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CCAFS climate smart village program progress makes news in India

September 25, 2014

The CCAFS Climate Smart Village (CSV) program recently earned significant media attention for its successes in the Indian states of Bihar, Haryana and Punjab where the program is being implemented. The CSVs were featured in BBC News as well as several newspapers in the region. The CSV program is helping farmers in developing countries adapt their agricultural practices to secure dependable food supplies and livelihoods, while also decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon sequestration, thereby decreasing future climate change. The project began in 2011 and works with villages in East and West Africa and South Asia. “The Climate Smart Villages program is a community-based approach to sustainable agricultural development,” said M.L. Jat, CIMMYT senior cropping system agronomist and South Asia coordinator of the CCAFS- CIMMYT project.

Climate change poses a huge threat to Indian agriculture and the livelihoods of farmers. A recent report from the Asia Development Bank, referenced by the BBC, warned that, “the impact of altered weather patterns could cause huge damage to the Indian economy, wiping off the equivalent of about 9 percent of GDP each year by the next century.” Adaption is critical, argues Surabhi Mittal, an agricultural economist at CIMMYT, as even a two-degree Celsius increase in temperature could have a huge impact on wheat yields. “That means the producers and consumers are going to suffer. Wheat yields might go down. That means food prices are going to be higher for consumers,” said Mittal.

As groundwater supplies decrease in the region due to climate change, maize production has increased in popularity. While maize was a common crop in the region before the Green Revolution, rice and wheat have since become predominant. However, according to Voice of America, while rice and wheat have a higher market value than maize in India, they require more water to produce and have recently faced an increase in disease incidence, which scientists attribute to increased temperature variation. The region could see a major agricultural shift in the future, according to Jat, as falling water levels could make rice cultivation unsustainable. According to The Hindu, many farmers have switched to maize in anticipation of the impacts of climate change on their crop production. In the state of Haryana, the area under maize production has nearly doubled in the past few years.

“Switching to maize has been my best decision so far. My forefathers once grew only maize here before the whole region switched to basmati rice,” Indian farmer Vikas Chaudary informed the BBC. “I still grow some rice but I have switched half my fields to maize because this uses at least 70 percent less water compared to a paddy crop. We can harvest it a month faster too, saving us a lot of money.”

Another key component of the CSV program has not only increased farmers’ access to agricultural information but has increased women’s participation in agriculture as well. The Mobile Solution program sends agricultural updates to mobile phones twice a week in local languages, providing important information on weather forecasts, pests and solutions, seed varieties, conservation agriculture techniques and information on climate change and its impact on agriculture. The mobile telephone-based platform has given local women unprecedented access to agricultural information. Armed with this new knowledge, many women farmers have formed groups to discuss agricultural issues and to advocate for climate-smart solutions in their villages, such as reducing fertilizer use and pollution caused by the burning of crop residues, among other issues.

The CSV program also encourages local farmers to implement practices such as laser-assisted land leveling, which reduces water needed for irrigation; the use of tensiometers, which help farmers decide when to irrigate; dry seeding of rice; site specific nutrient management and precision application of fertilizers; and conservation agriculture techniques. These practices, along with increased access to information and the adoption of less input-intensive crops will help farmers to better adapt to a changing climate.

Articles on the CCAFS Climate Smart Villages program have recently appeared in BBC News, The Hindu,
Voice of America, India Climate Dialogue and The Times of India. An article on the CCAFS Mobile Solutions program was featured in The Hindu this month.