We bet you must have been part of at least one discussion on how ‘this is/was the hottest summer ever’ in the last few days. As temperatures soar a little higher every year, whether we like discussing it or not, the weather goes right on top of our list of conversation topics. Despite a section of the world hankering about how climate change is a myth (*cough* you know what we’re talking about – on a lighter note), the harsh reality is that the effects of climate change get a little bit more real with every passing year.
Irrespective of which side of the argument you choose to be a part of, scientists the world over have provided more than enough evidence to suggest that climate change affects everything — right from the economy to our industries, from our coastline to our lives. But one of the biggest threats of climate change happens quietly in the background. While we frown over more visible indicators like the rising temperature or frequent instances of flood and drought, what many of us fail to recognize is how drastically climate change impacts food. In India alone, climate change has about four to nine percent impact on agriculture every year. And since agriculture contributes to 15 percent of India’s GDP, the changing climate causes about a 1.5 percent loss in GDP.
The outcome of climate change — changes in temperature, erratic monsoon, and unpredictable weather patterns and precipitation levels among many others — impacts agriculture in a big way. In fact, crop production is projected to decrease in many areas in the 21st century owing to such climate variations. The figure below illustrates the gravity of the situation by showcasing the progressive decline in yield because of global warming, given the current scenario.
Source: IPCC Report ‘AR5 Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, And Vulnerability: Summary for Policymakers’
Take a moment and think of this in the context of the projected 9.8 billion people that will populate the Earth in a few decades. We can’t afford to grow any lesser than we already do. It is for this reason that governments across the globe are turning to technology in an attempt to find smarter ways of dealing with the impact of climate change on cultivation.
The Government of India, in partnership with the World Bank, recently chose Cropin as their technology partner for one of their climate resilience and adaptation initiatives. The idea was to use technology to offer climate-resilient agricultural practices to farmers in flood and drought-stricken areas in two Indian states — Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. The project that extended over the span of 18 months helped digitize over 12,000 farm plots and has transformed the lives of over 4,000 farmers in 200 villages.
But how does technology help in dealing with climate change, and more particularly in dealing with its impact on agriculture?
Using Data as the Primary Input for Agriculture
Climate change has caused unpredictable weather and atmospheric conditions that make it difficult to rely solely on traditional agricultural know-how. Technology takes care of this impediment by analyzing the situation well in advance and offering the right guidance needed for cultivation. Right from deciding which seeds to plant and when, to picking the optimum time for harvest — adopting smart farming practices allow farmers to increase climate resilience by following a more intelligent and predictable approach toward cultivation.
Combining Agricultural Know-How with the Right Insights
The use of technology brings a level of predictability to agriculture that was previously unheard of. As the soil, water, and weather conditions are continuously monitored, it helps farmers choose the right crops for any given climate. With the help of technology, farmers can effectively determine appropriate climate-resilient seeds that need to be planted during any cultivation cycle and monitor their growth throughout the process.
Keeping a Check on Erratic Weather Conditions
The optimum amount of rainfall at the right time is a primary input in agriculture. However, an unpredictable monsoon is the first and most obvious sign of climate change. Given the current scenario, it becomes difficult for farmers to gauge the quantity or timing of rainfall. However, with the help of technology farmers get access to weather-related information helping them to plan their cultivation cycles well in advance.
Dealing with Pests and Diseases Proactively
Smart farming practices allow farmers and other stakeholders to keep a check on their farms at all times. This is especially beneficial if there is an unexpected outbreak of any pest or disease in any part of the farm. Technology enables quick and timely intervention so that the risk is mitigated before it spreads to the rest of the farm. This prevents any potential losses that could have occurred because of spotting an infestation too late.
Providing Agricultural Best Practices to Follow Throughout Farming
The changes caused by climate change necessitate a newer and more informed way of agriculture that isn’t limited to what is readily available to the naked eye but draws upon the insights gathered from multiple factors. With the help of technology, farmers can correctly gauge the soil composition, moisture content, and other important variables that influence the success or failure of a crop. Armed with the right information spread across the different stages of farming, farmers are more equipped to deal with the aftereffects of climate change.
Building an ARMY of Informed Farmers of the Future
The use of technology in agriculture might not overcome the reality of climate change but it gives farmers a fighting chance to deal with the unpredictability that comes in its wake. For the 20,000 farmers who were able to increase their productivity by 20% because of smarter, more informed farming practices, this came in the form of Cropin’s climate-smart advisory. It comes as a beacon of hope to the millions of farmers across the world that grapple with the oddities of nature that are an after-effect of mankind’s race towards progress.
The biggest indicator of the impact comes in the form of these words from Pratima Devi, a climate-smart village resource professional in Manichak village in Bihar, India who is one of the thousands of villagers that benefited from the government’s sustainability initiative in the region. Quoting her:
“I walk through three farm plots of my fellow farmers every day to examine the crop growth and occurrences of pest attacks or crop failure. I send photo alerts via my smartphone to Cropin, which sends an advisory within a few minutes to remedy the problem.”
We might not be equipped to deal with climate change yet, but until we find a real solution that can slow down if not reverse the clock on climate change, the best we can do is to lean on technology and adopt smarter, more sustainable ways of living that can help increase climate resilience to its adverse consequences.