Climate crisis at root of Indian farmers’ protests | News | Eco-business

Indian farmers protest against the three original laws passed As an ordinance What began as sporadic protests in August 2020 have evolved into one of the largest peaceful civil society protests in the world.

Despite 11 rounds of consultations and the setting up of a committee by the Supreme Court; There seems to be little hope of a solution When the issue is perceived as a zero-sum game of implementing or repealing the law.

The political crisis hides the core issues of India’s agrarian crisis: low agricultural productivity, high debt, inappropriate cropping patterns and perverse incentives.

These laws focus solely on contract farming (where farmers enter into contracts directly with buyers without going through licensed traders), deregulating agricultural markets to reduce state control, and storage of grain.

These policies focus on controlling output despite the problems of rising input costs and income stability. Removing these policies will not solve these problems because the status quo is unsustainable.

Water is everything

What percentage of people work in the agriculture sector in India? In 2011, it was 54.6 percent.According to the government (although Some controversy About numbers.

52% of these people have no access to irrigation and rely on rain-fed agriculture. Government estimates.

of Rainfed Atlas A report by the Rainfed Agriculture Renewal Network, a coalition of 600 civil society organisations, researchers and individuals across India, puts the figure slightly higher at 55 per cent.

In other words, at least a quarter of India’s working population is totally dependent on rainfall.

These are the people most affected by climate change: as global temperatures rise, rainfall is becoming more erratic, with longer periods of dryness (droughts) and shorter periods of more intense rainfall (floods).

Not only does this have a direct impact on productivity, but studies have shown that rising carbon dioxide levels Nutritional value of crops.

These changes will have devastating effects for people who rely on rain-fed agriculture, but also for those who have irrigation: Unpredictable rainfall patterns mean shorter growing windows for crops, reducing yields in the long term.

To compensate, farmers use more fertilizer and water, degrading soil quality, lowering water tables, and spending much more to produce the same amount (or less) of crop on the same area.

Pesticide use is also on the riseNot only to save on the small amount of crops grown, but also because pest populations fluctuate with weather patterns.

In January 2019, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare announced that wheat production A 6-23% decrease by 2050 This is due to the effects of climate change.

Uncertainty everywhere

The uncertainty for Indian farmers is not just how much they will be able to produce, but also to whom they will sell it and for how much.

(In India, farmers are often referred to as he/him. 73.2% of rural women workers are engaged in agricultureOnly 12.8% own land, limiting their ability to sell their agricultural produce as “their own.”

So far, the government has 23 Crops It is paid every crop season and state-run agricultural markets are required to pay it.

Though these markets only purchase about one-third of the production, the MSP serves as a benchmark against which private operators can negotiate prices.

Though the three new laws do not discuss MSP, there are fears that contract farming and reduced purchases in regulated markets and increased purchases in the open market will largely negate the use of MSP as a benchmark price, significantly reducing farmers’ bargaining power.

Climate change is causing production imbalances that are already affecting prices: Domestic and international production depends on weather patterns, so farmers don’t know whether crops they planted months in advance will arrive on the market at a time of shortage or surplus.

Since the majority of farmers are unable to store their harvest, bargaining power lies with those who can, mainly middlemen and other buyers.

One of the new laws allows for more grain storage than before, further shifting economic power from farmers to buyers, especially large corporations.

Implementation of MSP is also part of the problem, which has not been addressed in the law and the opposition is seeking legal guarantees.

The largest proportion of crops purchased by the government are rice (43.26%), wheat (36.24%) and cotton (29.51%).

This government purchasing pattern encourages the cultivation of these crops across the country, even in areas that are not suitable for them. All of these are water-intensive crops. This has led to Indian states providing free electricity to agriculture, which only benefits farmers with irrigation facilities, further depleting groundwater levels.

Creating an MSP system that encourages climate-appropriate crops will likely require a state-led process, or one in which states and the central government find ways to work together.

Recently passed laws do not address this issue. These laws are national laws that cannot function with this level of precision. Agriculture and water, in particular, are issues that are prioritised by state legislatures, not the centre. Worse, these laws may compound the problem.

As large agricultural companies start procuring agricultural products, they are likely to lobby for similar policies such as free electricity as they want to keep their input costs as low as possible.

Agriculture requires careful attention to water

One issue that is often overlooked is that India’s agriculture sector is currently Consumes 84% ​​of the country’s water resourcesStill, agricultural productivity levels are much lower than those in the United States and China.

As climate change makes water availability more uncertain, countries must conduct water accounting in a way that ensures they are making optimal use of this precious resource.

This requires, first and foremost, understanding the needs of smallholder farmers – both men and women – who make up the largest proportion of the labour force on Indian farms and who have the least economic, social and political leverage to make a difference politically.

The Ministry of Water Resources: This approach This has been the thinking for some time, but the new law and the debate surrounding it do not reflect this thinking.

The climate crisis is driving up input costs and making farming no longer profitable for far too many farmers.

The ongoing protests provide an opportunity to take a holistic look at the issues affecting agriculture in India. While the protests relate to specific laws that affect the pricing of their produce, the underlying issues (mainly input costs and income insecurity) are not going to go away and will become more acute as the climate crisis worsens.

This story begins: Third Pole.

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