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Climate smart farmers get tech savvy to

save India's bread basket


2 OF 2. Labourers work in a paddy field in Birnaraya village in Karnal district in Haryana September ! "#$%
1 OF 2. Harpreet Singh! &'! a farmer! measures nitrogen level using a device called (reenseeker in his paddy field in Birnaraya village in
Karnal district in Haryana September ! "#$%
BY NITA BHALLA-Tue Sep 16, 2014
K)*+)L ,-homson *euters .oundation/ 0 1rratic weather! rising temperatures!
declining water resources and labour shortages are threatening India's bread basket
state of Haryana! forcing farmers to abandon age0old practices and adopt technology
to ensure food supplies for millions%
2sing machines which sow rice directly! devices to inform when to irrigate and phone
messages warning of infestations! thousands of farmers are learning to adapt to
climate change! boost soil fertility and reduce their carbon emissions%
3)t first! many farmers were unsure% It's a big risk to change the way you have farmed
for decades and try new things% )griculture in these parts is not 4ust a livelihood! it's a
way of life!3 said Harpreet Singh! &'! a farmer in the village of Birnaraya! #&" km ,5"
miles/ north of 6elhi%
3But over the last four years! through these technologies! we have learnt to save water
and fertilisers! cut our costs for hired labour! improved the resilience of our crops and
also reduced pollution by not burning crop residues%3
Singh is from one of #!""" farming households across 7 villages in Haryana's Karnal
district working with scientists from the Consultative (roup on International
)gricultural *esearch ,C(I)*/ to pilot climate smart techni8ues aimed at sustaining
one of the country's most fertile belts%
S)9I+( I+6I)'S B*1)6 B)SK1-
Since India's so0called 3(reen *evolution3 0 a massive government programme rolled
out in the #:'"s and #:7"s which increased the use of fertilisers and irrigation to boost
farm output 0 Haryana's rice production has soared to almost $ million tonnes in
"#&;#$ compared to &&$!""" tonnes in #:'';'7%
But while the (reen *evolution may be credited with ending famine across the
country! it has come at a cost and! coupled with more unpredictable weather attributed
to global warming! India's food security is once again at risk%
)lmost half a century on! farmers face environmental problems such as depleted
groundwater because of intensive pumping for irrigation! soil degradation and soil
salinity%
3*esources are depleting% (roundwater levels are falling! there is emerging climate
variability! the soil health is worsening! and profitability is going down!3 said <%L% =at!
an agronomist with the International <ai>e and ?heat Improvement Centre
,CI<<@-/%
-he Indo0(angetic Alains 0 which include the rice and wheat states of Haryana and
Aun4ab 0 are particularly vulnerable to climate change! say eBperts from the 2%+%
Intergovernmental Aanel on Climate Change ,IACC/%
Scientists predict average temperatures here to increase by as much as five degrees
Celsius by "5"! seriously affecting wheat crops% )n )pril study by the Indian
)gricultural *esearch Institute pro4ects climate change may reduce India's wheat yield
by between ' to & percent by "C"%
*ice will also be hit due to unpredictable rainfall% Indian officials say the water table
has fallen between one and #& metres in different parts of Karnal over the last two
decades%
-he region! which is heavily dependent on migrant labour from poorer states! is also
facing shortages due to a government scheme to employ more people in construction
near their homes%
3H)AA@ S1161*S3
In response to these challenges! agricultural groups are introducing Karnal's farmers
to a host of climate smart technologies%
-hese include techni8ues such as direct seeding which involves sowing seeds by
machines rather than transplanting manually! which reduces labour and water%
Dther new technology includes La>er Levellers 0 tractor0towed! laser0controlled
devices 0 that produce a flat surface for cultivation! re8uiring C to &" percent less
water%
.armers are being introduced to tools such as 3Happy Seeders3 which can be attached
to the back of tractors% -hese remove crop residues! blending them into the soil!
preventing the practice of burning crop residues that has led to increased emissions
and depleted soil fertility%
3?e didn't know anything about these advanced technology machines before!3 said
<ano4 Kumar <un4al! $"! who farms a "0acre plot of land in -aorori village%
3?e have learnt about these machines and set up a cooperative where we all put in the
money together and bought machines and share them% +ow everyone is using it%3
.armers are also receive voice messages giving weather forecasts! informing of new
seed varieties and infestations%
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But these technologies do not come cheap% ) La>er Leveller! for eBample! costs more
than F'!"""%
In villages such as <un4al's! farmers have clubbed together to buy new machinery!
while in others! one farmer invests in the hardware and rents it out to others%
C(I)* said a similar pro4ect is underway in the eastern state of Bihar using lower cost
techni8ues on smaller plots%
Dn his sprawling :"0acre farm! Harpreet Singh crouched down amongst his rice paddy
stalks and checked his tensiometer! a device planted in the ground to measure
moisture content%
Singh said over the last four years! his income has increased by #C percent due to
savings made on electricity for irrigation! diesel for residue burning! labour and
fertilisers% But it is the saving on water which satisfies him the most%
36ay by day! the ground water levels are going down and down% If we continue like
this! its only a matter of time before we don't have water to drink! let alone to farm!3 he
said%
,1diting by *os *ussellG Alease credit -homson *euters .oundation! the charitable
arm of -homson *euters! that covers humanitarian news! womenHs rights! corruption
and climate change% 9isit www%trust%org/
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