Climate change will force India to transform agricultural sector: COP26

As per estimates, climate change adversely impacts agricultural output by about 4-9% each year, affecting around 1.5% loss in GDP annually. India trails most countries on agricultural productivity. For instance, the productivity of maize, rice, groundnut, and pulses are 54%, 40%, 31%, and 33% lower than their respective global averages. All these factors have made it challenging to ensure food security in India.

With only 2.4% of the world’s total land area, India has to support around 18% of the world’s population. India faces an uphill task in the form of mitigating the impact of climate change on agriculture and 145 million households.

The 26th session of Conference of the Parties (COP 26) to the UNFCCC held in Glasgow has sparked many conversations on climate change and its impact. A paper on the perspective of Least Developed Countries, released earlier this year, cites the needs of nations most acutely threatened by climate change.

In 2019, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that “land degradation is a driver of climate change through emission of greenhouse gases and reduced rates of carbon uptake”. It’s a vicious cycle as the socioeconomic effects of climate change accelerate land degradation. Climate changes have also led to unpredictable weather and natural crises – be it drought, pandemic, cyclones, heavy rains, or floods. Increased unpredictability in humidity, temperature and precipitation disrupt the traditional agricultural calendar with intense bursts of extreme weather.

Increased water use in irrigation has resulted in a continued decline in India’s per capita water availability — by 60% over the last 50 years, accelerating land degradation. India is also one of the world’s leading exporters of water intensive crops such as rice and sugarcane.

According to Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), 30% of India’s land mass is currently undergoing desertification. India needs to rejuvenate at least 30 million hectares of barren land to reverse land degradation by 2030. There is an immediate need for the agricultural sector to adopt leading-edge technological interventions couple with sustainability and enabling policy support, to mitigate the impact of climate change and improve farm productivity.

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