‘Climate Smart’ Farms Key To Feeding The World

http://www.forbes.com/sites/bethhoffman/2014/02/07/climate-smart-farms-key-to-feeding-the-world/
A family in Orissa, India plants 'climate smart' rice using a System of Rice Intensification. Photo by Beth Hoffman.
A family in Orissa, India plants ‘climate smart’ rice using a System of Rice Intensification. Photo by Beth Hoffman.
 
The bad news is that it looks like climate change is here to stay.  The good news is that there are a number of cost effective, sustainable methods farmers can adopt immediately to lessen the blow.
 
I talked with Sonja Vermeulen, Head of Research for the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security about what farmers can do in the face of a changing climate. [See “With Climate Change, What’s Better For The Farm Is Better For The Planet” for more information and a related graphic].
 
Beth Hoffman: Can you summarize – What are some of the main “take aways” from the data CGIAR has collected over the years regarding climate adaptation and mitigation for farmers?  If you were going to relate just a few things that were most important, what would you tell people?
 
Sonja Vermeulen: One of the key messages is that there are potential triple wins – for adaptation, mitigation and food security – which is increasingly being called “climate smart agriculture.”
 
A simple example is, if a farmer increased the organic matter in their soil, that increases the carbon storage – a mitigation function – but more organic matter also means better water capacity.  So that means you are much better able to deal with delayed onset of rains or dry spells, which are the kinds of problems farmers are dealing with under climate change.  The increased organic content would also raise the fertility of the soil which would also be better for yields and for food security.
 
There are also many things that farmers can do on their own, by themselves, soon, like increasing the diversity of what they’ve got planted, or changing the planting dates and what they feed to animals.  That’s very good within near term.
 
But for longer term climate change on a wider scale, we need bigger actions – what people are calling “transformative adaptation.”  An example would be that coffee systems are extremely sensitive to temperature, and science is predicting that in countries like Nicaragua and Colombia as soon as 2030 farmers might lose up to 50% of their growing area or more.  So there you need much bigger adaptation actions – farmers would have to move out of coffee and into a different crop and coffee companies would need to change where they are sourcing their beans.
 
It is also important to note that there is also a lot that government policies and companies can do to help.  For example, farmers often need support in order to make changes.  Sometimes that is with direct investment, as we can see with the example of mangrove improvements or improving infrastructure. Access to better roads or inputs, for example, can really help farmers, particularly in developing nations.
 
Policy changes too,  like promoting agroforestry, can also make a big difference.  In Niger, for example, over 5 million hectares – an additional 20 million trees – have been planted by farmers themselves on their own farms.  What allowed that to happen, among other things, was a simple change in law that allowed farmers to have a resource ownership over the trees, whereas before it was owned by the Forest Department and there wasn’t much incentive to plant trees.  So this simple change in policy at a national level allowed this huge scale to be reached and farmers reaped the benefits of that.
 
BH: It strikes me that most of the techniques CCAFS talks about are very “low tech” – mixing cropping systems, rotating crops and livestock, using wild plant varieties, etc.  Is it true that many of the solutions CCAFS found to help in the face of climate change are not high tech?
 
Certainly in terms of moving quickly and effectively on adaptation in low resource, small holder, developing countries, the largest gains are with fairly low tech, established technologies. Many of those practices have been used for decades, if not centuries.  For example, digging terraces to manage erosion and making sure there are buffers of mangroves – these are things we already knew about.
 
But in some cases there are new techniques, like alternate wetting and drying of rice fields.  In 2005, farmers and researchers learned that if you drain rice fields periodically, and re-wet, farmers can get a lot of savings in irrigation and energy costs.  A side benefit was that it also lowers methane emissions from rice (rice fields are one of biggest methane emitters).  A great additional win was higher yields.  There are also very high tech, more sophisticated farming methods that can help, like micro dosing – pumping in exactly the right amount water and nutrients directly to the roots.
 
