In India, Farmers Adapt to Climate Change

Richie Ahuja

Farming in Kandukurlapalli village

Image by C. Mitchell/EDF

Farmers in the small village of Kandukurlapalli, in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, recently finished the groundnut harvest. It was a bad one, they say. The red soil of their fields was dry and the plants were stunted, with shriveled, spotted leaves – victims of a rainy season in which little rain fell. In fact, the famers say, it has been years since they’ve had the kind of rains they once relied on.

The farmers in Kandukurlapalli believe that climate change is making their growing season drier and hotter, and they are doing what they can to adapt. In fact, the farmers still have a potential for income this year because they are growing other crops that may fare better with reduced rainfall –plants like red gram, castor and cow pea. 

This is just one example of the work EDF and its partners are doing in India, where some 700 million people still live in small rural villages. In Kandukurlapalli, for example, we’re helping a group of 30 farmers to implement sustainable, low-carbon farming practices.

In Kandukurlapalli, the farmers are working with SEDS, a non-governmental organization, which is itself part of a broader movement called the Fair Climate Network. We, in turn, are working with SEDS and other members of the network to understand and improve agricultural practices throughout  India. We are helping to implement projects that have the potential to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, decrease production costs and maintain or increase yields – a triple win.

Gathering crop data from the field

Image by C. Mitchell/EDF

We’re doing this by working at the grassroots, helping communities on projects that range from building biogas digesters (so families can have clean, efficient fuel for cooking and light), to teaching farmers how to grow their food using less water and fertilizer, to developing local sources of solar power. The potential for this kind of work to mitigate climate change, while supporting development and food security, is enormous.

In Kandukurlapalli, for example, farmers are not only harvesting multiple crops, but their expenses have decreased because they’ve been making their own organic fertilizer instead of purchasing chemical fertilizers and pesticides. They are also keeping detailed records of everything from tilling, seeds used, weeding, fertilizer application and yield. This data allows them to track, and improve, their own performance, and can also help assess the emission reductions that result from their change in practices.

In the months to come, we’ll bring you more stories about the people, places and projects we’re working with in India, where many millions of farmers are adapting on the fly to a rapidly changing environment.

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