According to experts, farmers should be paid for the ecosystem services they provide
The current policies and subsidies, which are provided to the farmers, are concentrating only on increasing the yield or productivity of crops, says G V Ramanjneyulu, executive director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA), which is headquartered in Hyderabad. In the process of increasing yield, lots of agro-ecological systems have been degraded, such as the lowering of ground water table. The only way to move forward, according to him, is to pay for these ecological systems to conserve and to follow sustainable agriculture.
During the second day of the 3rd National Dialogue on Himalayan Ecology in Chandigarh, experts discussed in detail how PES could be implemented. The discussion was held by the authors of the paper “Payment for Ecosystem Services – Guaranteed farm income and sustainable Agriculture”.
R Shridhar, programme director of Thiruvananthapuram-based Thanal and co-author of the paper, says, the total value for marine ecosystem was estimated (in 2007) to be US$282,090, $63,261 for coastal region, $24,205 for wetlands, $6,220 for fresh water, $5,124 for forest and $3,839 for cultivated area. These are the values of respective ecosystems for the services they provide.
Monetary value of ecosystem services provided by cultivated land
In case of cultivated land, the services provided are food, water, raw material, good air quality, waste, soil fertility, pollination, genetic diversity and recreation. Monetary value of each of these services has been estimated at around Rs 276,608 per hectare per year, as of 2016. Both the calculations have been done by referring other similar research papers.
"Under the cultivation, farmer is already paid for food and recreation. Deducting the two services will take the total monetary value to Rs 174,800 per hectare per year, which is approximately Rs 14,570 per hectare per month," says Manjula Menon, principal scientist at M S Swaminathan Research Foundation and the co-author of the paper.
How to implement PES at policy level?
For this, there is no need of new fund allocation; the government has to just re-allocate the funds. The experts cite an example. Funds are allocated for ground water, irrigation and for floods by disaster management. These three domains come under three separate government bodies and each has its separate budget allocation.
So, under PES, when farmer shifts from flood irrigation to drip irrigation, he will save a certain amount of water. For that savings, values will be calculated and incentives have to be redirected from the irrigation department and the groundwater as the water tables will increase. Similarly, a farmer will be paid according to the steps he has taken to conserve resources and improve ecosystem services by changing farming technique. Rs 14, 570 will be paid only when a farmer has taken care of all the services a farmland provides. If only two to three services are being taken care of, he will be paid accordingly.
During the concluding session, Devinder Sharma, food and trade policy analyst and co-author of the paper, said that this dialogue was held to bring policy makers, government officials and farmers together in order to spread the concept of PES as a tool to increase farmers’ income. They are planning to calculate monetary value of ecosystem services of cultivated land in four districts of Andhra Pradesh from next month.
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