Farm challenges

The relationship between climate and agriculture is closely interconnected with worldwide processes. Even a minor alteration in climate can have detrimental impacts on agricultural productivity and the production of agricultural goods.

Farm challenges

Representation image (Photo: iStock)

The relationship between climate and agriculture is closely interconnected with worldwide processes. Even a minor alteration in climate can have detrimental impacts on agricultural productivity and the production of agricultural goods. While the contribution of agriculture to India’s economy has been decreasing over time, approximately 75 per cent of India’s population relies on rural incomes. Furthermore, India’s ability to ensure adequate food supply depends on the cultivation of cereal crops and the enhanced yield of fruits, vegetables, and milk to satisfy the needs of an expanding population with increasing incomes. Nevertheless, the Indian agricultural sector encounters difficulties due to severe weather phenomena such as floods, droughts, heatwaves, and others, which have severely impacted overall productivity.

Therefore, it is crucial to enact policies that focus on enhancing overall agricultural productivity, expanding diversification, and encouraging sustainable agricultural practices. India’s agriculture sector encounters a multitude of challenges. The adverse consequences of climate change include the occurrence of extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, heatwaves, and coastal inundation. These events have resulted in a decrease in crop yield, reduced productivity in livestock, and have caused millions of people to fall into a cycle of poverty and food insecurity. In India, a rise in temperature of 1.5° C and a decrease in precipitation of 2 mm result in a reduction in rice yield ranging from 3 to 15 per cent. Soil fertility is reduced due to the excessive use of fertilisers and chemicals, which leads to soil degradation and erosion. Consequently, the soil becomes more vulnerable to pests and diseases.

The overall productivity has stagnated as a result of insufficient nutrients in the soil. In addition, the implementation of inappropriate land use practices and the burning of crop residues during harvest season have contributed to soil erosion, resulting in significant and lasting impacts on agricultural productivity and sustainability. In India, the lack of adequate agricultural infrastructure, such as storage facilities, pack houses, and efficient supply chains, contributes to higher post-harvest losses. Moreover, the absence of fundamental infrastructure such as road and rail connectivity impedes the farmers’ access to markets and contributes to increased production expenses. The Indian agricultural sector continues to rely on primitive agri-technologies for the production of agricultural goods. The limited availability of modern technologies hampers the ability to widely adopt innovative agricultural practices.


In numerous rural regions, the absence of banking institutions and financial establishments poses challenges for farmers in securing loans and credit facilities. Furthermore, the combination of exorbitant interest rates and restricted availability of formal credit impede the productivity of farmers. This, in turn, prevents them from embracing contemporary farming methods, effectively managing market risks, and promoting sustainable agricultural practices. In the Indian context, landholdings are fragmented, meaning that the average size of land owned by individuals is relatively small. This poses challenges in adopting modern farming techniques and achieving economies of scale. Insufficient mechanisation is evident in the agricultural sector, where traditional methods and tools such as sickles and wooden ploughs are still predominantly utilised. There is a need to transition from traditional approaches to contemporary methodologies in order to enhance production on a large scale.

Inadequate agricultural marketing infrastructure results in farmers being dependent on local traders and intermediaries to sell their produce, often at prices that do not reflect true value. As per the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, if adaptation measures are not adopted, rainfed rice yields in India are estimated to decrease by 20 per cent in 2050 and 47 per cent in 2080 scenarios. Similarly, irrigated rice yields are projected to decrease by 3.5 per cent in 2050 and 5 per cent in 2080 scenarios. Climate change diminishes crop yields and decreases the nutritional quality of produce. Moreover, the occurrence of severe events such as droughts and flash floods has a detrimental effect on the consumption of food and nutrients, thereby exacerbating the overall impact on the welfare of farmers.

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (2020) report says India still struggles to feed its undernourished population despite producing an estimated 314 million metric tonnes of food in 2021-22, which falls short of achieving food security and meeting the Global Goals for Adaptation. In order to satisfy the increasing need for food due to a growing population and higher income levels, India will have to almost double its food production by the year 2050. In order to surmount these ever-changing obstacles, the Government of India has devised strategies to enhance the adaptability of agriculture to climate change. The National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) is a component of the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC).

