Climate Information for Risk Management in Agriculture: India Case Study

by | April 18, 2012
Category: Climate Policy

On Monday, April 16 I had the opportunity to share some exciting project work with graduate students in Columbia University’s MA Program in Climate and Society. As a guest lecturer in the Regional Climate and Climate Impacts course, I presented “Climate Information for Risk Management in Agriculture: A Case Study in India”. The material drew upon work conducted as part of the Extended Range Forecast System for Climate Risk Management in Agriculture in India (ERFS). Funded by the Government of India’s Ministry of Agriculture, ERFS addresses critical challenges for Indian farmers facing climate-related risks. Dr. Shiv Someshwar (CGSD/IRI) is the lead PI from the Earth Institute for the project.

In India, over 60% of agricultural land is rainfed, which means that the majority of India’s 100 million farming households depend on the summer monsoon to water their crops from June through September. A failed monsoon can lead to not only crippling impacts at the farm and community level, but also a drop in national GDP as the national government spends massive sums on social safety net outlays and drought relief for farmers. Advance information about the likely character of the upcoming monsoon season could be exceedingly valuable to farmers, planners and private sector agricultural input providers as they seek to proactively manage these climate risks.

The ERFS project aims to meet these needs by improving monsoon forecasts and working to ensure that this climate information is actually linked to decision making and planning. In the course of the project, a number of us from the Earth Institute, including Amor Ines, Andy Robertson, Shiv Someshwar and myself, helped develop a suite of tools to make these connections, including a robust risk matrix and decision model to capture costs, benefits and institutional requirements necessary to implement risk management strategies at different crop stages (see figure). Developed in collaboration with farmers and our partners in government agencies and Indian universities, these tools help bridge the critical gap between climate research and action.

As I presented these project activities to the students, their perceptive, probing questions revealed not only that they were actually awake (whew!), but that they really got it. They understood the challenges and opportunities in translating climate information and planning into practice…in strengthening science and policy to achieve impact. These efforts align perfectly with the CGSD approach and provide a foundation for further climate risk and agriculture work with government agencies, researchers and farmers.

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