New Delhi: Food production and food choices have a severe impact on the environment and contribute greatly to greenhouse emissions that cause climate change. In turn the sector is severely impacted by the fallouts of climate change. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states that climate change threatens our ability to ensure global food security, eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development. It also adds that 31 percent of global emissions originating from human activity came from agrifood systems. The increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases are trapping more heat in the atmosphere, which causes global warming. According to World Bank, a 2020 report states that nearly 690 million people—or 8.9 percent of the global population—are hungry, up by nearly 60 million in five years. It further adds that the food security challenge will only become more difficult in the years to come, as the world will need to produce about 70 percent more food by 2050 to feed an estimated 9 billion people.
The challenge is intensified by agriculture’s extreme vulnerability to climate change. Climate change’s negative impacts are already being felt, in the form of increasing temperatures, weather variability, shifting agroecosystem boundaries, invasive crops and pests, and more frequent extreme weather events. On farms, climate change is reducing crop yields, the nutritional quality of major cereals, and lowering livestock productivity.
As world leaders gather in Dubai for COP 28 talks on climate change, Banega Swasth India speaks to Ashish Chaturvedi, Head, Action for Climate and Environment, UNDP India as part of a series on decoding impact of climate change on the day-to-day life of people – be it the air they breathe, water they drink or food they eat.
Mr Chaturvedi decided to talk about the need to revamp the way food is grown to adapt to climate change and ensure food and nutrition security for all.
Explaining the basics of Climate Smart Agriculture and how India can make the green switch, Mr Chaturvedi said,
We are facing significant impact of climate change already, there is change in precipitation and rain patterns already. Our agriculture is completely exposed as it depends mainly on the rainfall. So, climate smart agriculture basically means the processes and procedures that need to be adopted within the sector that will help tackle the crisis of climate change. From knowing what seeds one should sow, at what time they should be grown and the types of crops that should be focused on, climate smart agriculture is all about a set of practices that one needs to adopt to tackle climate change. It is also about reducing the emissions from the agriculture sector as it is one the sector that is responsible for greenhouse gases. Especially crops like paddy are very harmful for our climate. So, to sum up climate smart agriculture, it is both about adapting to climate change, embracing new habits and as well as adopting practices that will help reduce greenhouse gases from the agriculture sector.
Highlighting how climate smart agriculture will help India in reducing the pollution burden, Mr Chaturvedi said,
Agriculture is connected with air, water and land pollution. If you manage to do agriculture in sensible ways, you will not need to depend on the usage of pesticides and chemicals, which cause a lot of damage to our land and when they leak into water, it causes harm to our water bodies. So, if the climate resilient practices are well in place it will have a positive impact on our overall environment.
Talking about India and the things the country is doing with regards to making this big switch, Mr Chaturvedi added,
The good part is that the Indian government is very aware about the issue of climate change and the impact agriculture practices have on the planet. The other fact is that in India a large population depends on this sector, therefore it is necessary to create a balance between adoption of climate smart agriculture practices and interest of small farmers. In that respect, Government of India has launched many initiatives like National Climate Change initiative for introducing agriculture climate resilient practices at national level. We also have Gobardhan scheme, which is trying to use animal waste and create biogas. These are few of the examples, which highlights how India is taking a lead and making agriculture greener.
Mr Chaturvedi also stressed on the need for making both farmers and consumers aware about climate smart agriculture practices and said it is a two-way stream between farmers and government. He added, “Farmers have been traditionally aware about the green practices but they have also adopted policies that have been guided to them by the government. For example, rice and wheat cycle in certain parts of the country is driven by minimum support prices for those crops, which may have an impact on the environment. So, it is unfair to put all the onus on the farmers alone. I think policies also plays an important role in order to drive the change for climate smart agriculture. Now, India is also focussing on millets, which is also a climate sustainable crop. But the need of the hour is policy and on ground implementation. We have a strong Ministry of agriculture, delivery mechanism in place, what is needed is awareness and implementation so everyone can come on the same page.”
Lastly, talking about the challenges and the road ahead, Mr Chaturvedi signed off by saying,
That’s the big challenge – to convince people and farmers to adopt something different. But I also feel, if you have the political will and take significant steps like implementing reforms and climate smart incentives, driving home the message via massive awareness programmes and keeping the momentum of the campaign going, then positive change within the environment can be implemented.
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 population, indigenous 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 (Water, Sanitation 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 pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual 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.