Category: Agriculture

India farmers’ protests: will the new farm laws address climate vulnerabilities in the agricultural sector?

India farmers’ protests: will the new farm laws address climate vulnerabilities in the agricultural sector?

By Uma Pal

In November 2020, more than 200 farm unions from 22 states across India organised a nationwide protest against the new farm laws introduced by the Indian government. Over the past few months, thousands of farmers have taken to the streets, battling the cold, water cannons and tear gas to demand amendments in the new laws for better income security, market regulation and protection from being exploited by large corporations. The protest, which started in the northern, agricultural states of Punjab and Haryana, has ever since become heavily political, with massive push back by the current government and support from some opposition parties, and gaining traction in the international community. As a result, the Supreme Court of India has put the three new farm laws on hold and asked for a committee to be constituted to resolve the impasse.

The focus of the protests surrounds three farm laws enacted by the Government of India in September 2020, which collectively intend to facilitate barrier-free trade of agricultural produce outside notified markets under the state-controlled Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) laws. They also introduce a framework for contract farming and regulate supply mechanisms for certain crops such as cereals, pulses, potatoes, and onions only under extraordinary circumstances such as famine, price rise and war[1].

Explainer: Why are the farmers protesting? Prior to the introduction of the farm laws, APMCs were controlled under state laws, with states levying taxes and fees from buyers. While the new Act proposes that anyone can buy produce directly from farmers, based on certain conditions, farmers fear that by doing away with APMC, regulated market prices might subject them to market exploitation. The new laws have not envisioned an alternative market system that can set price signals. The other main concern that farmers have is regarding the laws doing away with the federally fixed Minimum Support Price (MSP), a safety net that guarantees farmers prices and assured markets. While the government has made provisions for MSP for 23 crops, only wheat and rice are bought by the government in large quantities under the Public Distribution System (PDS), mainly due to lack of procurement capacity[2]. This has raised concerns regarding MSP limiting crop diversification. MSPs are also variable across states, causing wide variations in price levels across the country[3]. Alongside, less than 10% of farmers sell their produce at the MSP set by governments[4]. However, despite many challenges within the MSP system, a robust MSP mechanism in the predominantly wheat and rice-growing states of Punjab and Haryana is the principal reason why the protest is the strongest in these states[5].  

In essence, the farmers’ protest signifies the vicious cycle of poverty and vulnerability that plagues farmers and the agriculture sector and the dire need for agricultural reforms and social and economic protection structures that take into account farmers’ voices. Close to 43% of the country’s total employed population was engaged in agriculture and allied services as of 2019[6]. However, the sector faces multiple challenges such as fragmented and small landholdings, subsistence farming, fragmented markets with several intermediaries, high costs and margins, low-value addition and low-income share of farmers, and limited access of farmers to institutional finance technology, inputs, and storage.[7] These structural issues are exacerbated by challenges associated with the energy-water-agriculture nexus: Heavy dependence on rainfed agriculture, poor access to and inefficient use of irrigation, water contamination and degradation due to indiscriminate fertiliser and pesticide use, water scarcity, and poor soil health.

Socio-economic vulnerabilities in the agriculture sector exacerbated by the climate challenge

Climate change-induced temperature rise, shifts in rainfall patterns and increased intensity of extreme events further exacerbate existing socio-economic vulnerabilities. The Global Climate Risk Index 2020[8] ranked India the fifth most vulnerable to the impacts of climate. Estimations indicate that climate change is responsible for annual economic losses in the agriculture sector up to 9%[9]. According to India’s Economic Survey 2017-18, climate change could reduce annual agricultural incomes by 15-18% and up to 20- 25% for rainfed agriculture[10]. The survey also indicates that repeated monsoon failures and prolonged drought have been a significant cause for stagnation in the country’s agriculture GDP. Climate projections suggest that rice and wheat yield in India may decline by 6-10% by 2030, while crops like potatoes, soybean, chickpea and mustard may be neutrally or positively impacted in the short term[11]. While there are uncertainties around how climate change affects different regions and crops, it is well established that crop seasons are shifting, and yields of some crops are adversely impacted. These shifts point to an urgent need to incorporate climate considerations into all facets of the agricultural sector. An effective response will require access to climate information, climate-smart practices, new crops better suited for different micro-climates, and interventions for addressing existing socio-economic vulnerabilities. Importantly, climate change needs to be fully integrated into large scale agricultural reforms instead of being seen as a standalone issue.

