An index for monitoring effectiveness of climate-smart agriculture practices: How it can help

Awareness and training was the highest weighted dimension among the five that were used to develop the index
Involvement of farmers in awareness and training activities enhance the ownership and strong commitment to undertake resilient agriculture practices. Photo for representation: iStock
Involvement of farmers in awareness and training activities enhance the ownership and strong commitment to undertake resilient agriculture practices. Photo for representation: iStock

What is the impact of different climate-smart interventions in the farmers’ fields? Do some practices benefit more than others?

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM) Bhopal and Solidaridad Network have tried to find answers to these questions by developing an index for evaluating climate-smart agriculture (CSA) in India. 

CSA practices aim to have a lower environmental footprint, are more resource efficient and support an increase in income and sustainable farm production. These include interventions like improved seeds, integrated nutrient management practices, crop residue management practices, direct seeding of rice, zero tillage farming, mulching, agroforestry.

Both central and state governments have been promoting, funding and upscaling such projects and pilot studies in several states like Bihar, Haryana, Mizoram, Nagaland, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh and others through the National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change. 

A new research has now found empirical evidence of a strong relationship between farm productivity and CSA. For this purpose, the researchers developed a multidimensional indicator-based monitoring and evaluation framework, to compute a climate smartness score at the farm level in India.

The concept of CSA was first introduced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2010. 

The methodology involved selecting 34 relevant indicators from the available literature. These indicators were grouped into five dimensions. After that, a ranking exercise captured the importance of each of the selected indicators and dimensions on the nine-point ranking scale (19), where one is the minimum and nine is the maximum score. Assigned ranks were used to derive the relative weight of indicators and dimensions

The five dimensions were governance, farm management practices, environment management, energy management and awareness and training. 

It was found that awareness and training was the highest weighted dimension, which comprises indicators like awareness of climate risks, access to weather and agro-advisory, adoption of information and communication technology tools and training on new farm management practices. 

The study was conducted in Madhya Pradesh, where the state government is piloting a CSA project in sixty villages of three districts: Satna, Sehore and Rajgarh. Farmers in these three districts are supported with a number of CSA interventions like introduction of draught-resistant seeds, integrated nutrient management, application of leaf-colour chart, agroforestry, broad bed furrow, zero tillage, crop diversification, direct seeding of rice, training on the good farm practices and crop residue management since 2017-2018. 

For the study, the researchers collected the field data of wheat for Rabi and rice and maize for Kharif cropping seasons in the year 2019-2020 for 315 farmers. The average landholding of the sampled farmers was 1.45 hectares (ha) in Satna, 2.77 ha in Sehore and 1.69 ha in Rajgarh districts.

Among the dimensions of the awareness and training indicator, timely access to weather and agro-advisory and usage / adoption of ICT-based weather advisory tools ranked the highest with the sampled beneficiaries. 

Although there was no significant difference among different indicators, the high rank of awareness and training suggested that training on smart practices is the most crucial aspect for considering the adoption and implementation of CSA practices

The study found that the involvement of farmers in such activities also enhances the ownership and strong commitment to undertake these resilient agriculture practices. Training impacted the farm business, increased awareness of possible innovation and improved decision-making and allocation of resources

The study is significant for across regions as the three districts identified for it are located in three different agro-climatic zones

With the global population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050 and with an increase in global warming adversely impacting livelihood, food productivity, agricultural systems, water availability and global economy, the current agricultural practices will need to be transformed by adopting more resource-efficient, sustainable and environment-friendly practices, with lower greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change

Published on February 17, 2024 in the journal Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, the proposed framework could be useful for policymakers, researchers and practitioners in designing, monitoring and upscaling context-specific CSA practices. 

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