9) ICRISAT and ICAR partner to build climate resilient agriculture (22 May 2012)

New Delhi, 22 May 2012: The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) have called to adapt new measures to tackle the growing climate related risks and constraints that prevail in rural areas.  The two lead organizations and their partners emphasized to adopt a different perspective and approach by listening, observing and learning from the people that are supposed to help with research findings, technology and knowhow. 

"Climate change is happening and its impacts are already being felt. Climate change will impact several sectors including agriculture, fisheries, water etc. where the world population depends for their sustenance. Climate change impacts are imminent, irrespective of the geographical distribution and the impacts are going to be severe" said Shri Harish Rawat, Union Ministry of State for Agriculture, Food Processing and Parliamentary Affairs at the National Agricultural Science Centre, (NASC) here today. He was speaking at the inauguration of the policy dialogue on "Building Climate Resilient Agriculture in India", organized by the Research Program on Markets, Institutions and Policies (RP-MIP) of ICRISAT in collaboration with ICAR with support from Asian Development Bank (ADB). 

Attended by over 60 dignitaries including key policy makers and other important stakeholders in India including representatives of concerned ministries and departments, the deliberation highlighted the grassroots level insights in climate related risks and constraints that prevail in rural areas. These constraints were identified and analyzed as part of ADB funded seven-country project "Vulnerability to Climate Change: Adaptation Strategies and Layers of Resilience".

In his keynote address Director General of ICRISAT Dr William D Dar said, “We're going to hold ourselves accountable. We'll measure results.  And we'll stay focused on clear goals: boosting farmers' incomes and over the next decade helping 50 million men, women and children lift themselves out of poverty. The smallholder farmers who live in the semi-arid tropics and coastal areas are severely affected by climate change trends that are the result of mostly industrial and urban lifestyles." 

"If I may indulge, the crisis management plan for drought of the government of India (2012) presents a disturbing picture. The report says that annually 50 million people are exposed to chronic drought. Sixteen percent of India's land area is drought prone, 68 percent of land area sown is exposed to drought.  Most drought prone areas in India lie in the arid (19.5%) semi-arid (37%) and sub-humid (21%) areas of the country occupying 77.6% of total land out of 329 mil. ha. Thirty three percent of land receives less than 750 mm of rainfall and classified as chronically drought prone." added Dr Dar.

"Thus spoke US President Barack Obama last Friday at a symposium on “New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition” on the eve of the G8 meeting at Camp David.  In the same speech, President Obama unveiled a $3bn (£1.9bn) plan to boost food security and farm productivity in Africa funded by private US companies. "It's a moral imperative, it's an economic imperative and it's a security imperative," Pres. Obama said. The $3bn announcement by Obama is a bold US initiative which, however, goes only a small way to fulfilling the $22bn pledge of the G8 nations in 2009," added Dr Dar.

Director General of ICAR Dr S Ayyappan in his opening address said "The collaboration of ICAR with ICRISAT dates back decades and has been quite fruitful in addressing the farmers’ problems in totality. As far as climate change is concerned, it is a global phenomenon. The increase in the atmospheric temperature, due to rise in greenhouse gas levels such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, is the prime driver of climate change."

Today’s dialogue is part of the ongoing collaborative project between ICRISAT and ICAR (CRIDA) on `Vulnerability to Climate Change: Adaptation Strategies and Layers of Resilience’ and this meeting is crucial to give a final shape to the conclusions that emanated from this project through in-depth analysis of datasets with a micro-level perspective through expert consultation process for evolving a policy document based on the project outcome.

During the deliberations’, it was reported that the early signs of increasing climatic variability are gradually becoming more visible in the form of increasing melting of Himalayan glaciers, flash floods, and intense rainfall over short periods. In Indian context, the climate change is likely to exacerbate the current stresses and increase vulnerability of food production and livelihoods of the farming community. Most specifically, the small and marginal farmers are most vulnerable to the impact of climate change. 

Every 1oC increase in temperature throughout crop cycle may reduce wheat production by 4-5 million tones which can be reduced to 1-2 million tones with timely planting.
The milk production is projected to decrease by 1.5 million tones by 2020 due to increase in temperature leading to heat stress in livestock.
Increase in sea and river water temperatures are likely to affect fish breeding, migration, and harvests.

In addition, it was also reported that by the end of the 21st century rainfall will increase by 15-31%, and the mean annual temperature will increase by 3 to 6°C. 

Dr Dar observed “For generations to come, what we do now will decide the future.” The voices at the grassroots level will be heard if “we act now, we act together and we act differently,” he concluded.

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