The Green Revolution in India is the most dramatic example of large-scale agricultural reforms that failed to adequately consider the long-term social, environmental, and climate impacts. The revolution was characterised by short-termism. Initially, the policies increased agricultural production and played a vital role in making the country self-sufficient in food grains. However, in recent years farmers have been dealing with contaminated soil, air and water, and chronic health problems amongst communities; fallout from the heavy use of fertilisers, pesticides and irrigation over many years. These challenges have rendered farming systems in the region highly vulnerable to climate change impacts such as erratic rainfall, droughts, and higher intensity floods, indicating the urgent need to diversify seed varieties and resources used based on regional vulnerabilities[12].

The Indian government has made a concerted effort to tackle the impacts of climate change on agriculture, for example, by researching abiotic stress-tolerant seed varieties, demonstrating climate tolerant technological activities, and encouraging shifts to dryland agricultural practices under the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture. However, domestic agriculture policy considerations continue to fall short of considering long term impacts of climate change while designing reforms and development activities. The new farm laws are a case in point. They do not consider how climate change impacts production causing price volatility and demand-supply gaps, with knock-on effects across agricultural value chains.

The new laws also fail to recognise the economic importance of APMC markets in enabling price discovery and regulating price fluctuations and the need to address existing limitations of the MSP system to incorporate broader climate challenges, diversify the government’s procurement system and scale it up for better access for farmers. In this context, the question remains whether limiting APMC’s influence or not addressing existing challenges within the MSP system is the best way forward.  The farmers do not seem to think so.

The underlying dynamics of the famers’ protest Enhancing growth in the agriculture sector and enabling rural development continues to be a key policy concern for India. The government maintains that the new farm laws are designed to improve farmers’ access to markets and their bargaining power and that the MSP system will continue functioning, and so will the APMC mandi systems, albeit with a more limited scope. However, one of the most extensive critiques of the new Farm Laws is that they were formulated in silos without considering pre-existing diverse contexts, policies, regulations, and interventions in various agricultural states[13]. For example, the new farm laws fail to recognise that multiple states have introduced different localised agricultural market ecosystems and that farmers’ groups play an active role in asserting their market demands and navigating market spaces. Concerns over the government doing away with MSP and existing regulated market systems collapsing are underpinned by a sense that the new farm laws do not consider farmers’ voices, existing localised market dynamics and interactions and context-specific vulnerabilities.

Valuable lessons for climate practitioners from the farmers’ protests

The protests against the farm laws show that when designing policies, regulations and interventions for addressing various bottlenecks within the sector, it is imperative to foster a deeper understanding of on-ground complexities. Socio-economic and climate vulnerabilities, power relations, market dynamics and perceptions of farmers and local players in the sector are crucial considerations for effective policy design and implementation. The farm laws’ inability to take such complexities into account exemplifies how top-down policies and regulatory mechanisms run the risk of not addressing root causes of vulnerabilities and bottlenecks and fail to get buy-in from the community they intend to benefit.

Equally, climate resilience planning and action need to delve into existing nuances and locally-driven processes and partner with on-field experts and players to identify effective entry points and design flexible solutions. Regulations or technological interventions aimed at enabling adaptation, without considering how they will be perceived and how they might impact existing complex ecosystems, runs the risk of exacerbating the very vulnerabilities they wish to address. The farmers’ protest against the new farm laws provides valuable insights into the need to develop participatory and context-specific interventions while also integrating climate change in macro policy considerations. Resilience to climate change can only be effectively enhanced if considered in tandem with the existing array of social, economic and ecological challenges across scales.


[1] https://www.prsindia.org/theprsblog/comparison-2020-central-farm-laws-amendments-proposed-states

[2] https://theprint.in/theprint-essential/whats-msp-and-how-is-it-determined-the-issue-at-the-heart-of-farm-protests/562172/

[3] https://theprint.in/theprint-essential/whats-msp-and-how-is-it-determined-the-issue-at-the-heart-of-farm-protests/562172/

[4] https://theprint.in/theprint-essential/whats-msp-and-how-is-it-determined-the-issue-at-the-heart-of-farm-protests/562172/

[5] https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/here-s-why-farm-protests-have-been-loudest-in-punjab-haryana/story-G18qzwYWo7UuvrFmb06xuK.html

[6] https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.AGR.EMPL.ZS?locations=IN

[7] Financing agriculture value chains in India: challenges and opportunities. Indian study in business and economics. https://www.ifpri.org/publication/financing-agriculture-value-chains-india-challenges-and-opportunities

