In Pune, India June 6, 2023, a comprehensive study conducted by researchers from W-CReS (WOTR Centre For Resilience Studies) and Wageningen University (the Netherlands) shed light on crucial insights to enhance climate resilience in semi-arid farming systems.
The study, spanning a period of 15 years and encompassing two case studies from Maharashtra, examined the effectiveness of various interventions and their impact on agricultural productivity, water resources, soil health, and community well-being.
The findings of the study published in the International Journal of Water Resources Development, indicate that initial watershed development interventions in the studied areas resulted in intensified agriculture and altered cropping patterns.
However, this approach led to declining groundwater tables and deteriorating soil health over time, underscoring the limited success of conventional agricultural development pathways in semi-arid regions.
The study emphasizes the need to prioritize adaptive capacities alongside agricultural productivity.
Neglecting the development of adaptive capacities and focusing solely on irrigation infrastructure without demand-side management exacerbates vulnerability to climate change in the long run. The study highlights the importance of community engagement, capacity-building, and inclusive decision-making in promoting climate resilience.
Moreover, the research demonstrated that the introduction of climate-resilient agriculture, water stewardship initiatives, and interventions to improve food and nutrition security led to positive outcomes in terms of climate resilience indicators.
These interventions were designed to raise awareness and empower local communities to manage their own resources effectively.
The study calls for an urgent focus on non-farm livelihoods in national and state rural development plans. By prioritising the needs of small farmers, landless households, and marginalized communities, such a strategy is crucial to improve equity, diversify income sources and thereby reduce exposure to and risk from climate variability.
Amongst both large and small landholding farmers, the study highlights the benefits that collectives, such as Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) can bring in in terms of strategic investments, bargaining power, economies of scale and profitability.
The research underlines the importance of access to technology, climate information services, and farmer-friendly advisories. Efforts to develop locale-specific, crop-specific, and user-friendly advisories face challenges, including technological barriers and the need to consider the behavioural preferences of farmers, particularly those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Commenting on the research, lead author Arjuna Srinidhi stated, “Our research highlights the complexity of enhancing climate resilience in semi-arid farming systems.
It underscores the need for a context-specific and multi-pronged approach that prioritises the health of the ecosystem, participatory and inclusive decision making, diversifying income sources and includes a focus on monitoring, evaluation and learning within the design of all interventions.”
The study’s insights have significant implications for policymakers, development practitioners, and stakeholders involved in rural development and natural resource management. By incorporating these findings into evidence-based policy and promoting inclusive and adaptive decision-making, we can effectively address the challenges faced by farming communities in the face of climate change.
The study will be included in a forthcoming special issue of the journal titled ‘Water resource management in agriculture for achieving food and water security under climate change in Asia’.
WOTR is a nationally and internationally recognized non-profit and think tank dedicated to transforming the lives of millions of poor across India through participatory watershed development and eco-systems restoration, climate resilient sustainable agriculture, integrated and efficient water management and climate change adaptation, with a special emphasis on building resilience of vulnerable communities, farmers, and women.
Established in 1993, the non-profit organization WOTR works at the intersection of practice, knowledge and policy to ensure food, water, livelihoods and income security to disadvantaged communities on a sustainable basis.
Headquartered in Pune, Maharashtra, WOTR has a presence in eight states and provides services to agencies across all states of India and from 63 countries. The organisation aims to develop ecosystems in an integrated manner for the well-being of poor communities. WOTR has worked in 4,395 villages and has impacted over 4.43 million people cumulatively since 1993. These figures cover projects in all its areas of implementation, training and capacity building activities.
Realizing the significant knowledge gap in developing ‘evidence-based climate risk mitigation and adaptation strategies’, The WOTR Centre for Resilience Studies (W-CReS) was established in 2016.
W-CReS bridges the gaps among science, policy and practice and contributes towards building adaptive and resilience capacities at all levels by engaging with institutional and other stakeholders.
Photo of semi-arid farming landscape courtesy of WOTR.