Integrated farming can fight climate change

Making agriculture climate smart through integrated approach is also an ideal solution to ensure the food security of the ever-increasing global population

By Sheeraz S Bhat
Published: Tuesday 16 August 2016

In today’s time, climate change has become a most pressing issue. Though a natural process, anthropogenic activities have speeded it up through more emissions of greenhouse gases, deforestation and burning of fossil fuels.

Climate change has profoundly affected the environment as manifested in the vagaries of nature. It has also impacted agriculture and the natural resource base of the Earth.

It is need of the hour to cope with the devastating effects of climate change and the only options for us are to adapt to it, lower our emission rate and increase carbon sequestration through suitable land use and land use changes like afforestation.

Making agriculture secure

Making agriculture climate smart through integrated approach is also an ideal solution to ensure the food security of the ever-increasing global population at a time when there are twin problems of land degradation and carbon emissions.

The photo shows the integrated farming of pineapple, ginger and chilli pepper with lac
Credit: author provided

A multi-pronged strategy is required to check climate change and integrated farming is one of the options to achieve it. It provides multiple benefits that are sustainable and can pave the way for climate-smart agriculture (CSA).

In present times, emission of greenhouse gases from industries, burning of fossil fuels and agricultural activities, including deforestation, burning of residues and so on, have accelerated global warming. Climate change has become a fundamental threat against sustainable development and the fight against global poverty.

From shifting weather patterns that threaten food security to rising sea levels that increase the risk of flooding, the impacts of climate change are undoubtedly global in scope and unprecedented in scale.

CSA is an integrated approach to develop technical, policy and investment conditions in such a manner so as to ensure sustainable development for food security.

The main aim is to achieve sustainable higher productivity, ensure livelihood and food security, adapt to climate change and bring down emission of greenhouse gases.

CSA ensures increased productivity in a sustainable way which can strengthen the farming community against the consequences of climate change. It can also increase the mitigating potential of climate change through carbon stocking.

There is an urgent need to go for CSA. It is expected that the world population will increase by 1/3 of the present in 2050 which will put huge pressure on our existing resources. Climate change will affect food productivity across the world. We have to be ready for these challenges and ensure that there is enough food for our growing population.

Being an integrated approach, CSA includes soil/water conservation practices like watershed management, water harvesting and mulching and grazing management, plantation of multi-purpose tree species, agronomic practices like crop rotation and multiple cropping of legumes alternating with non-legumes, conservation farming, agroforestry, integrated farming, generation and use of climate-smart varieties of crops, development and use of high-yielding genetic stocks of crops and livestock, forecasting weather and market risks and alerting farmers through the media.

Integrated farming

The integrated farming system is a combined approach aimed at efficient sustainable resource management for increased productivity in the cropping system.

It involves different components like trees, crops and livestock arranged spatially and temporarily over the same unit of land for the best utilisation of available resources. Various types of plants, livestock, mushroom, aquaculture and other aquatic flora and fauna are managed for maximum productivity in such a way that one complements the other. The waste generated from one component is recycled and used as a resource for the other.

Integration of horticulture and vegetables with lac
Credit: author provided

It is system to protect and conserve land and water resources from depletion. In countries like India where majority of farmers holding less than two hectares of land practice subsistence farming, risks are heightened through monocropping.

Becoming climate smarter

Integrated farming has immense potential to make farmers climate smart through the cultivation of different crops on the same land and using farm resources sustainably:

  • CSA involves integrated resource management for maximum productivity
  • It involves best utilisation of the growing space through the integrated farming approach
  • Nutritional and economic security is ensured for better health of the farm family as they get different fruits, cereals, vegetables, livestock products and cash crops from their own land. It boosts food security through local production and consumption and checks migration
  • This improves soil's physical and chemical properties, its nutrient status and biological components. Such interactive systems affect the microclimate and provide a strong base to good agricultural practices for increased productivity

Future prospects

As CSA follows an integrated approach, inter-sectoral management of natural resources needs to be strengthened for progressive sustained productivity rather than simple sustainable productivity. For the same, time to time evaluation of resources needs to done, along with benefits accrued from their management and use.

Due care should be taken for germplasm conservation and improvement and management, keeping in view weather forecasting models for different regions. Promotion of high-yielding germplasm with climate-smart attributes like pest resistance and drought tolerance needs to be done at farmers’ fields for climate-smart farming.

Both the public and private sectors need to come forward for livelihood improvement through integrated farming for climate-resilient agriculture promotion. This can be achieved through micro-finance approach and creating awareness among producers.

Transportation cost of different farm products needs to be minimised. This will check emissions on one side and promote consumption of the produce locally on the other.

Let us take up the initiative for integrated farming and promote CSA before climate threatens our food security.

KK Sharma is the co-author.

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