Is India Ready To Tackle The Impact Of Climate Change On Its Farmers?

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As the world awaits the drastic consequences of climate change, there is a section of society upon which the changes have come down as a double-edged sword. With ever-rising temperatures and predictions for further worsening of climate, farmers, who form the backbone of the Indian economy, await crisis from all angles. Like every other citizen, they would be affected by the impact of the climate crisis on their health, and additionally on their livelihood as well.

The agriculture sector, which accounts for around 49% of India’s employment, would be the most-hit due to the drastic effects of climate change. Agriculture and its allied sectors represent 35% of India’s Gross National Product. The sector, which is already marred with low pay rates and poor working conditions will be further affected adversely, as the job insecurity is expected to grow proportionally with the increase in temperature.

Agriculture and its allied sectors represent 35% of India’s Gross National Product.

The Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), a New Delhi-based research organisation under Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), conducted a study to understand the impact of climate change on agriculture both by region and by crop. Their study suggested that the increase in temperature, an estimated 2%, has reduced potential grain yields in most places of the country. With the temperature set to rise, it is further going to reduce yields, and eastern regions of the country are predicted to be more impacted leading to even lesser grain yield in the region. The study predicted that the reduction in grain yields would be more pronounced for rain-fed crops such as maize and wheat, as India has no coping mechanisms in place for rainfall variability. Rainfall variability, an important characteristic in deciding the climate of any given area, is the degree to which rainfall amounts vary across an area or through time.

India’s water supplies are predicted to decline in the near future. An area is considered water-stressed if the water supplies drop below 1700 cubic meters per person, and India is currently managing with 1700 to 1800 cubic metres every year. The policymakers will have to majorly focus on two areas, water policy and adaptive measures to reduce the damage. The policy designers will have to come up with a sustainable plan regarding water availability to agriculture for both rain-fed and irrigated crops, given water shortage is an imminent reality. The impact of climate change on agriculture is going to change the shape of policy designs in future with likely policy changes in areas of food security, livelihood, trades and water policy.

The multidimensional policy implications demand some crucial adaptations to be taken for addressing issues related to loss of livelihood in agriculture. One of the biggest areas where the country needs to invest to cope up with the inevitable climate change and its impact on agriculture would be researching. There isn’t enough research done on the pros and cons of possible agricultural measures at hand. The domain of research has to go beyond that and come up with new and sustainable forms of agrarian pattern suitable for every region of the country.

Policymakers will also have to take new and flexible adaptive measures for coping with the changing agricultural patterns. This could be anything between using alternative crops to changing irrigation techniques. The agricultural research landscape of India misses a crucial component: availability of a database. The country needs to invest more in preparing a database on the impact of climate change while segregating areas into the land type and water availability in the region. The IARI study suggests higher precision while predicting climate change is required.

A recent study conducted by Nature Communications suggests that organic farming, which is considered to be a better alternative to contemporary agricultural practices, would actually contribute more to climate pollution than other available mediums. The study suggested that organic farming could have been considered a better alternative if they took up lesser space to produce the same amount of food. It is the additional land used up for organic farming which makes it a non-variable option in the long run to save the environment.

However, the farmers in India lack the expertise and technical support to switch to advanced methods of practising agriculture, and they are far away from any new research done in the field. The sheer enormity of India’s population makes it too deciding to be ignored. The policy decisions that the country takes, especially in the field of agriculture, will have a huge impact on climate change globally.

The key to reducing the negative impact of climate change on agriculture is to successfully bridge the gap between advanced agricultural predictions and sharing this information with the farmers. The farmers in India, who mostly depend on their indigenous wisdom for practising agriculture, are mostly unaware of the researched knowledge and have zero access to any new technology used in the sector. Unless these farmers, who form the backbone of the Indian agricultural sector, are involved in the process of finding a solution to climate change, little or zero results would be achieved on the ground. To keep the farmers of India challenged in terms of availability of information would cost the country and the world at large.

This post has been written by a YKA Climate Correspondent as part of #WhyOnEarth. Join the conversation by adding a post here.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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