[8] https://germanwatch.org/sites/germanwatch.org/files/20-2-01e%20Global%20Climate%20Risk%20Index%202020_10.pdf

[9] http://www.acclimatise.uk.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/OPM_Agriculture_Pr2Final_WEB.pdf

[10] http://mofapp.nic.in:8080/economicsurvey/pdf/082-101_Chapter_06_ENGLISH_Vol_01_2017-18.pdf

[11] https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/agriculture/climate-change-causes-about-1-5-per-cent-loss-in-india-s-gdp-57883

[12] https://www.gaiafoundation.org/un-climate-experts-green-revolution-leaves-food-systems-vulnerable-to-climate-change/

[13] https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/will-the-farm-bills-benefit-farmers/article32690170.ece


Cover photo by Randeep Maddoke, Wikimedia Commons.
India protests: farmers could switch to more climate-resilient crops – but they have been given no incentive

India protests: farmers could switch to more climate-resilient crops – but they have been given no incentive

By Shruti Bhogal and Shreya Sinha

India is witnessing a historic mass mobilisation of farmers against three new farm laws. The country’s government maintains that these laws are the cure for a longstanding agrarian crisis. While this claim has been analysed from several angles, the environmental angle has often been overlooked. This is no small oversight since the agrarian crisis in India is underpinned by strong environmental vulnerabilities, including those associated with climate change.

The three laws at the centre of the current storm are focused primarily on prices of agricultural produce, marketing channels, and the role of middlemen. Unfortunately, environmental aspects – cropping patterns, irrigation and other agricultural practices – that are fundamental to the sustainability of agricultural systems are not being addressed. Agriculture is highly susceptible to fluctuations in temperature, excessive and untimely rains, floods, droughts, pests, diseases and so on. In recent years, such extreme weather events have been aggravated by climate change.

All this is exacerbating water security. Much of India’s agriculture continues to be fed by rainfall rather than canals, wells and tube wells, which means a short growing season of only 2.5 to 6 months. Even the well-irrigated regions in the north west and south east where the 1960s green revolution massively increased yields, are now experiencing groundwater depletion. For example, Punjab’s vast fields of wheat and rice are rapidly developing desert-like conditions.

Map of India showing large and small scale irrigation.
Large scale irrigation (blue) is concentrated in the north west of India and along its east coast. Much of the country relies on rain rather than irrigation. Thenkabail et alCC BY-SA

On top of this, agro-biodiversity is in decline as only a handful of strains of a few crops have come to dominate. And the country’s soil is becoming less and less healthy. India now loses 15 tonnes of soil per hectare each year, eroded away by wind or water.

As a result, crop yields are largely either stagnating or declining. To improve yields, farmers have been intensifying the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and fuel, adding yet another dimension to the environmental challenge before us and making cultivation more expensive. Meanwhile prices of inputs such as seeds, fertilisers and labour have been rising steadily and prices at which farmers can sell the crops are either stagnant or increasingly unstable.

Together, these issues have pushed farmers into debt and distress. Many have abandoned their farms, moved to cities or even been driven to suicide. This is particularly true of small-scale landholders who, alongside the landless labourers, have been the worst affected.

Man holds sign saying 'No farmer food. Shame on Modi'
Protests in Haryana state, December 2020. PradeepGaurs / shutterstock

In the northwest breadbasket states of Punjab and Haryana, this stagnation is exemplified by the continuous cultivation of wheat and rice as the winter and summer crop respectively, for many decades now. The practice is widely recognised as environmentally unsustainable, but farmers have persisted because these are the only crops where they receive an assured minimum support price (MSP) through public procurement systems. So even though crop diversification has long been recommended as a response to the environmental challenges, farmers are still sticking with wheat and rice.

There are more climate-resilient and less water-intensive crops that would be better suited to particular regions, but farmers won’t start growing them until they get the kind of state support currently extended to wheat and rice in northwest India. Far from doing this, the new farm laws are in fact likely to undermine the procurement systems and regulated market yards through which such a change could be achieved. In the absence of an assured minimum support price that covers actual farm costs, farmers have no incentive or means to shift to relatively more desirable agricultural crops and practices.

Many farmers are also concerned that the new laws will leave them vulnerable to exploitation by corporate agribusiness and at risk of losing their land. Only time can tell how these concerns play out if the laws are implemented. However, if the spectre of corporate-led industrial farming – envisaged in the new laws – becomes a reality, it could further amplify the environmental crisis in India’s countryside. Empirical evidence shows that widespread monocultures and intensive cultivation practices, which are promoted by industrial farming, have intensified ecological fragilities in various regions of the world.

