A recent report by The Rockefeller Foundation and The/Nudge Institute has shed light on the significant impact of climate change on smallholder farmers in India, highlighting the urgent need for resilient solutions.
The report, titled ‘Smallholder Farmers and Climate Change – Voices from the Field,’ provides a detailed analysis of the challenges faced by smallholder farmers across six Indian states – Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Haryana, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh. It reveals that 70% of these farmers have experienced a loss of 50% or more of their crops in the past three years due to climate-related issues.
The study identifies variability in rainfall and the rise of pests and diseases as the top challenges for these farmers. It notes that 74% of smallholder farmers have seen an increase in pests and diseases, and 77% have reported an increase in weeds. As a result, pesticides and chemical fertilizers have more than doubled for 76% and 54% of small farmers, respectively.
Despite these challenges, the report also highlights the resilience of these farmers. Over 60% of smallholder farmers know and are already implementing crop rotation and farm manure to improve soil health. Additionally, three out of five smallholder farmers actively seek and utilize weather information to plan their farming activities.
The report also notes that advances in farming technology have led to farmers spending less time on farming. For instance, 55% of women are doing less physically demanding weeding work due to weedicides, and men are spending less time due to using tractors. This has allowed them to engage in other income-generating activities such as dairy farming and wage labor.
Ashish Karamchandani, President of The/Nudge Institute, emphasized the importance of supporting smallholder farmers. “Climate change, coupled with limited access to opportunities, is threatening their livelihoods,” he said. “We are working towards innovative solutions and scaling up our efforts to ensure that small farmers have access to the resources, knowledge, and tools they need to thrive.”
The Rockefeller Foundation plans to use the insights from the report to test and scale regenerative and nourishing food systems in India. It also aims to strengthen its efforts towards developing evidence on the actual costs of food systems while elevating the experiences of smallholder farmers to policymakers and leaders at essential farming, business, and science-based organizations.
Deepali Khanna, Vice President of the Asia Regional Office at The Rockefeller Foundation, said, “The findings of this report are a call to create new avenues to support smallholder farmers in India. By illuminating their climate-related challenges, we can develop targeted solutions and interventions that enable them to adapt and thrive.”
The report is expected to help prototype, propagate, and proliferate solutions for smallholder farmers, often overlooked by formal sector and Agri-tech companies. The ultimate goal is to build resilient and sustainable food systems that support the livelihoods of millions.