Building resilience to climate change
In ecologically fragile and rain-fed regions of India, climate variability is adversely affecting agriculture, livelihoods and the quality of life of agrarian communities, especially the poor and disadvantaged. Land degradation, local climatic variations and frequent droughts, combined with unsustainable resource exploitation, have led to severe depletion of land, water and biomass resources.
All these factors significantly reduce the availability of water, food, fodder, cooking fuel and fibres for household consumption and economic production. Women bear the brunt of these problems. They have to walk long distances to get firewood, water for the household and fodder for livestock and put in long hours of back-breaking work, often in harsh conditions, to put food on the table.
This Swiss Re Foundation-funded project aimed to strengthen the capacities of rural communities in drought-prone and rain-fed regions of Maharashtra, India, by building the capacities of local vulnerable groups and communities to cope with and adapt to some impacts of climate change and climate variability. It sought to do so by regenerating ecosystems, diversifying livelihoods and adopting new agricultural and renewable energy technologies.
The project had four components:
- Raising awareness: An intensive awareness-raising campaign at the village level sensitised inhabitants to the effects, impacts and consequences of climate variability and discussed measures that could help them adapt to and mitigate risks and adverse impacts.
- Soil and water conservation measures: Communities were organised to sustainably manage the ecosystems they live in as a means of reducing risks, mitigating extreme weather events, increasing productivity, improving quality of life and stabilising and enhancing livelihoods.
- Promoting food security through sustainable agriculture: To promote low external inputs, increase land productivity, use indigenous seeds and reduce the cost of cultivation, the project promoted agricultural demonstration plots and vermi-compost pits and trained farmers in better practices of transplantation, crop geometry (spaced planting), soil and manure preparation, tillage operations, seed treatment and sowing. These measures, combined with agro-meteorology monitoring and water budgeting, were designed to make agriculture not only sustainable but also efficient and adaptive.
- Gender and women’s empowerment: Community members were organised in solidarity groups to enhance one another’s capabilities and provide space for their active participation in decision-making processes, village institutions and project activities.