Current Affairs

‘The New Green Revolution: A Just Transition to Climate-Smart Crops’

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  • Published
    13th Jan, 2021
  • Context

    The agriculture sector’s contribution to India’s GDP and employment makes it crucial to the country’s growth. At the same time, the sector’s massive greenhouse gas emissions pose a threat to India’s green transition. 

    This brief outlines the shortfalls of the present system of agricultural that have led to environmentally unsustainable practises in agriculture.

  • Background

    • During British Raj, India faced drastic feminine. After independence, the country was determined to become self-sufficient in producing food grains and not to depend on other countries for food sufficiency.
    • In order to become self-sufficient, India launched Green Revolution in 1965 under the leadership of the Lal Bahadur Shastri and with the help ofS. Swaminathan.
    • In India, the green revolution continued from 1965 to 1977.
    • It mainly increased the food crops production in the state of Punjab, Haryana and Western UPand enabled India to change its status from a food deficient country to one of the leading agricultural nations in the world.
    • However, today the sector faces enormous environmental issues, which needs to be addressed at the earliest.
  • Analysis

    Contribution of Agriculture Sector

    • The agriculture sector is an integral part of India’s growth story.
    • Economic benefit: It employs 58 percent of the population and contributes 18 percent of the country’s GDP.
      • In the first quarter of 2020, agriculture was the only sector that showed some growth (3.4 percent) when the economy contracted overall by a massive 23.4 percent.
    • Food security: It is responsible for both food and nutritional security and is key to efforts towards alleviating poverty and reducing inequality.
    • Contribution to GHG: At the same time, agriculture contributes 16 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the country, second only to the energy sector.
  • How does the sector contribute to GHG?

    • Most farm-related emissions come in the form of methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O).
    • Cattle belching (CH4) and the addition of natural or synthetic fertilizers and wastes to soils (N2O) represent the largest sources, making up 65 percentof agricultural emissions globally.
    • Smaller sources include manure management, rice cultivation, field burning of crop residues, and fuel use on farms.
    • At the farm level, the relative size of different sources will vary widely depending on the type of products grown, farming practices employed, and natural factors such as weather, topography, and hydrology.
  • How rice (specifically) adds to GHG emissions?

    • Rice is the staple food for more than 65 percent of the Indian population and contributes 40 percent of total food grain production in India.
    • It occupies a central role in Indian agriculture as it provides food and livelihood security to a large proportion of the rural population.
    • In 2018-19, India produced 116.42 million tonnes of rice, second in the world only to China.
    • However, rice cultivation is a considerable threat to sustainable agriculture as it is a significant source of GHG emissions (e.g., methane and nitrite oxide).
    • Rice is a significant sequester of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
    • Furthermore, emission of methane (or CH4)from flooded paddy fields, combined with the burning of rice residues such as husks and straws, further add to GHG emissions.
    • While rice formed only 9 percent of total consumption in Indian diets, it contributed 9 percent to the total GHG emissions in Indian diets.
  • Is climate-smart agriculture, the future?

    • To step up and face the many challenges in agriculture, the solution lies in climate-smart agriculture (CSA).
    • CSA is defined by its desired outcomes—agricultural systems that are resilient, productive, and have low emissions.
    • Parameters: CSA broadly works on three parameters. These are:
      • sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and farmers’ incomes
      • adapting to climate change
      • reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG)
  • What needs to be done?

    • The agriculture sectors need to overcome three intertwined challenges:
      • sustainably increase agricultural productivity to meet global demand
      • adapt to the impacts of climate change
      • contribute to reducing the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere
    • Focus on agriculture for inclusive growth: If India is aiming to transition to a green economy and achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it will have to pay greater attention to the agricultural sector. Agriculture can yet prove to be a catalyst for India to achieve a standard of inclusive, green growth.
    • Incentivization towards climate-smart crops: While it is clear that the unsustainable incentivization towards production of rice was due to the procurement system and that the procurement system is largely unequal in its reach, it is nevertheless, a powerful tool to drive the transition towards climate-smart crops.
    • Shifting to climate-smart crops: Phasing out procurement of rice and in its stead, creating assured procurement (demand pull) for pulses and millets, at remunerative prices (income support) with subsidised inputs (shadow prices) will ensure a shift to the production of these climate-smart crops, which will aid in India’s green transition.

    The Four Attributes of ‘Transition’

    • There are four pillars that will enable a shift to climate-smart agriculture




    Sustainable Practises

    Shadow Prices of Inputs

    Incentivises production of climate-suitable crops.

    Income Stability

    Income Support

    Support against seasonal changes worsened by climate crisis. Balanced flow of revenue to farmers.

    Market Signalling Infrastructure

    Production as per demand

    Restrains over-production of certain goods, ensures price and inventory maintained.

    Accessible Enabling Environment

    Feasible Storage & Processing Facilities

    Cost of cultivation goes down.

    Better Market Access

    Easier to sell food-grains.

    Eco-friendly approaches for farming system

    • The Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF): The concept introduced in Andhra Pradesh in 2015 is a low-input, climate-resilient type of farming that encourages farmers to use low-cost locally sourced inputs.
    • Organic farming: It is a production system, which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetically compounded fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators, and livestock feed additives.
    • Regenerative Agriculture: In regenerative agriculture bunds on nature’s own inherent capacity to cope with pests, enhance soil fertility, and increase productivity.
    • Permaculture: Permaculture is concerned with designing ecological human habitats and food production systems, and follows specific guidelines and principles in the design of these systems.
    • Other important approaches include
      • zero tillage
      • raised bed planting
      • direct-seeded rice
      • crop residue management
      • cropping diversification
    • Besides, site-specific nutrient management, laser levelling, micro-irrigation, seed/fodder banks can also be adopted.

    Recent Government measures to mitigate risks of climate change on agriculture

    • National Mission of Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA), one of the eight missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).
    • Parallelly, the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) envisages “Per Drop More Crop”, that is, promoting micro/drip irrigation to conserve water.
    • There is also a push to cluster-based organic farming through the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY).
  • Wrapping Up

    Given the quantum of the agricultural sector’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions in India, any movement towards green growth must incorporate the principles of climate-smart agriculture. In turn, taking into account the contribution of rice cultivation to agriculture emissions, any such movement must also incorporate alternatives to improve rice cultivation.

    It is therefore important to initiate a new Green Revolution, wherein a just transition towards climate-smart agriculture will incorporate sustainable agriculture planning, provide market signalling and income support, and create an enabling environment through provisioning of processing and storage facilities and better market access. 

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