There is no denying that India must respond to the agricultural crisis by moving towards a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable system. The protesting farmers are demanding that at the very least the status quo be maintained. Even this is not without its environmental and social contradictions, but the new laws, if anything, might make conditions worse.


This article was originally posted on The Conversation.
Cover photo: Fallow farms in rainfed south India. Toby Smith (@tobysmithphoto) for TIGR2ESS
Mixed farming beats intensive agriculture methods

Mixed farming beats intensive agriculture methods

By Tim Radford

Once again, researchers have shown that it should be possible to feed the human race and leave enough space for the rest of creation, simply by going back to centuries-old mixed farming practices.

That would mean an end to highly intensively-farmed landscapes composed of vast fields that were home to just one crop, and a return to a number of once-traditional husbandry methods. It sounds counter-intuitive, but European researchers are convinced that it could be good value.

They report in the journal Science Advances that they looked at more than 5,000 studies that made more than 40,000 comparisons between what they term diversified and simplified agriculture.

And they found that crop yield in general either kept to the same level or even increased when farmers adopted what they called diversified practices of the kind that sustained subsistence farmers for many centuries.

These include intercropping − different crops side by side − and multiple crops in rotation, strips of flowers to encourage pollinating insects, lower levels of disturbance of the soil and hedges, and forested shelter belts to encourage wildlife alongside farmland.

“Most often, diversification practices resulted in win-win support of services and crop yields”

The payoff? Better ecosystem services such as pollination, the regulation of crop pests by natural enemies, a more efficient turnover of nutrients, higher water quality, and in many cases better storage of carbon in ways that could mitigate climate change.

This, of course, is not how big agribusiness delivers much of the world’s food.

“The trend is that we are simplifying major cropping systems worldwide,” said Giovanni Tamburini, an ecologist at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, who led the study.

“We grow monoculture on enlarged fields in homogenised landscapes. According to our study, diversification can reverse the negative impacts that we observe in simplified forms of cropping on the environment and on production itself.”

It’s an old argument. Is it better for a farmer to invest all in one vast crop of maize or wheat or soy, regularly nourished by commercial fertilisers, routinely sprayed to suppress pests, moulds and mildews, with the land ploughed and harrowed after harvest for the next crop, and always at risk of frost or flood, locust swarms, drought or blight?

All-round winners

Or would it be better in the long run for the farmer to spread the risk by changing and multiplying the crops, and to rely more on undisturbed soils and local habitats for birds and insects that would demolish some of the pests (and of course take some of the crop)?

Researchers have repeatedly argued that both to contain climate change and to preserve the natural world from which all human nourishment and almost all human wealth ultimately derive, farming practices must change, and so must human appetite. The argument remains: what is the best way to set about change down on the farm itself?

There have already been a large number of studies of this question. There have also been meta-analyses, or studies of collected studies. Dr Tamburini and his colleagues identified 41,946 comparisons embedded in 5,160 original studies. They also found 98 meta-analyses. And they took a fresh look at the whole lot to identify what could be win-win, trade-off and lose-lose outcomes.

They found that diversification is better for biodiversity, pollination, pest control, nutrient cycling, soil fertility and water regulation at least 63% of the time. “Most often, diversification practices resulted in win-win support of services and crop yields,” they report.

“Widespread adoption of diversification practices shows promise to contribute to biodiversity conservation and food security from local to global scales.” − Climate News Network


This article was originally posted on The Climate News Network.
Cover photo by Eirian Evans, via Wikimedia Commons
Risk Management in Brazilian Agriculture: Instruments, Public Policy, and Perspectives

Risk Management in Brazilian Agriculture: Instruments, Public Policy, and Perspectives

By Priscila Z. Souza and Juliano J. Assunção

Rural producers face a wide range of adverse events that expose them to potentially heavy losses. In agriculture, both natural risks – such as droughts, floods, pests, diseases, and fires – and market risks – such as price variation – are frequent. While the modernization of the agricultural sector leads to commodity specialization and the adoption of technologies with higher expected returns, it may also result in a larger production variance, creating more uncertainty and increasing producers’ exposure to risk (See Dercon and Christiaensen, 2011). Modernization has accelerated in Brazil in recent years, raising the importance of risk management instruments. 

