CSE launches report on how Indian farmers can deal with adverse weather conditions

The Centre for Science and Environment report was was released at a webinar

Sugarcane farming Representational Image | Reuters

The Centre for Science and Environment has released a report on how farmers can deal with adverse and changing weather conditions. The report is on agromet advisory systems—focusing on weather data collection and forecasting, agricultural expertise and analysis of crop data that can lead to generation of practical advice for farmers.

The CSE underlines the need for similar assessments of agromet systems in other countries to build adaptation and resilience for “frontline victims of climate change”.

The report on Agrometeorological Advisories in India was released at a webinar on ‘Weather and the Farmer’ by Sunita Narain, director general, CSE.

Speaking at the release, Narain said, “We keep hearing that we have to give farmers a greater ability to cope with extreme weather events. How do we do it? What does it really mean? What we've done here is to put flesh and form into the word “adaptation”,” said Narain as she introduced the report.

Researched and put together by CSE’s Climate Change Unit, the new report grew out of a mission to understand how climate adaptation actually works on the ground in vulnerable sectors. Apart from informing Indian policymaking, the broader aim of the report is two-fold, says Tarun Gopalakrishnan, one of the writers—“firstly, to shift the global debate about adaptation, which is currently stuck in disputes over how much additional finance is needed for adaptation, and the role of the public versus the private sector. Secondly, to use the Indian experience (positive and negative) to guide the development of similar tools in other climate-vulnerable countries.”

The report assesses the agromet advisory system—the inter-linked institutions, technologies and actors who collect weather data to generate forecasts, and combine these forecasts with crop data and expertise to generate practical advice for farmers. This system is critical because, in theory, it can enable farmers to cope with increasing climate uncertainty, which is overwhelming traditional (as well a lot of scientific) knowledge of weather and cropping patterns.

Developed under the primary leadership of the India Meteorological Department (IMD), India’s agromet system is understood as three connected systems—weather forecasting, crop data collection and research, and agricultural ‘extension’ (which reaches technology and expertise to farmers). The CSE report, therefore, breaks down the system into three sub-sectors—weather data and forecasting, creation of agromet advisories, and dissemination of advisories.

Says Gopalakrishnan: “We see significant investment in technology in India, including in automatic weather stations and mobile technology to disseminate advisories. But there is a lack of quality control of data, gaps in data sharing, a lack of specificity in forecasts and advisories and uneven investment across different states. Worse, investment in critical human resources has decreased—especially the expertise required to create advisories tailored to farmers’ economic and geographical context, and the human power which trains farmers to implement the advice.”

The CSE has made the following recommendations to help farmers tackle weather changes better:

Define the responsibilities of different government ministries and departments—particularly the responsibility to collect and manage weather data versus crop data. The IMD could take over the responsibility to expand, coordinate and strengthen the weather forecasting system; the state agriculture departments should work on for improving crop data and the agro-portion of advisories.

Coordinate priorities and budgets between Central and state governments, for developing district- and block-level infrastructure for data collection and specific advisory generation.

Integrate weather data collected on a common platform—by law, all weather data collected in the country, public or private, and across government departments and levels, must flow into a central database.

Support the private sector on its strengths, such as innovation, but ensure that agromet advisories remain a public good that are affordable for subsistence farmers.

Provide viability gap financing to private sector to ensure standardisation of weather equipment and data, including metadata.

Help states increase investments in (i) creating a demand for block/local-level satellite data, and (ii) local agromet expertise and numbers of extension professionals.