PAC study on Climate Change and its impact on the Agriculture sector

While dealing with climate change, mitigating emissions is important, as is developing along low-carbon pathways, but there is greater necessity to adapt to living in a warmer world. This requires bottom-up analysis to assess risks and vulnerability, plan adaptation, and make appropriate policy decisions. Local communities, who are the most affected, must play the primary role in accepting, and implementing, these measures.

This study, ‘Climate Adaptation and Resilience in South Asia’, is the collaborative effort of three think tanks in South Asia— Public Affairs Centre, India (PAC), Center for Science, Technology and Policy, India (CSTEP); and Institute for Social and Environmental Transition – Nepal (ISET – N). This study was carried out in Cauvery Delta (Kumbakonam taluk, Thanjavur district) by PAC in partnership with DHAN Foundation. This report focuses on the Climate Change Score Card — a tool that tries looks at the nexus between livelihoods – governance – and climate variations.

Public Affairs Centre (PAC) is ‘committed to good governance’ and has been working to imbibe the values and principles associated with good governance through the development and use of social accountability tools such as the Citizen Report Card. Over the last two decades PAC has envisioned good governance through the use of citizen-centred tool to improve accountability. In view of Public Affairs Centre (PAC), integrating the concerns of communities in an organic fashion through ‘Community Centred Governance’ is the best way to address many of the issues of climate change. As, we believe that local communities have a vast repository of knowledge and practical solutions to offer that can be localised in the daily lives. What is required is an instrument that allows them to consolidate all their knowledge, connect it with the vast nebula of regulations and laws that apply to their lives, and empower them to engage with the governance structure in a constructive and result- oriented manner.

In these times of changing climate PAC has developed Climate Change Score Cards (CCSC) – a social accountability tool – to answer the fundamental questions of ‘How can world’s citizens, who have a vital stake in identifying a global solution to the present climate crisis, become actors in the effort to resolve it?

CCSC considers three important dimensions; People, State, Climate. CCSC supports communities with evidence and rationale to prioritize issues and provides a platform for dialogue with relevant decision makers. The entire approach of assessing the vulnerability to climate change and formulating adaptation methods is founded principles of constructive engagement and to move research away from top-down, extractive information gathering towards participatory, bottom-up and inclusive knowledge generation. CCSC has been field tested in various regions, and has led to creation of policy dialogue platforms between communities and decision makers, which have been successful in incorporating people’s voices in policy spheres.

The book ‘Can Farmers Adapt to Climate Change?’, part of the study, ‘Climate Adaptation and Resilience in South Asia’, highlighted many significant issues related to the livelihood and associated resources [capitals] (Natural, Physical and Financial). Based on the study it can be concluded that Natural Capital [rainfall, temperature, groundwater and surface water, and soil characteristics] does not influence the cropping pattern and the intensity of agriculture that is followed in Cauvery delta. This is a matter of concern as agriculture livelihood in the delta is heavily dependent on groundwater. It was noted that the, depth of bore wells in the region have increased from 15 feet to greater than 120 feet in the past three decades. It can be safely mentioned that the current dependence on extraction of groundwater with increasing variations in rainfall and increasing temperature will render the delta highly vulnerable in the future.

Another major conclusion drawn from the study is that Governance Systems have very little or the least influence for carrying out agriculture in the delta. This is a matter of concern as Governance plays an important role in the lives and livelihoods of the people in terms of subsidies, policies, schemes and programs, rendering the communities vulnerable to varying climate and weather patterns.

The study also indicated that the though the delta has a unique and an ancient system of canals, the water does not reach many of the villages as the canals are in a near defunct condition due to encroachment, siltation, clogging due to waste and rampant mining of sand. In addition to the defunct condition of the canal system, the erratic rainfall has rendered the agricultural communities vulnerable to the changing climate.

The book ‘Can Farmers Adapt to Climate Change?’ is focused at livelihood experts, community mangers, think tanks, NGOs, and academicians who work to understand the impacts of climate variability and the government response. This can also be used by various levels of governments and international organisations to assess citizen perspectives in issues of climate change and its governance. This pioneering, citizen-centric study triangulates climate change, communities, and governance to understand how communities are coping with the issues of climate change.

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