Brazil has a large potential for improving risk mitigation opportunities for its producers, which will be even more essential in the face of climate change. Improving risk management practices and public policies could accelerate the process of modernization and sustainability in Brazilian agricultural production. Government incentives require a design crafted to meet producers’ needs. In this report, Climate Policy Initiative/Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (CPI/PUC-Rio) researchers analyze the current risk management instruments and public policies and discuss pathways for improving their impact on Brazilian agriculture.

This report discusses the strengths and shortcomings of the main public policies regarding agricultural risk management, highlights the potential for rural insurance growth, and outlines steps for the future. It brings together data from SUSEP, the Ministry of Agriculture (Ministério da Agricultura, Pecuária e Abastecimento – MAPA), the Central Bank of Brazil, and other relevant sources. The empirical analysis aims to provide a better understanding of the current state and recent trends of agricultural risk management in Brazil and to identify how to better tailor public policies.

In Brazil, the modernization of agriculture in the past decades has led to the conversion of pasture to cropland, reducing deforestation pressure associated with the expansion of agricultural land. The continuation of this process requires additional investments in intensification and productivity, particularly in pastureland, so that increases in livestock production do not require area expansion. Simultaneously, the conversion of pastures to cropland significantly alters a business’ risk profile, since crops are more susceptible to climate variations. Livestock farming is generally more resilient in the face of the unforeseen events that often impact rural activities. Specialization of cultures, adoption of new technologies, and sustainable production methods lead to higher expected returns but may cause greater uncertainty in results. Thus, to encourage producers to adopt such practices, their exposure to risk needs to be addressed. That is why the modernization of the agricultural sector enhances the importance of better opportunities for producers to manage their risks.

Market failures in rural insurance have broad consequences leading to underinvestment, less efficient agricultural production, and adverse land use impacts. Producers with inadequate risk management tools often make poor production decisions, such as avoiding crop specialization or the adoption of new technologies that can subsequently increase their exposure to risk. That is, producers will often avoid engaging in activities that have higher expected profits but more uncertainty in returns as a way to self-insure against both natural and price risks. This behavior has negative effects on agricultural productivity and land use, with important consequences for forests and the environment. 

In Brazil, rural insurance and other tools for agriculture risk management is scarce and difficult to access in many regions (see Box 1 for an overview of Brazil’s risk management instruments). In 2018, almost 60% of the country’s municipalities had no rural insurance contracts (for crop, livestock, or forest), according to the Superintendence for Private Insurance (Superintendência de Seguros Privados – SUSEP). Moreover, few crops in Brazil are insured, and soy is most frequently covered (32% of crop insurance contracts in SUSEP). Nevertheless, the Brazilian rural insurance market recently experienced significant growth. The rural insurance premium increased from R$88.2 million in 2006 to R$2 billion in 2018, corresponding (adjusted for inflation) to a twelve-fold increase (SUSEP). Life insurance for rural producers makes up 20% percent of all rural insurance premiums, though this type of insurance does not have a direct impact on production choices.

Only a few companies dominate Brazil’ rural insurance market. In the 2019/20 agricultural year, one company represented 52.3% percent of the market and only 14 insurers total were present during that year, according to data from SUSEP. Public policy should provide incentives to reduce market concentration, increase competition among firms, and, consequently, increase the variety of risk management instruments available to rural producers.

The remainder of this report proceeds as follows. Following this Executive Summary, Box 1 gives a brief description of Brazil’s risk management instruments. The main recommendations for improving Brazil,s agricultural risk management policies are highlighted next. Section 1 starts the analysis of risk management instruments in Brazil, exploring the data from SUSEP. Section 2 discusses the four main public policies for Brazilian producers: PSR, PROAGRO, Garantia-Safra, and PGPM. Section 3 describes the Agricultural Climate Risk Zoning (Zoneamento Agrícola de Risco Climático – ZARC). Section 4 presents the Brazilian reinsurance market and the Rural Insurance Stability Fund (FESR). Section 5 reviews the economic literature on how risk management instruments impact agricultural activity and land use in Brazil and other developing countries. Section 6 makes an international comparison of insurance coverage and policies. Finally, Section 7 discusses the pathways ahead and suggestions to improve Brazil’s risk management instruments and public policies.


This article was posted on Climate Policy Initiative.
Cover photo from Pikist.
Video: The global coffee crisis is coming

Video: The global coffee crisis is coming

Coffee is one of the most popular commodities on Earth. It’s grown by nearly 125 million farmers, from Latin America to Africa to Asia. But as man-made climate change warms the atmosphere, the notoriously particular coffee plant is struggling. Places like Colombia, which once had the perfect climate to grow Arabica coffee, are changing. Now, experts estimate the amount of land that can sustain coffee will fall 50 percent by 2050. It’s not just a crisis for consumers but for the millions who have made a livelihood out of growing coffee.