For the most part, the “new” technologies specific to climate are focused on – how can we predict patterns better and communicate that information effectively to farmers?   Farmers – particularly in poorer countries – are very widely dispersed and may not have high literacy.  And so we need to do a lot of work to get farmers better climate information so they can make better decisions on a day by day, year by year basis.
 
Thinking about the future of food security and feeding the 9 billion under climate change doesn’t just require attention to how much food we are producing.  There are also trade barriers, rising food prices, and distribution which are also issues.  Can we also find better ways to distribute and waste less food?  An FAO report last September found we throw away 1/3 of food, and so solving consumption patterns is also part of the puzzle.
 
BH: What makes these methods “sustainable”?  How are you using the term?
 
A big theme that is emerging is an idea of sustainable intensification.
 
The idea here is that one of the biggest impacts farming has on greenhouse gas emissions – but also on biodiversity – is its impact on forest clearance.  It actually makes more sense to grow more on smaller area – even if that means using more inputs like fertilizer – so as long as what you do at the same time is leave a larger area of forest.  You need to think at the landscape level when you are thinking about if what is going on on the farm is sustainable or not.
 
That said, we also want to think about what can be done to increase yields on smaller areas while increasing inputs as little as possible.  You want to not use more fertilizer, not to use more energy, but in some cases you will have to do a little of that, especially in very low input systems in Africa where they use less than 5% of fertilizer levels used in Asia for instance.
 
And so we might see things which have not traditionally counted as “sustainable” or “ecolological” in this case considered good practice, as long as it saves forests.  What we are saying is what we don’t have a vision of absolute perfection, where we want every farm to be self contained with internal recycling on farm – we just don’t think that is achievable.  But we do think that almost any farming system in world can improve its sustainability.  They can all improve their environmental management.
 
Advanced economies have made huge gains here as well.  Between 1990-2010, Denmark decreased its agricultural emissions by 20 percent, with no loss whatsoever in profitability.  So there is enormous scope in becoming more sustainable in almost any farming system.
 
Sustainability also needs to take into account the whole food chain.  For example, you might argue that finding ways to grow tobacco or a similar crop with less fertilizer would be really good.  But at a larger scale you may say – maybe that is not really the best use of our agricultural land, and in fact the best thing we can do for sustainability is to grow something else.  Tobacco is particularly unpopular now around the world, but that would also apply to the amount of meat we produce or dairy.  You would need to weigh the benefits as compared to more plant based diets.

Unemployment among rural youth at highest level since 93-94

Unemployment among rural youth at highest level since 93-94

In rural areas, Kerala had the worst record with 21.7% of its youth unemployed followed by Assam with about 15%
 
