of schemes that have immense future relevance especially when it comes to small and marginal farmers.

Modern agri-tech firms can be quite instrumental in farmer empowerment, sustainable agricultural practices, reducing crop wastage, deepening domestic and international market linkages, all the while improving farmer income.

Tech-driven farm interventions can help in enhancing climate forecast capabilities, which will further aid in reducing crop loss, and mitigating the challenges that are posed by climate change. Apart from this, a commitment to regulating and enhancing agricultural output, maximizing farmer income, and raising awareness about food safety on a much larger scale can ensure the sector's overall sustainability in the long run.

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