Climate Change and Extension Role in Adaptation Practices
Authors: A. P. Verma, Dr. H R Meena and Rupan Raghuvanshi

Climate change is a measure of the average pattern of variation in temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, precipitation, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological variables in a given region over long periods of time. It is considered as a base for survival of flora and fauna because climatic factors such as temperature, precipitation, wind, humidity etc. directly or indirectly affects the growth and development of organism. It is also a fact that the climate has changed, is changing and will continue to change regardless of what investments in mitigation are made (Joel and Anne, 1998). The earth's climate is dynamic and always changing through a natural cycle. What the world is more worried about is that the changes that are occurring today have been speeded up because of man's activities. There are a number of natural factors responsible for climate change. Some of the more prominent ones are continental drift, volcanoes, ocean currents, the earth's tilt, and comets and meteorites.

Effect of climate change

Climate change is the most severe challenge that affects the development in 21st century. It is one of the major threats to human and affects many sectors like forests, agriculture, environment and human lives as well. Its impact are being felt and seen today on above sectors. Climate change has brought about severe and possibly permanent alterations to our planet’s geological, biological and ecological systems. The crop-lands, pastures and forests that occupy 60 per cent of the earth’s surface are progressively being exposed to threats from increased climatic variability. Abnormal changes in air temperature and rainfall are resulting in increasing frequency and intensity of drought and flood events that in turn have long-term implications for the viability of the ecosystems.

The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) contended in 2003 that “there is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities”. These changes have led to the emergence of large-scale environmental hazards to human health, such as extreme weather, ozone depletion, loss of biodiversity, stresses to food-producing systems and the global spread of infectious diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1, 60,000 deaths, since 1950, are directly attributable to climate change. The average annual temperature of the earth’s surface has risen over the last century. Not only is the temperature rising, but the rate of warming itself is increasing too. The mean global annual temperature increased between 0.4 to 0.7 0C (Singh, 2008). Climate change affect all sphere of life but its impact on Himalayas at much faster pace than what the global averages. Warming in Himalayas is happening at an unprecedented rate, higher than the global average of 0.74 ˚C over the last 100 years (Du et al., 2004; IPCC, 2007), at least 2-3 times higher than global averages. Progressively higher warming with higher altitude is a phenomenon prevalent over the whole greater Himalayan region (New et al., 2002). All these factors are affecting plant as well as animal kingdom and calling for some sort of adaptation in their lives and activities

Climate change and agriculture

Climate change directly affects the agriculture production as this sector is inherently sensitive and totally depends on climatic conditions and is one of the most vulnerable sectors to the risk and impact of global climate change (Parry 2005). Climate change is projected to have significant impacts on conditions affecting agriculture, including temperature, carbon dioxide, glacial run-off, precipitation and the interaction of these elements. These conditions determine the carrying capacity of the biosphere to produce enough food for the human population and domesticated animals. The overall effect of climate change on agriculture will depend on the balance of these effects.

Climatic change could affect agriculture through;

• Productivity, in terms of quantity and quality of the food crops.

• Agricultural practices, through changes of water use and agricultural inputs such as herbicides, insecticides and fertilizers.

• Environmental effects, in particular in relation of frequency and intensity of soil drainage, soil erosion and reduction of crop diversity.

• Through the loss and gain of cultivated lands, land speculation, land renunciation, and hydraulic amenities.

• Organisms may become more or less competitive, as well as humans may develop urgency to develop more competitive organisms, such as flood resistant or salt resistant varieties of rice.

Agriculture and climate change in India

India is an agriculture dependent country and more then 2/3rd of its population depends on agriculture for their survival. Agriculture contributes to approximately 13.7% of India’s GDP. India is a large country with a diverse climate. Diverse seasons mean diverse crops and farming systems. There is a high dependency of agriculture on the monsoon rains and a close link exists between climate and water resources. The impact of changing climate on agriculture was also seen in India. Peoples and their livelihood are directly or indirectly affected by climate change. Climate change poses a direct and growing threat to the livelihoods of millions of people in India. Poor rural households, whose livelihoods depend predominantly on agriculture and natural resources, will bear a disproportionate burden of adverse impacts of climate change (Kates 2000, Mendelsohn 2001, Satapathy et al. 2011). Amongst the key impacts will be the faster retreat of Himalayan glaciers, frequent floods and decrease in crop yields. In many areas, a greater proportion of total precipitation appears to be falling as rain than before. As a result, snowmelt begins earlier and winter is shorter; this affects river regimes, natural hazards, water supplies, and people’s livelihoods and infrastructure. There is increasing perception and documentation that precipitation is changing, becoming more erratic and intense. Flooding may arise as a major development issue. It is projected that more variable, and increasingly direct, rainfall runoff will also lead to more downstream flooding. Yield reductions are predicted in wheat and rice due to temperature rise in key growing regions. 2010 (+0.930 C) was the warmest year on record in India since 1901. The productivity of most cereals would decrease due to increase in temperature and CO2 and the decrease in water availability. There will be a projected loss of 10-40% in crop production by 2100 if no adaptation measures are taken. A 10 Celsius increase in temperature may reduce yields of major food crops by 3-7%. We are also going to see increased climatic extremes such as heat and cold waves, which are likely to increase production variability. According to study of Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture, it was found that Kharif crops will be impacted more by rainfall variability while Rabi crops by rise in minimum temperature. Wheat negatively impacted in Rabi due to terminal heat stress. Rice will be affected both by temperature and water availability. Legume crops such as soybean and groundnut are likely to benefit due to increased temperature/CO2 if water availability is not limited. Milk yield in livestock were impacted during heat waves. The breeding season of marine fisheries were affected with a shift in seasonal catches. There was a negative impact on commercial poultry due to heat stress.

