Weather advisories drive farmers’ income up to 50%

Every rupee spent on weather forecasting fetches 50-fold economic gains to below poverty line farming families  

By Richard Mahapatra
Published: Thursday 05 November 2020
The report clearly shows that mitigation and Risk Reduction Activities are not only cheaper but also highly profitable. Photo: Pixabay

A survey by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) has shown that timely delivery of weather advisories to farmers had a significant impact on their income.

The survey was done to gauge the economic impact of India’s investments on the National Monsoon Mission (NMM) and High Performance Computing Facilities (HPC). It showed that farmers taking precautionary actions based on agrometeorology advisories from the government reported an increase in income of up to 50 per cent.

The survey was based on interviews with 3,965 farmers across 121 districts of 11 states across India. It examined the impact of investments on the NMM under which, an extensive agrometeorology advisory programme was taken up.

The India Meteorological Department and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research send district-level agrometeorological advisories to over 22 million farmers through a network of 130 agro-met field units.

These advisories also recommend suitable changes or advice for farm operations like management of sowing, changing crop variety, spraying pesticides for disease control and managing irrigation.

Climate change-induced disasters are wreaking havoc on Indian farmers. In 2019-20, extreme weather events impacted over 14 million hectares of farm lands in India.

India was ‘poorly prepared’ to deal with ‘climate reality’, due to which it was more vulnerable to extreme natural disasters, according to the World Risk Index (WRI) 2020. India ranked 89th among 181 countries on the WRI 2020. The country was fourth-most-at-risk in south Asia on the index, after Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The NCAER survey especially investigated the effectiveness of agrometeorology advisories in mitigating risks in India’s rainfed districts. These districts account for up to 40 per cent of the country’s foodgrain production. They also host a significant percentage of India’s poor.

According to the study, “98 per cent farmers made modifications to at least one of the nine critical practices based on the weather advisories.”

The nine practices included in the weather advisory were:

  • Change variety / breed of crop
  • Arrange for storage of harvest, depending on weather events
  • Hasten / delay harvesting according to forecasts
  • Change crop
  • Hasten / delay sowing
  • Change schedule of ploughing / land preparation
  • Change pesticide application schedule
  • Change fertiliser application schedule
  • Change scheduled irrigation

A farmer acting on such advisories saved on damages and income losses. On the other hand, by avoiding losses, s / he increased income as well.

Increase in income

“About 94 per cent of farmers who made modifications to any one of the nine critical agricultural practices based on the weather forecast could either avoid loss or saw an increase in income,” the survey said. Overall, nearly one-third of farmers surveyed, factored in changes in their farming operations based on advisories.

The survey found a clear linkage between the annual income of a farmer and the changes s / he made in cropping operations based on weather advisories. Going by NCAER estimates, the average annual income of a farming household that didn’t adopt any changes despite getting advisories was Rs 1.98 lakh.

But for a farmer that took up 1-4 modifications, this income went up to Rs 2.43 lakh. With modification numbers increasing from five to eight practices, the income was found to be Rs 2.45 lakh per annum. Those farmers who adopted all the nine changes had an income of Rs 3.02 lakh per annum.

The survey investigated the income impact post-2015 forecasts.

“Frequent use of weather advisories was found to increase drastically in 2019, with 59 per cent of farmers reporting their use twice a week. This was only seven per cent before 2015,” the survey report said.

Eighty per cent of farmers who received correct information through advisories and acted upon those were found to have reduced losses due to such weather calamities.

In the surveyed areas, each farming household gained by Rs 12,500 annually due to the improvement in weather forecast after the formation of the NMM.

“The incremental economic benefits in rainfed districts (accruing to families belonging to the ‘below Poverty Line’ or BPL category) for the next five years is estimated to be Rs 48,072 crore,” the survey concluded. In India’s rainfed areas, there are 10.7 million households belonging to the BPL category.

Going by calculation of income gains due to investment in weather forecasting, it emerges clearly that mitigation and risk reduction activities are not only cheaper but also highly profitable.

“The economic investment of one rupee in NMM and HPC facilities realises a 50-fold increase in economic benefits through gains to BPL farming and fishing families,” the report said.

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