Unemployment among rural youth at highest level since 93-94
http://www.livemint.com/Politics/rmxquBMhnmzwwXtxWm9m1H/Unemployment-among-rural-youth-at-highest-level-since-9394.html
Rural unemployment was about 4.7% for both rural males and females in 2009-10. In 1993-94, 3.5% of rural young men in the labour force had no jobs. The corresponding figure was 1.9% for young women in rural areas. Photo: Mint
New Delhi: Joblessness among the youth aged 15 to 29 years in rural areas has hit the highest level since 1993-94, official five-yearly survey data shows, raising potentially difficult questions for the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government just months before the Lok Sabha polls are due.
About 5% of rural young men and women remained without jobs in 2011-12, a new report on the 2011-12 survey released on Friday shows.
Rural unemployment was about 4.7% for both rural males and females in 2009-10. In 1993-94, 3.5% of rural young men in the labour force had no jobs. The corresponding figure was 1.9% for young women in rural areas.
Experts said a rising trend in the unemployment rate in rural areas could indicate a structural shift in the labour market that policymakers have not adequately addressed.
“These data are very worrying because they show how the declines in agricultural employment have not been met by rising jobs in other activities, since only construction has shown a significant increase. So there are few options for the growing number of youth who have gone through more secondary and tertiary education. What is even more shocking is how little the government is responding to these trends with any sense of urgency,”said Jayati Ghosh, professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University. Workforce in agriculture fell below 50% for the first time in 2011-12.
The proportion of workers engaged in agricultural activities fell from 81% in 1977-78 to 63% in 2009-10 to 59 % in 2011-12 for rural males and from 88% in 1977-78 to 79% to 75 % in 2011-12 for rural females, the National Sample Survey Office’s survey reports show.
Pronab Sen, chairman of the National Statistical Commission, said it could be that enough jobs to absorb raw youth are no longer being created.
The report said, “Over the years, there has been considerable increase in the proportion of workers engaged in ‘construction’. Between 1977-78 and 2011-12, the increase in the proportion of workers in ‘construction’ was about 11 percentage points for rural males, 6 percentage points for rural females, 7 percentage points for urban males and 2 percentage points for urban females.”
In rural areas, Kerala had the worst record with 21.7% of its youth unemployed followed by Assam with about 15% and Uttarakhand with about 11% youth unemployed.
In urban areas, Jammu and Kashmir had the highest proportion of unemployed young persons at 18.7%, followed by Assam and Kerala.
To be sure, higher unemployment among youth, particularly educated youth, has always been higher when compared to the overall average of all age groups.
The unemployment rate among educated youth was 8.1 % for rural males, 15.5 % for rural females, 11.7 % for urban males and 19.8% for urban females, the report said.
The trend of urban unemployment rates, in general and for youth, being higher than those in rural areas continued in 2011-12.
But, the trend over time has been more mixed in urban areas, where although it has declined to its lowest level since 1993-94 for young women to 13.1%, it rose from its all time low of 7.5% in 2009-10 for young men to touch 8.1%.
The rise in joblessness holds true when statistical investigators ask persons about their employment status in the one year till the survey, or their usual principal and subsidiary status.
However, unemployment by current daily status, where statistical investigators ask persons about their employment status on each day of the week before the survey, has declined since 1993-94 for all areas.
The report said the difference between the two measures of unemployment reflected, among other things, intermittent employment.

Myths and realities of Gujarat Agriculture: various articles

2013 agril growth 2013 agril output

 

  1. Agriculture_in_a_High_Growth_State_Case_of_Gujarat_1960_to_2006
  2. Agriculture_in_Gujarat gujaratEconomic_Liberalisation_and_Indian_Agriculture_A_Statewise_Analysis
  3. Growth_and_Structural_Change_in_the_Economy_of_Gujarat_19702000
  4. Labour_and_Employment_in_Gujarat
  5. Labour_and_Employment_under_Globalisation_The_Case_of_Gujarat
  6. Modis_Gujarat_and_Its_Little_Illusions
  7. Regional_Sources_of_Growth_Acceleration_in_India
  8. Gujarat’s_agricultural_growth_story_IRAP_2010
  9. Gujarats_Growth_Story
  10. Secret_of_Gujarats_Agrarian_Miracle_after_2000
  11. Sources_of_Economic_Growth_and_Acceleration_in_Gujarat
  12. Temporal_and_Spatial_Variations_in_Agricultural_Growth_and_Its_Determinants

Land location overrides fertility; threat to food security: Study

Farmers engaged in agriculture on fertile land which has locational advantages get lower economic returns from agriculture

