Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently released plans for a National Adaptation Fund, which will provide funds mainly to India’s struggling agricultural sector. With 8,000 km (roughly 5,000 miles) of coastline and an ample number of rain-based agriculture and fisheries, India is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
The World Bank and United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have predicted that India’s already harsh weather patterns will become even more unforgiving to farmers as climate change progresses. The past two years have already seen challenges; in 2012, a late monsoon resulted in lower rice yields, and in 2013, the summer season first saw a lack of rain, and then flooding.
Prime Minister Modi’s National Adaptation Fund designates Rs. 100 crore (US $16.5 million) to agriculture, and sets aside funds for renewable energy in particular. Previous governmental plans for climate change in India have been focused on mitigation rather than adaptation, making Modi’s plan a step in the right direction.
“Recognizing the threats of climate change to India is a pretty positive move,” says Sanjay Vashist, Director of Climate Action Network South Asia.
However, the plan has critics. Nitin Sethi, an environmental correspondent at the Business Standard in India, voices his concerns: “the real test of the government lies in funding and supporting the existing eight climate change missions.”
Sethi refers to India’s first National Action Plan on Climate Change, released in June 2008 by Former Prime Minister Manohan Singh. This plan outlines eight “national missions” for the country to accomplish by 2017. One of those missions is entitled “National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture,” and it “aims to support climate adaption in agriculture.”
Another concern is voiced by Jyoti Parikh, a member of the Prime Minister’s advisor council on climate change, “Adaptation is by definition a local issue, so different people have different needs.” Parikh advocates for a ground-up approach to complement the top-down policy. Currently, the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) program is operating on a community level to provide safe and reliable crop insurance.
Smallholder farmers operating without crop insurance are in constant danger of losing everything. The harsh weather conditions in 2012 and 2013 would have wiped out hundreds of farmers in the Vaishali district of Bihar had they not signed up for crop insurance.
The problem is that crop insurance is either unaffordable or unreliable for most smallholder farmers. So, CCAFS has developed a “weather index-based” crop insurance plan for farmers in Vaishali, which provides a dependable alternative. Twelve million farmers across India are now protected by similar weather index-based policies.
“Innovative forms of insurance can provide a foundation of stability and confidence that empowers farmers to pursue other innovations, such as more sustainable approaches to irrigation and water storage,” says Pramod Aggarwal, South Asia Regional Program Leader for CCAFS.
Insurance is not going to end all the problems Indian farmers face, and neither will the National Adaptation Fund presented by Prime Minister Modi. Both, however, do represent significant movements toward effective mitigation and adaptation techniques.
– Julianne O’Connor