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The Climate Challenge for India’s Farmers
The implications of climate change for India’s agricultural economy, rural livelihoods and food security and nutrition are profound. Farmers are already struggling as India’s temperature and rainfall patterns become hotter, drier and wetter.
By the end of the century, the mean summer temperature in India could increase by as much as five degrees Celsius.
The number of days of extreme heat could increase by more than a month and the number of warm nights could more than double. The amount of rain is projected to increase by as much as 40 percent, but the frequency of extreme rain events will also increase, as will the number and length of droughts.
Under these conditions, by 2035, yields for India’s major food crops will decline by as much as 10 percent.
Rising temperatures and the increase in extreme heat will make living and working conditions unbearable and reduce the productivity of farmers, agricultural laborers and livestock used for draught power. Livestock will also struggle with the heat and the reduction of available fodder.
India’s annual monsoon rains provide 75 percent of the water used in agricultural production. Without adaptation actions, agricultural productivity in India could decline by as much as 25 percent; the productivity of small-scale rain-fed farms could decline by as much as 50 percent.
Indian Farmers are Adapting
India’s rural areas will experience significant transformation as the climate changes, but farmers can adapt to climate change through practices that increase their productivity and strengthen their resilience.
Minimal tillage, intercropping and nutrient management improves the nutrient content in the soil. Hybrid crops are bred to tolerate stressful conditions. Agronomic information, weather data and crop or livestock insurance help farmers manage the risks from extreme weather and market disruptions.
Water harvesting and drip irrigation conserve monsoon rainwater. To encourage farmers to improve their water management, the Indian central and state governments offer subsidies to install micro-irrigation systems.
Did You Know? By 2050, India will use 1,450 cubic kilometers of water per year for agriculture and other purposes – three times the volume of Lake Erie in the U.S.
Adoption of climate-smart agriculture is still low across all farming sizes. Medium-scale farmers with access to financing and agronomic training are more likely to try climate adaptation practices and technologies, where as small-scale farmers with fewer resources are less willing to take risks.
To help increase the use of adaptation strategies, The World Bank is investing $82.5 million in India’s Agricultural University system. Learn more, in the 2017 GAP Report®, page 38.