Climate Information for Risk Management in Agriculture: India Case Study

On Monday, April 16 I had the opportunity to share some exciting project work with graduate students in Columbia University’s MA Program in Climate and Society. As a guest lecturer in the Regional Climate and Climate Impacts course, I presented “Climate Information for Risk Management in Agriculture: A Case Study in India”. The material drew upon work conducted as part of the Extended Range Forecast System for Climate Risk Management in Agriculture in India (ERFS). Funded by the Government of India’s Ministry of Agriculture, ERFS addresses critical challenges for Indian farmers facing climate-related risks. Dr. Shiv Someshwar (CGSD/IRI) is the lead PI from the Earth Institute for the project.

In India, over 60% of agricultural land is rainfed, which means that the majority of India’s 100 million farming households depend on the summer monsoon to water their crops from June through September. A failed monsoon can lead to not only crippling impacts at the farm and community level, but also a drop in national GDP as the national government spends massive sums on social safety net outlays and drought relief for farmers. Advance information about the likely character of the upcoming monsoon season could be exceedingly valuable to farmers, planners and private sector agricultural input providers as they seek to proactively manage these climate risks.

The ERFS project aims to meet these needs by improving monsoon forecasts and working to ensure that this climate information is actually linked to decision making and planning. In the course of the project, a number of us from the Earth Institute, including Amor Ines, Andy Robertson, Shiv Someshwar and myself, helped develop a suite of tools to make these connections, including a robust risk matrix and decision model to capture costs, benefits and institutional requirements necessary to implement risk management strategies at different crop stages (see figure). Developed in collaboration with farmers and our partners in government agencies and Indian universities, these tools help bridge the critical gap between climate research and action.

As I presented these project activities to the students, their perceptive, probing questions revealed not only that they were actually awake (whew!), but that they really got it. They understood the challenges and opportunities in translating climate information and planning into practice…in strengthening science and policy to achieve impact. These efforts align perfectly with the CGSD approach and provide a foundation for further climate risk and agriculture work with government agencies, researchers and farmers.


  • Best Social Activist Punjab says:

    You have really shared a nice information here. I am agree with you.
    As you say In India, over 60% of agricultural land is rainfed, which means that the majority of India’s 100 million farming households depend on the summer monsoon to water their crops from June through September.So the Information about changing environmental conditions is essential for making any decision in agriculture.

    • Kye Baroang says:

      Thanks so much for the comment. I’m glad to hear that you found the information in the post interesting and in agreement with your experiences. We look forward to continuing to share these kinds of project activities with you and our other readers.

  • Isabel says:

    is true but it is much more than that, farmers now innlastty know the prices of goods, which suppliers are the best to buy from, even which crops will bring the most money in. combines, sprayers and other machinery can now basically drive themselves. gps now massively aids crop dusters and a huge assortment of other equipment. The farming field is now much less dangerous thanks to available info and readily available medical aid. Weather conditions can now be monitored in real time and forecasts are much more accurate. also disease, weather and insect resistant crops have been developed to aid in the farming process.there are a lot of ways technology has changed the field, talking to a farmer is you best bet for a full fledged answer.

    • Kye Baroang says:

      Thanks for the comment, Isabel. You raise interesting points. Indeed, technology can certainly be a driver of change and help farmers address climate (and other) risks. Unfortunately, not all farmers have access to the full range of technologies and risk management options you describe. The Indian farmers in our project (and many of the others that the Earth Institute works with) are among the poorest and least connected to these tools. As you said, the key is talking to the farmer and understanding his/her situation. Only then can we insure that our activities are the most appropriate and suitable for their needs. In our work, we have found that climate and weather information are critical in farmer decision-making. While this is only a part of a suite of solutions, we feel it’s a critical component.

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