Climate change and Adaptation

Climate-related impacts are occurring across all part of the country and across many sectors of our economy. Agricultural system responds to the changing production environment through the process of adaptation. Adaptation to climate change requires that farmers first notice that the climate has changed, and then identify useful adaptations and implement them (Maddison 2006). Many agricultural adaptation options have been suggested in the literature. They encompass a wide range of scales (local, regional, global), actors (farmers, firms, government), and types: (Smith and Lenhart 1996, Mendelsohn 2001, Kurukulasuriya and Rosenthal 2003).

i. Micro-level options- such as diversification of crop and altering the timing of agricultural operations;

ii. Market responses- such as income diversification and credit schemes.

iii. Institutional changes- mainly government responses, such as removal of preserved subsidies and improvement in agricultural markets.

iv. Technological developments—the development and promotion of new crop varieties and advances in water management technique.

Another important issue related to adaptation in agriculture pointed out by Bryant et al. (2000) is how perceptions of climate change are translated into agricultural decisions and it helps if farmers learn gradually about the change in climate. Maddison (2006) argues that they will also learn gradually about the best techniques and adaptation options available. According to him, farmers learn about the best adaptation options through three ways;

i. Learning by doing

ii. Learning by copying

iii. Learning from instruction.

There is a need of crops and varieties that fit into new cropping systems and seasons and varieties with changed duration and varieties for high temperature, drought, inland salinity and submergence tolerance. There are also a need of crops and varieties that tolerate coastal salinity and seawater inundation and varieties which respond to high CO2 and Lastly, varieties with high fertiliser and radiation use efficiency. There are stresses on the importance of germplasm. Wild and extant varieties have traits tolerant to high temperature, elevated CO2 etc. There is a need to revisit gene banks with a view to searching for unique traits required for climate change. In this search, indigenous knowledge and farmer’s wisdom have immense value Better management practices hold the key to adaptation and mitigation. For example, there is raised-bed planting of wheat in the Indo- gangetic plains which entails 20-25% saving in irrigation water and is suitable for mechanical weeding, and results in reduced herbicide use. There are also need for better water management and nutrient management of rice paddies.

Extension role in Adaptation to Changing Climate

Extension has proven itself to be a cost-effective means of bringing about greater economic returns for farmers with significant and positive effects on knowledge, adoption, and productivity. According to Kristen (2009) extension is a cost-effective tool that can play an important role in dealing with changing climate while at the same time helping to increase productivity and reduce poverty. There are several ways that extension systems can help farmers deal with climate change. Some of them in which extension can help with adaptation and mitigation are technologies and management information, capacity development, and facilitating, brokering, and implementing policies and programs.

1. Technologies and management information

Extension plays an important role in providing information and promoting new technologies or new ways of managing crops and farms. It links farmers to researchers and other actors in the agricultural innovation system. Extension agents can introduce locally appropriate technologies and management techniques that enable farmers to adapt to climate change, for example, developing and disseminating local cultivars of drought-resistant crop varieties with information about the crops’ advantages and disadvantages.

2. Capacity development

For building capacity of the farmer’s, extension professional employed and is responsible for providing information using techniques ranging from flyers and radio messages to field demonstrations. Recent innovative extension activities include the adult education and experiential learning approaches utilized in farmer field schools, an extension and education approach already working with farmers on issues of climate change. Climate Field Schools (CFSs) have been established to deal with climate change in agriculture. The capacity of farmers to cope with extreme climatic variability will require special attention to educating farmers about their options to enhance resilience and response capacity.

3. Facilitating, brokering, and implementing policies and programs

With climate change, it will be increasingly important for the extension system to link farmers and other people in rural communities directly with voluntary and regulated carbon markets, private and public institutions that disseminate adaptation technologies, and funding programs for adaptation investments. Increased access to meteorological information will be imperative. Extension agents may also play a role not only in brokering, but also in assisting farmers in implementing policies and programs that deal with climate change mitigation. For instance, regarding carbon credits, extension agents could be employed to educate farmers in their area; assist in forming community groups; link farmers to governmental, nongovernmental, and private organizations at the national and international levels; and perhaps assist with proposal preparation or negotiations with other players. Adaptation and mitigation funds could be used to support extension efforts that deliver new technologies, information, and education about increasing carbon sequestration and reducing green house gas emissions (Anthony Hoganet al ., 2011).


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About Author / Additional Info:
I am currently pursuing Ph. D. (2nd Year) in Dairy Extension Division, ICAR-National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal-132001 Haryana (India)