80% of Marginal Farmers in India Impacted by Climate Change: Report

A recent report reveals that 80% of marginal farmers in India have faced significant crop losses due to adverse climatic events over the past five years. Conducted by the Forum of Enterprises for Equitable Development (FEED) and the Development Intelligence Unit (DIU), the survey included 6,615 farmers from 21 states.

The primary causes of crop damage identified were drought (41%), irregular rainfall including excessive or non-seasonal rains (32%), and early withdrawal or late arrival of the monsoons (24%). Approximately 43% of the surveyed farmers reported losing at least half of their standing crops, with rice, vegetables, and pulses being particularly affected by uneven rainfall.

In northern states, paddy fields often remain submerged for more than a week, destroying newly planted seedlings. Conversely, states like Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, and West Bengal experienced delayed planting of crops such as rice, corn, cotton, soybeans, groundnuts, and pulses due to scant rainfall.

The report also highlights the impact of temperature variability on crops. For example, an early heatwave in 2022 reduced wheat production in India from 109.59 million tonnes in 2021 to 107.7 million tonnes, prompting a ban on wheat exports. The Climate Transparency Report of 2021 predicted that rice production could decline by 10-30% and maize production by 25-70% with a temperature increase of 1 to 4 degrees Celsius.

Marginal farmers, those with less than one hectare of land, represent 68.5% of India’s agricultural sector but own only about 24% of the crop area. Sanjeev Chopra, Chairperson of FEED, emphasized the urgent need for adaptation strategies to combat the effects of climate change.

The report identified significant gaps in support systems for marginal farmers. Although 83% are covered under the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme, only 35% have access to crop insurance, and just 25% receive timely financial credit. Despite these challenges, two-thirds of the affected farmers have adopted climate-resilient practices, such as changes in sowing time, crop duration, and water and disease management strategies.

However, 76% of those who adopted these practices faced obstacles, including lack of credit facilities, physical resources, limited knowledge, small land holdings, and high up-front costs. While 21% of marginal farmers have cold storage within 10 km of their village, only 15% have used these facilities. Similarly, although 48% have a custom hiring center within 10 km, only 22% have utilized equipment from these centers.

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