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Providing Farmers With Better Forecasts Helps Them Adapt To Climate Change: Study

The study by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago found that providing the farmers with an accurate weather forecast, in this case, at the onset of monsoon, can help them decide how much to plant, what to plant, or whether to plant at all

Providing Farmers With Better Forecasts Helps Them Adapt To Climate Change: Study
Highly variable weather makes it challenging for the farmers to prepare for upcoming seasons

New Delhi: Farmers in India make better investment decisions when given highly accurate monsoon forecasts not typically available to them, demonstrating that improved weather forecasting can help countries better protect their economies from climate change, a new study has said. Highly variable weather makes it challenging for the farmers to prepare for upcoming seasons because they don’t know if one year will be like the pervious, it said.

The study by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago found that providing the farmers with an accurate weather forecast, in this case, at the onset of monsoon, can help them decide how much to plant, what to plant, or whether to plant at all.

Nearly two-thirds of the global population live in monsoon-affected regions, it said.

Also Read: Agriculture Grapples With Climate Change; Erratic Weather Patterns Through 2023 Affect Production

Fiona Burlig, an assistant professor at the Harris School of Public Policy and Deputy Faculty Director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago’s India office and her co-authors Amir Jina, Erin Kelley, Gregory Lane and Harshil Sahai studied how farmers across 250 villages in India’s Telangana changed their behaviour when given highly-accurate forecasts (at least four to six weeks ahead) on when the annual monsoon would begin.

An earlier monsoon typically means a longer growing season, suited to cash crops such as cotton. Later monsoons are generally worse, forcing the farmers to grow lower-value subsistence crops such as paddy.

To boost the credibility of the forecasts in the eyes of the farmers, the researchers partnered with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in Hyderabad.

On a pre-season visit to the Medak and the Mahabubnagar districts of Telangana where the study was conducted, the researchers found that farmers’ predictions about when the monsoon would arrive varied widely.

The more optimistic farmers believed the monsoon would come about two-and-a-half weeks earlier than the more pessimistic ones. Then, they were given the more accurate forecasts. The new information changed their minds and their farming behaviour.

Overly optimistic farmers, for whom the forecast brought “bad news” of a shorter-than-expected growing season, took steps to cut their investments and expenditures. For example, they reduced the amount of land they cultivated by nearly a quarter and bought about a third less fertiliser than those with similar beliefs but received no information.

Also Read: Himachal Pradesh’s Apples Face The Brunt Of Climate Change

While their agricultural output, crop sales and farming profits took a hit because they engaged in less farming overall, these farmers also tended to find other ways to make money.

As a result of receiving the forecast, four out of seven newly owned non-agricultural businesses and, as a group, cut their debt in half, leading to net savings of more than USD 560 per farmer and an almost doubling of their business profits.

In other words, the study said, instead of unprofitable farming, they were able to diversify their activities — the forecast made these farmers better off.

Overly pessimistic farmers, for whom the forecast brought “good news” that the growing season would be longer than expected, increased investments and expenditures. For example, they increased the land they cultivated by 15 per cent and were more likely to add new crops and cash crops. This led to a 22 per cent increase in agricultural production.

The researchers also tested how giving farmers insurance, which is highly promoted by the Indian government, instead of forecast information would change their behaviour.

Overall, farmers who received insurance increased the land they cultivated and the amount they spent on upfront investments such as on seeds and fertilisers. These effects were driven by overly optimistic farmers, who incorrectly believed it would be a good year.

Given the safety net the insurance provided, they responded with a large increase in investments, even though the forecast would have caused them to reduce it.

Also Read: World Famous Assam Tea Is Losing Its Flavour And Yield To Climate Change

In this way, insurance and forecasts could be used as complimentary climate adaptation strategies — forecasts let farmers make the right investments for the coming year while insurance protects them against risk, the study said.

It noted that climate change is making the weather more variable, jeopardising livelihoods of the majority of the world’s poor who depend on agriculture for survival.

Farmers tailor their planting decisions based on what they think the weather and the monsoon will be like in many parts of the world but climate change is making the monsoon and other weather patterns increasingly difficult to predict, said Burlig, the co-author. She said,

Our study, from an Indian state where agricultural productivity per worker is generally low, found that new forecasts are able to deliver accurate monsoon predictions even in a changing climate. Farmers listen to these forecasts and are able to change their planting decisions accordingly, making them an important climate adaptation tool for the agricultural sector.

Mr Lane, another co-author, said there is a direct line from more accurate forecast information to improved investments for farmers, and more prosperous farmers means a healthier economy. He said,

Countries have a huge opportunity to help protect their farmers and their economy from the unpredictability of climate change by improving their long-range forecasts.

Also Read: Global 2024 Staple Food Supplies To Be Strained By Dry Weather, Export Curbs

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In a world post COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental well-being, self-care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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