HYDERABAD, 18 March 2021: Lord Tariq Ahmad, Minister of State for South Asia and the Commonwealth in the UK Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), led a high-level delegation to discuss climate-resilient agriculture, biodiversity and sustainability during his visit to ICRISAT here on Thursday.
ICRISAT helps smallholder farmers adapt to climate change and mitigate its devastating impacts on agriculture. Scientists from ICRISAT’s breeding and genomics facility demonstrated to Lord Ahmad how traits such as heat and drought-tolerance are identified and used to accelerate development of climate-resilient crops, how water conservation technologies help smallholder farmers increase their yields even when monsoon rains are scanty, and how biodiversity of crops important for drylands is preserved in the ICRISAT Genebank.
“This year, as we host COP26 in Glasgow, sustainable agricultural practices and technologies are an important issue for the UK. My visit to ICRISAT today is to explore future collaboration in this regard and an opportunity to see how ICRISAT is catalysing productivity and prosperity in the semi-arid tropics in the face of climate change,” said Lord Ahmad.
Lord Ahmad toured ICRISAT’s field experiments, water and biodiversity management facilities, genomics facilities and the genebank. At the genebank, the Minister witnessed the genetic diversity of dryland crops preserved at ICRISAT. More than 91% of the 128,691 accessions in the genebank have been duplicated at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. ICRISAT’s mandate crops – millets, sorghum, groundnut, chickpea and pigeonpea, are highly nutritious, help smallholder farmers mitigate climate risks as they grow in harsh climates, poor soils and require less inputs. They are a good climate risk management strategy for farmers, a source of income and help assure food and nutrition security in the community.
Emphasizing water harvesting to enhance the ability of smallholder farmers to withstand climate shocks, researchers working on water conservation briefed the Minister about the positive impacts of scaling up watershed and natural resources management. The impacts include significant improvements in crop yields and livelihoods in some of the harshest landscapes of Telangana, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and other parts of India.
In addition to studying the effects of rising temperature and reduced water availability, ICRISAT is researching the effects of rising levels of carbon dioxide – the main driver of global warming and in turn climate change – on crops. The Minister was briefed about the changes in the behavior of crops, pests and diseases that can occur with rising carbon dioxide levels.
“Climate change threatens to compromise food systems and disrupt lives. We are committed to making smallholder farming in the drylands resilient to climate shocks,” said Dr Jacqueline Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT. “Leading climate action from the front, the UK is hosting the Global Summit on Climate and Development later this month in the run-up to COP26 in Glasgow in November.”