In India, more than half of the net sown area is rainfed during the monsoon season, which runs from June to September. Climate change affects farming practices, which affects the crucial kharif crop and jeopardises food security. It also affects the monsoon onset in central and northern India. Crops are at risk from delayed monsoons, which increase pest populations and cause flooding even though they don't lower overall rainfall.
Farmers adjust their practices in response to climate change, placing additional strain on the ecosystem and escalating food insecurity. Small farm households, which make up 86% of all farm households, are particularly vulnerable to these disparities.
In India, the agricultural sector accounts for 16.2% of the country's greenhouse gas emissions. A suggested strategy that prioritises reducing poverty and ensuring food security is climate-smart agriculture (FAO, 2013). Climate-smart agriculture adoption is low despite potential benefits, particularly for women and smallholder farmers (Mallappa and Pathak, 2023; Aryal et al., 2018).
The paper "Gender, agriculture policies, and climate-smart agriculture in India" looks at gendered adoption and preferences for climate-smart agriculture in India while addressing information access barriers. The study includes in-depth interviews with Gujarat farmers, allowing climate-smart agriculture interpretation to be flexible in order to capture regional difficulties. The goal of the study is to improve knowledge of climate-smart agriculture adoption in light of climate change threats, with a focus on women farmers.
Methods and data
The review of the literature examined the development of climate-smart agriculture, looked at Indian and global policy priorities, and assessed how well India was implementing climate-smart agriculture. This provided guidance for the subsequent data collection, which focused on national and state-level policies and programs and involved journals, book chapters, and easily accessible grey literature.
Gujarat is a major agricultural state with a varied climate. Recent warming trends and an increase in extreme rainfall events have affected productivity, particularly in areas that are prone to drought. The study conducted 22 focus group discussions (FGDs) with 245 men and women farmers in nine districts to address these issues and promote sustainable agriculture. The discussions provided insights into gendered roles, perceptions of climate change, adaptive strategies, and information sources. The cooperative study emphasises how critical it is to comprehend farmers' viewpoints in order to design focused interventions in the face of climate change.
Climate-smart agriculture in India: Understanding the policy context, adoption, and access to extension services through a gender lens
The definition and application of climate-smart agriculture practices, which seek to promote sustainable growth, increased income, and climate resilience, are up for debate. Resource disparities among farmers are emphasised by critics, who call for a variety of policies. There are still disagreements about the role of mitigation in low- and middle-income nations, as well as the viability of combining mitigation goals with sustainability and productivity.
La Via Campesina and other agrarian movement’s view climate-smart agriculture as a corporate front, and they worry that it will increase the vulnerabilities faced by small-scale farmers. In India, the term " climate-smart agriculture" refers to a wide range of activities that are in line with international standards, emphasise regional approaches that take socioeconomic and environmental contexts into account, and recommend practices like the conversion of emissions into biogas and sustainable resource management.
Policy context and formulation of climate-smart agriculture policies in India
India recognises the risks associated with climate change and incorporates them into policies through initiatives at the national and state levels. Climate smart agriculture is supported by the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) and the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), with initiatives centered on improving soil health, crop diversification, integrated farming, and reducing methane emissions. However, there are issues with inadequate interdepartmental coordination and a narrow focus on small farmers.
Important programs are the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, which provides crop insurance, and the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, which manages water resources. Despite government initiatives, gender disparities in the agriculture sector still exist. Adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices is confronted with obstacles pertaining to decision-making authority, market and credit facilities, risk-taking inclinations, resource control, and technology access. Due to lower literacy, restricted mobility, and financial constraints, gender gaps make adoption more difficult for women.
The adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices is intended to be improved by extension and information services; however, fair access is lacking, particularly for women. Even though India has made progress in developing climate-smart agriculture policies, there are still issues with their execution, especially when it comes to inclusion in extension services, fair information access, and gender-responsive practices. Resilience and sustainable agricultural growth depend on closing these gaps.
Gender dynamics in agricultural activities and climate change adaptation were revealed in Gujarat through focus group discussions. Although women contribute significantly to labour-intensive tasks, their contributions are frequently seen as an addition to household chores, placing a burden on both sides. Crop health and quality are impacted by climate change indicators such as irregular rainfall and extended heat waves. Farmers employ tactics like crop diversification and increased use of pesticides. There are still difficulties obtaining resources and information for climate adaptation.
The qualitative interviews with Gujarat farmers, indicates a focus on reducing short-term income uncertainty, which can occasionally conflict with long-term climate-smart objectives like increased use of fertilizer and pesticides.
Globally and in India, there is a clear need for improved institutional arrangements, convergence, and gender-responsive engagement processes (Bryan et al., 2023; Crumpler, 2021; Anderson and Sriram, 2019; Collins, 2018). Although gender considerations are acknowledged in general terms in India's NDCs, there is a lack of information regarding gender in the agriculture sector.
The results of focus group discussions highlight the limitations that marginalised groups face in the current agricultural systems, highlighting the particular requirements and adaptability of women farmers. Men's rural outmigration raises women's susceptibility to climate-related hazards, which results in greater responsibility, longer workdays, and time poverty.
Women's social and economic empowerment must increase in order to support climate-smart agriculture practices and gender-responsive agriculture policies. It is more appropriate to think of women as "agents of change" as opposed to "victims of climate change." By giving access to markets, credit, and inputs, community-based interventions that make use of women's collectives or Self-Help Groups (SHGs) can improve resilience.
It is imperative to reexamine the definition of "farmers" in government programs to guarantee that all women farmers, regardless of land ownership, receive benefits. Models that emphasise collective land leasing, like Kerala's Kudambashree, can improve the services available to women farmers. It is imperative to eliminate structural disparities, particularly those pertaining to credit availability, and to advance financial literacy.
Climate-smart agriculture practices and climate change awareness are still relatively low among farmers, especially smallholders. It is imperative to address information constraints, which calls for customised, regional information systems. Extension agents play a critical role in creating market connections and disseminating knowledge about climate-smart agriculture practices. It is crucial to do localised planning that takes into account the various agroclimatic zones, socioeconomic traits, and readiness to implement climate-smart agriculture practices.
Prioritising the needs of women farmers, gender-sensitive and socially inclusive initiatives for climate-smart agriculture practices must be designed. In order to reach the intended objectives, social protection, research, and development is crucial. In order to achieve "triple-wins" under climate-smart agriculture, states and the private sector must work together more closely.
Suggestions include focused interventions to address gender disparities in the division of labour, acknowledging and valuing women's contributions, raising awareness of indicators of climate change, and making it easier for all farmers, particularly women farmers, to access credit, insurance, and information. It is imperative to enhance extension services and establish reliable sources of information. In order to accomplish specific initiatives that empower women, support sustainable practices, and guarantee fair access to resources and information for all Gujarat farmers, policymakers and stakeholders should work together.
The full paper can be accessed here