Identifying priorities for building climate resilience

Photo: Action on Climate Today

Identifying priorities for building climate resilience

Bihar State in north-east India has a population of 104 million (India Census, 2011). Nearly 90% of its population live in rural areas and depend on rain-fed agriculture (including livestock and fisheries), therefore addressing climate-related changes in agriculture and water management will make a significant contribution to economic development in the State.

Historically, districts north of the Ganga River experience flooding while southern districts experience drought. Bihar recorded the highest number of floods among Indian states between 2001 and 2011, and the number of flood-affected areas is increasing.[1] Lower than normal rainfall in 2009 led to a drought-like situation in many districts, followed by another dry year in 2010. Increasingly erratic rainfall patterns, varying widely across districts, not only affect sowing but also impact on the recharge of groundwater aquifers that are being rapidly depleted for irrigation. Around 250 small rivers disappeared due to adverse and unusual climatic conditions. Wetlands are shrinking and on the verge of extinction. Declining agricultural incomes affect industrial growth, as well as increasing migration to urban areas, putting more pressure on urban infrastructure.

It is therefore unsurprising that agriculture and water resource management are key development priorities for the Government of Bihar.

Our approach

ACT provides flexible and responsive technical assistance, including knowledge management, engagement and capacity building, to the State Government as well as to other relevant stakeholders, such as civil society. Specific technical and policy areas have been identified as priorities for building climate resilience. These coincide with the State Government’s development objectives, and will support three work streams.

Climate-smart water management

The first work stream supports better planning and managing of water resources (also called climate-smart water management). Based on a clear understanding of potential climate-related impacts on surface and groundwater resources in the State, this work stream provides inputs to the State Water Strategy, the Agriculture Road Map and the design of the State Water Mission. It also assists the State in carrying forward such planning and management through raising awareness and capacity-building activities, and by creating a range of knowledge products for Government and other key stakeholders in the State.

A key issue raised by government is the accumulation of silt in the Kosi river that flows into northern Bihar from Nepal. Accumulated silt raises the river bed and increases the inundation zone of future flooding events. ACT is supporting a scoping study to identify opportunities and demand for excavated silt.

Climate-resilient agriculture

The second work stream seeks to build climate resilience in agriculture. A review of national and international best practice in climate-resilient agriculture was carried out. This review included the work of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research on National Innovations on Climate Resilient Agriculture ( , an initiative that has identified crop-specific and district-level contingency plans for every district in the State. This work stream provides inputs for the Agriculture Road Map. It will also identify multi-stakeholder institutional mechanisms to put climate-resilient agriculture initiatives into action at local levels. It will look for ways to pilot these mechanisms through an existing government or donor-assisted project and carry forward such activities in future.

Climate proofing value chains

The third work stream focuses on climate proofing value chains of crops and fish products. An analysis of different nodes and characteristics of the value chains from producer to final consumer, for both crops and fisheries, seeks to identify potential interventions that could make the livelihoods of small and marginal primary producers less vulnerable to climate change-induced uncertainties. This work stream aims to pilot these interventions, using government-led multi-stakeholder initiatives in select value chains, through existing government projects.

Partnership building

ACT partners with the decision makers in the State, supporting them as they put into practice in their organisations all that they are learning. Key stakeholders include: the departments of agriculture and water resources (from the secretaries down to the sub-district level functionaries who interact with the local communities); research and training institutions such as Krishi Vigyan Kendra and the Bihar Agricultural Management and Extension Training Institute; and local communities and their organisations (e.g. self-help groups).

Although there is strong interest in reducing the adverse impacts of climate change on agriculture and water resource sectors, little is known about specific and effective actions and institutional mechanisms that can do just that.

The main indirect beneficiaries of this initiative are small and marginal farmers and the landless, whose livelihoods are likely to be adversely impacted by increasing climatic variability and its implications for agriculture and water resources.

Pankaj Kumar, Team Leader
ACT Bihar
T: +91 95 7643 0298
[1] Flood damage to humans, crops and livestock during the period 2001–2011 amounted to INR 8,228 crores (around USD 1.265 billion or GBP 822 million), more than half of which was caused by two floods in 2004 and 2007 (India Water Portal).


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About the series

The ACT on location series focuses on ACT's work in nine locations across South Asia. Each leaflet synthesises the extensive work ACT has been carrying out to improve climate resilience and combat the effects of climate change in Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan and six Indian states: Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Maharashtra and Odisha.

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Identifying priorities for building climate resilience

Two-page leaflet outlining how ACT has been identifying priorities for building climate resilience in Bihar.

Date of publication: July 2016

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