Over 60% of marginal farmers suffer crop losses due to extreme weather, study reveals

Over 60 per cent of marginal farmers have faced significant crop losses due to extreme weather events in the past five years, with more than half reporting severe impacts such as yield loss, according to a study. The study also found that one out of five respondents stated they had not witnessed extreme weather events detrimental to cultivation in the last five years.

The Forum of Enterprises for Equitable Development (FEED), in collaboration with the Development Intelligence Unit (DIU), released the research report, titled “Impact of Climate Change on Marginal Farmers,” on Tuesday.

The study delves into the multifaceted impacts of climate change on marginal farmers, offering data-driven insights and practical recommendations for resilience-building, according to a statement by FEED. The survey, with a sample size of 6,615 in 20 States, shows that 40.9 per cent of farmers have experienced droughts, while 32.6 per cent have faced excessive rains, leading to significant crop losses.

These climatic disturbances have drastically reduced crop yields — 50 per cent of farmers experienced at least half their standing paddy crop loss, and 42 per cent reported similar losses for wheat. Such losses not only threaten food security but also exacerbate the economic instability of marginal farming households, the study said.

Pointing out that only 30 per cent of marginal farmers have access to crop insurance and 25 per cent received timely financial credit, it said that there is inadequacy in current adaptation strategies. “This highlights the need for improved access to financial credit, crop insurance, and advanced technological resources. It also emphasises the benefits of Direct Benefit Transfers (DBTs) and the importance of irrigation facilities in enhancing resilience against climate shocks,” the study said.

During a panel discussion on the occasion of the release of the study, experts discussed on the role of the private sector in supporting high-value agriculture and sustainable farming practices. There is a need for public-private partnership in fostering resilience among marginal farmers, experts said. Organisations like Heifer International and Syngenta India shared their initiatives, which have helped marginal farmers enhance their productivity and sustainability.

“Climate change is no longer a threat somewhere on the horizon. The unprecedented summer heat across India this year is a good validation of this crisis. Putting an adaptation strategy in place today is not an option, but a compulsion. We need to promote climate-resilient agricultural practices, diversify livelihoods, and improve access to financial services and technical advice,” said Sanjeev Chopra, chairman of FEED.

Further, it said rice, vegetables and pulses are significantly affected by the uneven rainfall distribution. Paddy fields in northern States can remain submerged for more than a week, destroying newly planted seedlings and forcing farmers to wait for waters to recede so they can replant. On the other hand, scant rainfall can delay the planting of paddy, corn, cotton, soybean, groundnut, and pulses in States like Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, and West Bengal.

Delays in planting after mid-July typically result in lower yields in much of India, the study said. For summer crops, delays in planting lead to delays in harvesting, ultimately resulting in the late sowing of winter crops such as wheat, rapeseed, and chickpeas. However, cold weather is crucial for winter crops and the high temperature in recent years during the maturity phase have resulted in yield losses, it said.

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