Press Trust of India  |  <news:geo_locations>New Delhi 

 Last Updated at 19:06 IST
With industrialisation, the location of a land overrides thefertility factors which may pose a threat to country’s food security problems, said a study released today.
“Location of a land holding plays a far more pivotal role than the quality or fertility of land, irrespective of whether the land parcel is in a rural or urban area.”
“The farmers engaged in agriculture on fertile land which has locational advantages get lower economic returns from agriculture than if they were to sell that land. However such depletion of fertile land has its implications on the country’s food security problem,” the report said.
The report ‘Study on Fair Pricing of Land and its Compensation in an Emerging Economy: Case for India’ done by Germany’s GIZ was released by Vandana Jena, Secretary, Department of Land Resources, Pronab Sen, Chairman, National Statistical Commission and Alok Sheel, Secretary, Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council.
GIZ supports the German government in international cooperation for sustainable development and international education.
According to the study, location and the level of industrialisation are the determinants of pricing gains for a land over successive decades while fertility loses as a determinant factor.
Fertile land is being lost due to industrialisation, there is a strong case for not touching fertile land for acquisition which is also mentioned in the Land Bill, the study said.
The study said that the circle rates are arbitrary that give rise to social conflicts and there is a need for a fair price discovery.
“There is a rampant violation of circle rates…People are generally more aware of the true price of their land in a more developed region. In a backward district, such transactions are pervasively undervalued, raising a potential for future conflicts,” it said.
Proximity to road/highways and railway stations or future development of these facilities affect land prices across India, found the report.
“The distance from municipal centre or nearest city were next factors that drive land prices. In terms of acquisition by industry or government, intended use of land that might give rise to any of these infrastructure developments may be integrated into pricing model for sellers to reflect a fair pricing that reduces conflict and overall costs in short and long run.”
The report said that land sales in any region are mostly guided by economic and market considerations and there is a close correlation of land prices with variables including inflation and size of land being sold or purchased.
The report has suggested an approach which is neither government mandated nor tantamount to an auction but is based on an informed understanding of the price dynamics for land.
http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/land-location-overrides-fertility-threat-to-food-security-study-114012200999_1.html

India needs to export excess food grains

http://www.moneylife.in/article/india-needs-to-export-excess-foodgrains/35973.html

AK RAMDAS | 15/01/2014 12:00 PM |   

There is an urgent need to encourage corporate bodies to invest in building up the infrastructure facilities for storage and exports of food grains

In order to support the Food Security Act, the Ministry of Agriculture has estimated that the essential foodgrains in India, to the extent of 53 million tonnes be maintained as a buffer stock. This is based on the assumption that it is safe to have this divided into three categories. A three month buffer stock, at the rate of 5.1 million tonnes (mt), three months reserve and a strategic reserve of 7.5 mt would be sufficient, as a start, as per Tejinder Singh, a well known foodgrain trade analyst.

Also, we must remember that as fresh supplies are coming in, stored materials are also being despatched continuously for daily consumption. The foodgrains in overflowing godowns are stored, in large quantities, outside under plastic sheets, tarpaulins etc, which are subject to heavy climatic damage, besides being vulnerable to pilferage and act as a regular storehouse for rodents! Any excess inventory of even 13 to 15 mt are estimated to be worth Rs32,500 crore to Rs37,500 crore!

According to information available in the media, as of December 2013, the stock level of foodgrains with the Food Corporation of India (FCI) stood at 45 mt, some 20 million more than required, based on the estimation of 5.1 mt per month. This figure varies from time to time, based on consumption pattern, arrivals and despatches. We must also bear in mind that most state governments have their own food subsidy schemes, and there is no uniformity on a national scale.

Our foodgrains should be sold, on export basis, at the best possible prices in the overseas market, and our own minimum “floor price” rules have no bearing on the purchaser. Fresh supplies to the godown are simply placed on the top of the heap of the lot already in, which causes irreparable damage at the bottom!

Take the question of wheat stocks in the country and the overseas demand pattern, apart from the aggressive activities of our competitors. At this point of time, cold weather conditions in the US, prime and leading grower and exporter, are indicative of shortfall in their supplies.

Indian wheat stocks, as on 1st December, stood at 31 mt, which is the statutory requirement for buffer stock. Agricultural experts estimate a bumper crop this season, amounting to over 95 mt, as wheat acreage in the current rabi season is estimated to be over 302 lakh hectares, thanks to various state schemes in operation. In Madhya Pradesh, the government had announced a bonus of Rs150 per quintal over the minimum supportprice (MSP) and it appears more farmers increased the wheat acreage! The central government had announced a MSP of Rs1,400 per quintal, an increase of Rs50 over the previous year, to encourage production.

