Value chains for Climate Resilient Agriculture: Building farms of the future

  • Droughts and excessive rains: While some farmers have their crops destroyed due to excessive rain and waterlogged farms, just a few 100 kms away another farmer’s land is barren because of no rainfall and saline underground water.
  • Reducing soil fertility: Excessive use of chemicals has led to decreased soil fertility. Farmers are being forced to rely more and more on fertilisers to get good yield while the fertilisers are getting costlier due to increased demand.
  • Increased pest & disease attacks: As climate become more and more favourable to certain disease and pests, while the natural ecosystems disappear due to use of pesticides, pest and disease attacks are increasing both in intensity of damage and frequency of occurrence.
  • Low market prices: In Rabi 2021–22, 48.7% of total cultivated land in India will be sown with wheat as per Govt. records. Such practices has led to excess supply of a handful of commodities in the market and hence poor rates.
  • Increasing debt: With an average landholding of just 1.08 hectares, most of Indian farmers have extremely low agriculture incomes. Due to this many farmers have to take debt every season to cultivate their land and are just a single bad season away from losing their land.
  • Sustainable practices take time: Most of the sustainable practices and agriculture systems do not yield instantaneous results. In fact, a general trend is that it takes 2–3 years for a farm to achieve economic efficiency. Generally, . With already low incomes and debt at hand, most farmers are not in a position to survive for 2–3 years with this reduced income.
  • Everything comes at a price: While it may be called Zero Budget Natural Farming, it involves huge investments and so do most other sustainable practices. Since this cost doesn’t yield any direct returns in short time, for a farmer living on debt, it is an investment that doesn’t make sense.
  • Lack of linkages: Every form of diversification requires new linkages. Due to dependency on local traders for inputs, debt and market linkages it is tough for a small or marginal farmer to diversify to new crops and practices.
  • Risk of unknown: Diversification of practices and crops requires proper knowledge of the same. Without a proper knowledge and support system the risks involved are pretty high, hence adding to a farmer’s inertia.

A new approach: Value chains for climate resilience

  • Inherent RoI: Value chains which inherently have better returns on investment as compared to traditional value chains like rice and wheat.
  • Low risk: The inherent climate risk associated with the value chain shall be low so that the value chain contributes to climate resilience of the farm.
  • Sustainable cultivation: It should be possible to take good yield from the underlying crop/livestock without excess use of chemicals and other unsustainable practices.
  • Market demand & linkages: There shall be enough demand and corresponding linkages in the market that the farmer can be confident of being able to sell and fetch a good price for his produce.
  • Input linkages: Accessibility to quality inputs at low cost.
  • Knowledge & Support: A reliable support system that would help a farmer at each and every step to achieve the maximum efficiency possible.
  • Enhanced resilience: If the value chains involved crops & livestock which are inherently at lower risk with changing climate then it ensures improved resilience of the farm.
  • Improved sustainability: Being able to get good yield without relying on excessive use of chemicals will improve long term sustainability of the farm.
  • Improved incomes: Since the value chain inherently involves better RoI, the farmer would earn more income while still reducing risk and improving sustainability of his farm.

Some examples

Arid zone medicinal herbs

  • Improved income: Typically 3–4 benefit to cost ratio while the same for rice and wheat tend to be around 1.5–1.8.
  • Resilience: Resilient to drought, diseases & pests.
  • Sustainability: Requires less water, fertilisers and pesticides. Acts as a good starting point to switch to sustainable agriculture while the farm returns to efficiency in 2–3 years.
  • Indirect ecological impact: Contributes in preserving forests by reducing stress on them for harvesting of these herbs.

Mushrooms

  • Improved income: Typically 2.5–3 benefit to cost ratio with extremely efficient use of land.
  • Resilience: Being protected cultivation, resilient to most environmental conditions.
  • Sustainability: Requires less water and chemicals. Grows primarily on farm & associated industrial waste.
  • Indirect ecological impact: Can be used to prevent burning of straw or other unsustainable ways of decomposing waste.

Vermicompost

  • Improved income: Typically 3–5 benefit to cost ratio with efficient use of land and small investment when produced for commercial purpose. Additionally the cost of production is reduced when consumed at farm level.
  • Resilience: Organic fertiliser hence produced improves the fertility of the soil, increases bio-diversity and enhances water retention capacity of the soil. Making the farm more resilient in longer run.
  • Sustainability: Locally produced organic fertiliser drastically reduces use of chemicals on farm.
  • Indirect ecological impact: Reduced Greenhouse gas emission that would have happened if the waste used for vermicompost were to be decomposed by micro-organisms.

Bamboo

  • Improved income: Typically 2.5–3 benefit to cost ratio with a single harvest. Additional harvests are possible every few years. Apart from the logs, bamboo leaves & shoots can also be used for various purposes.
  • Resilience: Bamboo is a hardy grass and can sustain almost all kinds of environmental conditions once established.
  • Sustainability: Bamboo do not require any additional fertilisers or water once established. Bamboo leaves can be used as fodder or mulch or can be decomposed to make fertiliser.
  • Indirect ecological impact: Bamboo is a versatile crop that can be a good alternative to wood preventing deforestation, can be used to produce bio-fuel and has many other uses like making clothes, shoes utensils etc.
Our vision of a farm of the future is an integrated model where a farmer uses multiple value chains to achieve climate resilience.

--

--

--

Helping the next 10 million sustainable farmers achieve sustainability.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Satellite Remote Sensing’s role in Biodiversity Conservation

New study looks at covering California’s canals with solar panels

60 Packs Pre Rolled Gold Plastic Cutlery Set, Disposable Gold Plastic Silverware, Pre Rolled Napkin…

Fridays for Future Activists Fight Oppression of Indigenous People in Europe & Arctic

Valencia Gunder: ‘Boots on the ground’ at the front lines of climate change, poverty and disaster

The Roadmap to Decarbonization Won’t Go Far Without Land

California’s Addiction to Oil and Gas Is Poisoning Black People

How are Mice Getting into My Home?

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Vardan Aggarwal

Vardan Aggarwal

Helping the next 10 million sustainable farmers achieve sustainability.

More from Medium

What’s the Role of Public Equity Investing in Driving Systemic Change?

Book Review: A doom-free take on climate change is exactly what we need

Ethical Investing and Why it Matters

A small green plant growing out of a mason jar will with coins

Why climate change is not about environment vs. economy