Its objective is to develop and execute strategies to enhance the adaptability of agriculture to the impacts of climate change. It is imperative to prioritise the development of adaptation strategies that specifically target climate-resilient agricultural practices. These practices should focus on enhancing agricultural productivity to meet global and food security objectives, enhancing the resilience and adaptability of agricultural systems to climate change, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate risks. India must adopt a multidimensional approach to address challenges related to climate change by implementing a diverse set of adaptation strategies, in addition to adopting climateresilient practices. Technologies for Adaptation refer to the utilisation of technology to decrease susceptibility or improve the ability to withstand the effects of climate change. In the field of agriculture, technologies for adaptation refer to the process of identifying and evaluating agricultural practices and technologies that improve overall productivity, food security, and resilience in specific agro-ecological zones and farming systems.

Multi-stakeholder engagement and collaboration are crucial for improving the effectiveness of policies and facilitating the widespread adoption of agricultural adaptation technologies. Cooperation and collaboration among various stakeholders at different levels are necessary for the smooth dissemination of these technologies. Capacity building is crucial for the government to improve its ability to adapt to and address the negative impacts of climate change in any policy. As per the OECD, it is crucial to enhance absorptive capacity, which refers to a system’s capability to effectively handle immediate climate-related consequences. This encompasses strategies like implementing early warning systems to assist farmers in adapting their practices and establishing crop insurance schemes to provide compensation for any incurred losses. Infrastructure capacity development is crucial for enhancing overall productivity, and it is imperative that the infrastructure is designed to be climate resilient.

The government should implement policies aimed at constructing and enhancing current storage facilities in order to mitigate post-harvest losses. Simultaneously, it is crucial to establish basic infrastructure such as road and rail connectivity to enhance farmers’ access to markets, thereby facilitating the connection between farmers and consumers. Soil management is crucial for agriculture to cope with climate change, improve soil durability, and support sustainable farming methods. The government should enforce diverse soil management techniques to achieve these goals. Cover crops are cultivated specifically to provide soil coverage during periods of inactivity, effectively mitigating soil erosion. Furthermore, implementing crop rotation in a methodical manner can enhance the equilibrium of soil nutrients and decrease the need for fertilisers and chemicals, thus augmenting the content of organic matter in the soil and improving its overall health. Water management is crucial in conjunction with agricultural policies and investments to ensure the development of climate-resilient agriculture production systems.

Utilising a blend of regulatory, economic, and collective strategies is necessary to effectively address groundwater sustainability. This is crucial because aquifers are the largest water reservoirs worldwide and play a vital role in supporting irrigated agriculture in important production areas. Water policies encompass water allocation systems that can effectively manage water demand and supply in response to variations in precipitation. Policy formulation involves the development of strategies and guidelines to address adaptation principles at various levels, including local, regional, national, and international. These policies aim to ensure that the factors that contribute to successful adaptation are replicated across different scales. Past experiences with agricultural adaptation technologies have revealed specific requirements for effective policies and recommendations to facilitate the successful implementation of these technologies in adapting agriculture to climate change.

Financial inclusion is essential for addressing the substantial lack of funding for climate adaptation. To bridge this gap, it is crucial to gather financial resources from private sector investments. Inclusive financial systems play a vital role in directing finance to the most vulnerable individuals and last mile workers, including farmers. Establishing Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) can enable farmers to enhance productivity, allocate resources towards farm mechanisation, and take advantage of economies of scale. Moreover, agricultural-focused non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) and financial technology (Fintech) can assist farmers in fulfilling their extended credit requirements, thus promoting their income expansion. Although these strategies are in place, the benefits of adapting to climate change also contribute to mitigating its effects through various methods.

These benefits encompass enhanced energy efficiency, decreased urban energy and water usage resulting from greening and recycling initiatives, sustainable farming practices, and the preservation of ecosystems and their associated advantages. To effectively tackle the challenges in India’s agriculture sector, a comprehensive strategy is needed, encompassing technological advancements, optimal utilisation of resources, policy restructuring, and enhancing capabilities. India can bolster agricultural productivity and guarantee food security by implementing these adaptation strategies, thereby making a significant contribution to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.

(The writer, a development economist, is alumna of the London School of Economics)