As a sequel to the bulging stocks of wheat, export efforts by government authorities, besides private exporters, are bearing fruit. Fortunately, in line with the international market, the government had to reduce the floor price from $300 per tonne to $260 per tonne to push up exports and to literally get rid of the stocks, and to make way for the new crop to come in. Preferred supplies from Black Sea producers were fetching $305 per tonne, while both US and French supplies were quoted at about $ 300 per tonne. However, with the cold wave, there has been interest in the tenders called for by India,prices above the floor price of $260 per tonne has been obtained, such as $282.62 per tonne from Vitol Group, for shipment from Mundhra port, while Al Ghurair of UAE bid $ 283.60 per tonne for shipment from Chennai. India thus plans to export at least two million tonnes of wheat before the new crop starts arriving in April, with hopes to reach four million this fiscal, as there are several tenders on the anvil.

Other items like corn (maize) have also made headway in exports, with orders booked for 350,000 tonnes at $216 per tonne. Iran has increased its purchase of basmati rice and soya meal with other items like sugar picking up.

Our efforts to push up export of foodgrains is imperative; at the same time, there is an urgent need to encourage corporate bodies to invest in building up the infrastructure facilities for storage, but allocating free land or on long term lease, suitable for this purpose, in every state and more importantly near the ports to facilitate exports. Anything that can be done in these areas to prevent loss of foodgrains due to climatic damage would be most beneficial to the country.

(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)

 

Pesticides ‘making bees smaller’

Bumblebees exposed to a widely-used pesticide produced workers with lower body mass, scientists

theguardian.com

Bumblebees could be shrinking because of exposure to a widely-used pesticide, a study suggests.
Bumblebees could be shrinking because of exposure to a widely-used pesticide, a study suggests. Photograph: Nick Ansell/PA

Bumblebees could be shrinking because of exposure to a widely-used pesticide, a study suggests.

Experts fear smaller bees will be less effective at foraging for nectar and carrying out their vital task of distributing pollen.

Scientists in the UK conducted laboratory tests which showed how a pyrethroid pesticide stunted the growth of worker bumblebee larvae, causing them to hatch out reduced in size.

Gemma Baron, one of the researchers from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London, said: “We already know that larger bumblebees are more effective at foraging.

“Our result, revealing that this pesticide causes bees to hatch out at a smaller size, is of concern as the size of workers produced in the field is likely to be a key component of colony success, with smaller bees being less efficient at collecting nectar and pollen from flowers.”

Pyrethroid pesticides are commonly used on flowering crops to prevent insect damage.

The study, the first to examine the pesticides’ impact across the entire lifecycle of bumblebees, tracked the growth of bee colonies over a four month period.

Researchers exposed half the bees to a pyrethroid while monitoring the size of the colonies as well as weighing individual insects on micro-scales.

They found that worker bees from colonies affected by the pesticides over a prolonged period grew less and were significantly smaller than unexposed bees.

Findings from the study, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (Nerc), appear in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

Professor Mark Brown, who led the Royal Holloway group, said: “Bumblebees are essential to our food chain so it’s critical we understand how wild bees might be impacted by the chemicals we are putting into the environment.

“We know we have to protect plants from insect damage but we need to find a balance and ensure we are not harming our bees in the process.”

Currently a Europe-wide moratorium on the use of three neonicotinoid pesticides is in force because of their alleged harmful effect on bees.

As a result, the use of other types of pesticide, including pyrethroids, is likely to increase, say the researchers.

Dr Nigel Raine, another member of the Royal Holloway team who will be speaking at this week’s national Bee Health Conference in London, said: “Our work provides a significant step forward in understanding the detrimental impact of pesticides other than neonicotinoids on wild bees.

