India's climate disaster story is quite similar. According to its Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, losses due to the climate crisis are to the tune of 4-9% of the agricultural economy each year, which is an overall GDP loss of 1.5%.
CSA has an inclination for genetically engineered (GM) crops, especially those that are salt, flood and frost resistant, a fact that is consistent with its predecessor's architects. Prof. MS Swaminathan, father of India's Green Revolution, affirms that "GM technology helps us to produce varieties which are climate-smart." A belief that has also been picked up by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), which has come out and said that biotechnologies, both low-and high-tech, can help small-scale producers, in particular, to be more resilient and to adapt better to climate change. This statement from the FAO is being hailed by GMOs defenders as an acknowledgment of "climate-smart" biotech crops.
- water harvesting systems,
- better irrigation techniques that include drip irrigation,
- the use of traditional seeds, bio-fertilisers and bio-pesticides,
- mulching, multiple cropping and mixed cropping practices,
- gathering information on timely weather reports,
- proper planning of agricultural practices,
- biodiversity conservation and
- the increased use of solar energy.
Beyond climate adaptation, MASIPAG farmers contribute in emission reduction as well, by completely banning the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides in their rice production, thus significantly reducing carbon emission from the farm. Another important strategy being applied is to grow diversified or multi-crops and trees because they reduce the risks of total crop loss during floods, drought and saltwater intrusion caused by cyclones. This biodiverse system also provides different kind of foods at different times and other multifunctional benefits like fodder, green manure, firewood, hedge, erosion control, wildlife habitat and more. MASIPAG farmers apply this concept to grow a large number of different varieties better adapted to climatic and geographical-specific conditions. Some farmers also integrate livestock into the farming system as an alternative source of income. These agroecology-based diverse, productive and resilient farming systems put forth by MASIPAG are fundamental to maximize the adaptive capacity of farming communities to climate stresses, strengthening their unity and social fabric in the process.
In the meantime in India, the Basudha farm and Vrihi (Sanskrit for rice) community seed bank in Odisha, set up by Dr. Debal Deb, holds India's largest in situ selection of one crop diversity, conserving more than 1 400 rice varieties. These climate-resilient varieties are suited to every kind of climate, soil and water source and tolerant to adverse conditions. Vrihi rice seeds, collected and conserved for over 3 decades in the Basudha in-situ farm and exchanged with hundreds of farmers every year provide immense possibilities for dealing with changes in temperature and climate, differences in soil nutrients and water stresses. The Vrihi collection includes flood-resistant rice varieties which can grow taller in floodwater, while some varieties can also grow in submerged conditions. Other varieties can withstand fluctuations in rainfall timing, or thrive in highly saline soils. Diversity in the food systems is essential against the climate crisis and extreme weather patterns.
Back in West Bengal, faced with an increasingly deficient freshwater supply, villagers have had to transform and adapt their management of the resource. Their current approach to the cultivation of boro rice is a clear example. This crop requires large amounts of water, which is normally extracted from the ground using diesel/electric pumps. This technique, however, ends up depleting the ground water supply. Farmers have therefore adopted SRI (Systematic Rice Intensification) methods. With SRI, a single rice sapling is sown instead of in bunches, requiring a lesser amount of seeds and the rice fields do not have to be kept continuously flooded. This reduces the required amount of water, which in turn reduces GHG emissions. But in West Bengal, villagers are not stopping there. They are also harvesting rainwater. By digging ponds, villagers are able to gather enough water not only to irrigate their crops- minimising ground water pumping- but also for fish farming. The whole structure is optimised and creeper vegetables are planted on all sides of the pond. As the water level goes down, different kinds of seasonal vegetables and pulses, even boro rice, are grown. This adaptation practices has been developed to build long-term resilience to climate impacts.