Rising Temperature Spells Doom For Our Farmers’ Livelihood. Do We Really Care?

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Climate change is going to be the defining issue of our generation. With changes in weather patterns becoming more apparent we need to question the consequences of our actions. Drought, floods, and cyclones are becoming more commonplace. In 2018-19, as many as 2,400 people lost their lives due to extreme weather, and according to the Indian Meteorological Department’s predictions, this number is going to rise.

India has a population of above 1.36 billion people. That means our country has more than 1.36 billion mouths to feed. Climate change is one of the primary causes of low crop yield worldwide and this is because drastic changes in weather patterns do not allow for optimum temperature and salinity which plants require. The growth of plants is dependent on enzymes that require an optimum temperature to function properly.

Change in this temperature can cause stunted growth. Fluctuations in daily mean maximum and minimum temperature, which is a direct effect of climate change, adversely affect vegetable and fruit production, as well as hampers metabolic and biochemical activities which are temperature-dependent. Temperature fluctuations also cause symptoms such as bud drop, abnormal flower development, poor pollen production, ovule abortion, and more.

Extreme weather patterns have led to water scarcity which is one of the biggest causes of crop failure worldwide. This is because a lack of water restricts the growth hormones and floral organs of plants, which then leads to less yield and slower growth. Factors like these which are a direct sign of climate change drastically reduce crop production.

Due to an increase in temperature, most insects, being cold-blooded prefer warm temperature and their life cycle speeds up causing pest problems. Pathogens and insect populations can increase with a change in temperature and humidity which is already being observed.

The Indian economy is mostly agrarian-based and depends heavily on the monsoons. The year 2002 showed how Indian food grain production depends on the rainfall that occurs between June to September. An all-India drought was declared that year because it was reported that “The rainfall deficiency was 19% against the long-period average and 29% of the area was affected due to drought. The kharif season food grain production was adversely affected by a fall of 19.1%.” An ‘All-India drought’ is declared when the rainfall deficiency for the country as a whole is more than 10% of normal, and when more than 20% of the country’s area is affected by drought conditions.

Studies by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) and other such institutes indicate greater expected loss in the Rabi crop. A study in the US scientific journal ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ (PNAS) said that “Every 1°C rise in temperature reduces wheat production by 4-5 Million Tonnes.” Small changes in temperature and rainfall have significant effects on the quality of fruits, vegetables, beverage crops like tea and coffee as well as basmati rice.

For representation only.

The link between climate change and food security can be best seen in crop productivity and food production. Experimental findings on wheat and rice indicated decreased crop duration and yield of wheat because of warming and reductions in yields of rice of about 5% °C−1 rise above 32 °C. These effects of temperature were considered extremely detrimental as they would greatly offset any increase in yield, a consequence of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration.

India’s grain production is also alarming vulnerable to climate change. Researchers from Columbia University in the USA found that “Climate change had a negative impact on India’s five major grain crops: finger millet, maize, pearl millet, sorghum, and rice, with rice being the least resilient and most adversely affected. These crops make up the majority of grain production during the monsoon months of June to September.”

According to a report by TheWire, “The Ministry of Agriculture has said in its written response to a parliamentary committee that crops such as paddy, wheat, maize, sorghum, mustard, potato, cotton, and coconut are likely to be adversely affected by climate change.”

The Ministry also stated that “Wheat production will decrease by 6-23% if measures to curb weather changes were not taken. Wheat production could decrease by 6,000 kilos for every 1°C increase in temperature by 2050, and the production of maize could fall by 18%. But if appropriate steps are taken, its production could actually be increased by 21%. Production of paddy could fall by 4-6% by 2020 due to climate change.” Here, with the right intervention, paddy production could also be increased by 17-20%.

The vulnerability of agricultural production to climate change also depends on the effects on the socio-economic systems of production to cope with changes in yield as well as other natural factors. The adaptability of farmers in India is severely restricted by their heavy reliance on natural factors such as rain.

It has been recorded how “the loss in net revenue at the farm level is estimated to range between 9% and 25% for a temperature rise of 2 °C to 3.5 °C. Scientists also approximated that a 2°C rise in mean temperature and a 7% increase in mean precipitation would reduce net revenues by 12.3% for the country as a whole.” Agriculture in the coastal regions of Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Karnataka is found to be the most negatively affected. Also, small losses are indicated for the major food-grain producing regions in Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh.

All these effects have a direct impact on fruit and vegetable vendors and farmers whose course of livelihood is being directly affected by climate change. As per an NSSO survey, the average monthly income of an agricultural household is ₹6,426 and their average monthly expenditure is ₹6,223. India has about 118.7 million farmers out of which 60% fall into this category.

It is of paramount importance that we protect our farmers who are already suffering and will continue to suffer as the effects of climate change continue to affect crop production. Climate change has about a 4-9% impact on agriculture in India each year. From this, we can infer that climate change has caused a 1.5% drop in the GDP.

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Another direct impact that climate change has on farmers and vendors is through natural calamities. Landslides and floods can prevent the import and export of vegetables and fruits between states. In Hyderabad, due to floods destroying crops, vegetable vendors have not had enough product to sell and have to hike up prices. Over the last few years unseasonal rainfall and natural calamities have drastically affected business for vendors who rely on farmers for produce.

This monsoon there were landslides in Chorla ghat and floods in Kolhapur which halted the majority of the influx of fruits and vegetables that Goa is dependant on. The supplies that did make it through were often damaged by the rain and vendors were unable to sell them. This caused the price of vegetables and fruits to skyrocket which in turn, affected everybody.

Goa mainly gets its supply of vegetables and fruits from Karwar, Belagavi, and Kolhapur. Vendors resorted to taking ferried mini pickup trucks to Belagavi to make ends meet and try to supply some vegetables during the shortage. An increase in daily temperatures also reduces work productivity and also puts vendors in harm’s way as they can suffer from heat strokes due to high temperatures.

Climate change has a direct impact on crops, which affects the farmer, which affects the vendors, which, in turn, affects the consumers. It is an interlinked chain and if we break any part of it the entire system will suffer. We need to focus on stopping climate change before it’s too late.

Our actions today will determine our future. We must also work to uplift our farmers who have been paying the price for our reckless carbon emissions. Food shortage is already a huge problem in India and if we don’t work towards change, it is only going to get worse.

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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