“Further studies using colonies placed in the field are essential to understand the full impacts, and conducting such studies needs to be a priority for scientists and governments.”

The scientists sprayed the pesticide on the bees’ pollen feed at the concentration recommended for oilseed rape.

Colony growth and reproductive output were monitored for up to 14 weeks.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/20/pesticides-making-bees-smaller

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1365-2664/earlyview

Leaving farmers to reap the bitter harvest

Devinder Sharma
January 19, 2014

A day after Parliament approved foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail in December 2012, a newspaper report highlighted how a big retail company was exploiting both the farmers as well as the consumers: the wholesale cash-n-carry Bharti-Walmart enterprise, the report said, was buying baby corn from contract growers in Punjab at Rs. 8 per kg, selling it in wholesale at Rs. 100/kg and finally the consumers were paying Rs. 200/kg. In other words, farmers were getting only 4% of the end price consumers paid.

So to say that private enterprise will save Indian agriculture is all bunkum. Take the case of paddy in Bihar, the only state to have repealed the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act way back in 2006, thereby allowing farmers the freedom to sell their produce to whomsoever they like. Against the procurement price of `1,310 per quintal of paddy that Punjab farmers got this year, Bihar farmers have managed to sell paddy at something around `800-900 per quintal. This is nothing but a distress price/sale, a classic example of the ruthless exploitation by private traders.

Ironically, the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), which is supposed to ensure remunerative prices to farmers, lists Bihar as the top ‘market-friendly’ state as far as agriculture is concerned. Punjab, which has a network of mandis and provides an assured price to farmers, is at the bottom of the chart. At a time when being market-friendly is the new mantra, the CACP is asking Punjab to disband the APMC Act and allow markets to operate freely. In other words, it wants Punjab farmers to go the Bihar way.

So when Rahul Gandhi asked the Congress chief ministers to exempt fruits and vegetables, which have contributed much to raging food inflation, from the APMC Act by January 15, I thought he had gone by what FICCI/CII have been campaigning for. What probably he has never been told is that only about 30% of India’s farmers get the benefit of procurement prices. The rest 70% are in any case dependent on the markets. If the markets were so helpful to these 70% farmers, I am sure by now the farmers in Punjab and Haryana would have demanded the repeal of the APMC Act.

But that hasn’t happened. The APMC Act, despite all its flaws, provides an assured price and market to farmers. It is primarily for this reason that Punjab farmers are refusing to diversify from wheat and rice cultivation in the absence of an assured price mechanism for other crops. This year, Madhya Pradesh is expected to take over Punjab in wheat production. It will manage to achieve this only because farmers have been given a bonus above the procurement price and thankfully have not been left to the mercies of unscrupulous private traders.

I am amused when some economists blame the APMC for the monopolistic market structure that restricts the entry of free trade and competition, thereby denying farmers an economic price for their produce. This is a wrong assumption. Under the APMC Act, farmers bring produce to the designated mandis where private traders are first allowed to make purchases. It’s only when there are no buyers left that the Food Corporation of India (FCI) or the State procurement agencies step in to lift whatever is available at the minimum support price.

This is what irks the private trade. It doesn’t want to pay the minimum support price to farmers. For example, if it can get paddy at `800-900 per quintal in Bihar, why should it shell out `1,310 per quintal in Punjab?

To say that our present market structure does not permit the entry of new players who want to invest in other infrastructure is wrong. In seven years after repealing the APMC Act, Bihar has seen no revolution in agricultural marketing. Farmers have been left in the lurch and the private trade has not made any investments. The clamour to do away with the APMC Act is primarily to pave the way for setting up terminal markets for the big agribusiness companies as well as for multi-brand retail.

Devinder Sharma is a food policy analyst.
The views expressed by the author are personal

– See more at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/news-feed/columnists/leaving-farmers-to-reap-the-bitter-harvest/article1-1174747.aspx#sthash.QshUxkuj.dpuf