Maharashtra is one of the most visible and extreme examples of the agrarian crisis facing India. Although agriculture contributes less than 13% of the State’s gross domestic product, it provides income for over half the population. Low agricultural productivity is directly related to high levels of poverty and food insecurity. Productivity is severely aﬀected by ﬂuctuations in rainfall and increasing temperatures, as well as unsuitable agricultural practices. For example, in 2015, the late, inadequate monsoon left 60% of villages in the State facing drought-like conditions and aﬀected nearly nine million farmers. Farmer suicides, attributed in part to drought in three of the last four years, have been covered extensively in the media. Solving the crisis facing farmers and the sector as a whole is, therefore, a political priority.
The underlying causes of the vulnerability of the agricultural sector are complicated. First, 80% of agricultural land is rain-fed, meaning that farmers are particularly vulnerable to changing weather patterns. Agricultural practices are often unsuited to current water availability (e.g. 80% of the water-intensive sugarcane crop is produced in drought-aﬀected areas where there is extreme exploitation of groundwater). The Agricultural Census 2010–11 showed that 79% of operational agricultural holdings belonged to marginal or smallholder farmers with land holdings of two hectares or less. The small size of holdings limits the capacity of individual farmers to adopt measures for climate prooﬁng. At the same time, Maharashtra is rapidly urbanising. The expanding power and industrial sectors both require large amounts of water resulting in growing tension in the allocation of water between sectors and areas. Changing patterns of land use and deforestation, which has been steadily rising since the 1990s, aggravate the situation.
Action on Climate Today (ACT) has developed strong, high-level relationships with the Government of Maharashtra. Programme activities are delivered in partnership with Government oﬃcials. An ACT technical expert hosted in the Department of Environment ensures strong ownership of all programme activities and provides day-to-day advice and support. The programme is a high priority for the Chief Secretary who, by re-establishing the Climate Change Steering Committee under his chairmanship, has demonstrated top-down leadership. ACT has forged strong links with the private sector and civil society and works to mobilise these two communities to support implementation of the State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC). The programme focuses on two major themes.
Climate-resilient agriculture and water
ACT focuses on ﬂagship Government programmes that aim to improve the livelihoods of vulnerable farmers. ACT screens the programmes for climate change risks, and identiﬁes and designs reforms to enhance their adaptation beneﬁts. Using a participatory process, ACT develops future scenarios for the agricultural sector to determine climate risks that threaten the achievement of the Government’s development priorities and to develop pathways for building a productive and resilient agricultural sector. In parallel, ACT promotes an integrated approach to agriculture, forestry and water. This involves studying the link between upstream forestry and water management – an issue of speciﬁc interest to the Government.
The ﬁndings of the study will support the Government in making decisions on aﬀorestation in Maharashtra’s diﬀerent agro-climatic zones. Finally, a value-chain approach to identifying appropriate climate-resilient crops and building incentives for their adoption will deliver a package of policy innovations and measures to encourage uptake by farmers.
Integrating climate change adaptation in planning and budgeting processes
ACT supports the Government in implementing the SAPCC by working with line departments on plans and budgets. The ﬁrst step is undertaking cost–beneﬁt analyses to prioritise actions. Subsequently, ACT will support line departments in mainstreaming priority actions in ongoing programmes and new initiatives, such as the planned State Action Plan on Water under the National Water Mission. ACT will support the Government in making connections with business stakeholders to facilitate implementation of the State Action Plan and in developing proposals to secure additional national and international climate funds. Working with the Government in this way, ACT helps to establish and strengthen institutional mechanisms for planning, coordinating and implementing action on adaptation.
ACT delivers its programme in partnership with the Department of Environment, the nodal department for SAPCC. Technical support for mainstreaming climate change in priorities and programmes focuses on key line departments, particularly Forests, Agriculture and Water. The Finance Department is a key partner in improving budgeting and planning processes for adaptation, as well as in accessing additional ﬁnance. Maharashtra has an extensive network of highly skilled individuals and organisations with expertise in climate change and with the capacity to add signiﬁcant value to the Government’s eﬀorts. ACT partners with them, involving some in delivering the programme (e.g. Watershed Organisation Trust and Forum for the Future), while others leverage additional resources (e.g. National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development). ACT works with other partners to access key decision-makers (e.g. Global Learning and Observations to Beneﬁt the Environment, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Oﬃce regional oﬃce), and speciﬁcally targets other actors, particularly in the private sector, to partner with the Government (e.g. Confederation of Indian Industry, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Bombay Chamber of Commerce and Industry).
Naman Gupta, Team Leader
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