One of the initiatives to come out of the United Nations’ summit on climate change on September 23 was the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture, a group of 16 countries and 37 organizations that aim to enable 500 million farmers around the world to practice climate-smart agriculture by 2030.
What is climate-smart agriculture? It's the idea of helping farmers adapt to changing climates while weaning them off techniques and technologies that produce greenhouse gases. In a number of countries in Africa and Asia, Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), a research program of CGIAR (a global partnership dedicated to agriculture research), has already set up “climate-smart villages” to put the idea into practice.
Farmers in northern India have grown used to a wide range of weather, and work their fields around monsoon seasons that regularly bring them torrential rains. But as climate change begins to change the weather, scientists predict that growing conditions in the country are likely to become even more challenging and could alternate abruptly between periods of severe rainstorms and drought, according to the group.
In response to the farming challenges brought on by climate change, Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), together with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre and partner organizations are introducing a portfolio of climate-smart agriculture practices and technologies in their climate-smart villages.
Researchers, farmers’ cooperatives, government bodies and private sector partners are working together at these villages to identify which agriculture practices and technologies can improve productivity and incomes and build resilience to climate risks. “Climate-smart” agriculture is highly localized; interventions that work in one place will not necessarily be suitable for another.
In India the project is undertaken currently in Haryana, Bihar and Punjab. The same model also operates in Khulna, Bangladesh and Rupandehi in Nepal. This video explains the idea behind the villages:
In the climate smart villages in India, farmers have begun to alter their use of mobile phones, the Internet, and basic measurement devices to adapt to the changes initiated by climate change, according to CGIAR. An interesting aspect is that farmers are actually not talking much about climate change, but rather are engaging themselves in alternative and innovative practices. The money that they are saving by doing things like using new planting methods for rice that reduces the amount of labor and water needed are resulting in a significant cost savings, CGIAR says.
Under the project, voice and text messages are sent to farmers twice a week in Hindi or in other local language. The text messages include information on weather forecasts and suggestions for farmers, information on pests and remedies, etc. Last year messages were sent to 1,400 farmers in 50 villages in Karnal and Bihar and 10 villages in Punjab, according to the group.
— India Water Portal (@indiawater) September 9, 2014
Farmers are being encouraged to improve their nutrient management, for example through the use of a leaf color chart:
The CCAFS South Asia Program has also successfully implemented a climate insurance program as part of their climate-smart village model to save farmers from losses due to failed crops as a result of natural calamities.
The success of the models in India has prompted replication of the initiative under climate smart village in various South Asian and African countries. The CGIAR's blog narrates a lot of initiatives and challenges that the climate-smart villages face.