Cover photo by Hans Ripa on Unsplash.

Rely on local food to ensure supply chains resilience

Rely on local food to ensure supply chains resilience

By Sonia Fernandez

The COVID-19 pandemic exposes weaknesses in the supply chain when countries go into lockdown. Some are small, such as the toilet paper shortages early on, that, while annoying, were eventually resolved. But what happens when the effects of the pandemic reach the food systems of countries highly reliant on food imports and income from abroad, and commerce slows to a halt?

UC Santa Barbara marine conservationist Jacob Eurich and collaborators watched this very situation unfold in the Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) — the island nations scattered in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, from New Zealand to French Polynesia, and including the Marshall Islands to Papua New Guinea. While infection with SARS-CoV-2 has been slow there relative to other parts of the world, the global lockdown can have outsized effects on their food systems.

“One of the key messages from the research is to rely less on global food supply chains,” said Eurich, a co-author on a paper that appears in the journal Food Security. While this study was specific to the PICT region, areas with few domestic alternatives to global supply chains, he noted, are vulnerable to similar threats to food security when shocks to the system occur.

With their remote locations, lack of arable land and economies dependent on tourism and need for food imports, the PICTs have become reliant on movement in and out of the region for much of the food they consume and also for the money to purchase that food.

But even with commerce slowing down, these countries and territories need not suffer food scarcity and malnutrition, the researchers said. The PICTs are home to large networks of coral reefs that host a diverse array of fish and other seafood.

“Coral reefs should operate as biodiverse, living refrigerators for coastal communities, sourcing replenishable, nutritious food,” Eurich said. “Coastal communities can and should be able to depend on traditionally-sourced diets if the resource is healthy.”

In fact, the time is ripe to reconsider the role of local production in the region’s food systems, according to the researchers. For instance, some areas with farmland could benefit by reinvigorating their production of root crops, which would not only decrease reliance on the global supply chain, but also provide healthy alternatives to imported processed foods.

“Bolstering local production and intraregional trade strengthens the food system,” he said. “Consuming more locally produced fresh foods and less non-perishable shelf-stable foods is a step in the right direction.”

Meanwhile, a shortening of the supply chain via strong intraregional trade could strengthen the regional economy while also protecting against food insecurity. Significant local processing and storage challenges must be overcome, according to the paper, and intra-island transport and food distribution strengthened. Particularly in the PICT region, where large scale local fish storage is currently inadequate, it helps to prioritize production of less perishable foods (like root crops) over fish, Eurich said.

It’s not just about pandemic planning. The same principles for resilient food systems in the face of climate change and natural disaster — both of which the PICTs have been facing — could serve as a basis for response to other COVID-19-type scenarios, according to the researchers.

“Climate change and natural disasters can be considered shocks to the system,” Eurich said. “The pandemic, while there was time to prepare, was still a shock. We have learned that enhancing storage, production and distribution through coordination and increasing regional transparency are keys of a resilient supply chain when these unexpected changes occur.”

Research on this paper was conducted also by Penny Farrell (lead author), Anne Marie Thow, Helen Trevena and Georgina Mulcahy at The University of Sydney; Jillian Tuto Wate at Worldfish; Nichol Nonga, Penina Vatucawaqa and Itziar Gonzalez at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); Tom Brewer, Michael K. Sharp, Anna Farmery, Hampus Eriksson and Neil L. Andrew at the University of Wollongong; and Erica Reeve at Deakin University.

Download the pdf here.


This article was posted on PreventionWeb.
Cover photo by CIAT on ClimateVisuals.
National Adaptation Plans – An entrypoint for ecosystem-based adaptation

National Adaptation Plans – An entrypoint for ecosystem-based adaptation

This briefing note provides practical information on the planning and implementation of ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) approaches in the agriculture sector as part of national adaptation planning processes. It presents entry points for mainstreaming EbA throughout the four elements of the National Adaptation Plans (NAP) formulation process, as defined by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Least Developed Countries Group.

The brief describes how planning and implementing EbA in the agriculture sectors as part of the NAPs process can make key linkages between increasing resilience of sustainable agricultural livelihoods and ecosystem management and conservation. This brief is intended for national planners and decision-makers working on climate change adaptation and NAP formulation and implementation, including UNFCCC focal points, national designated authorities of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), and climate financing agencies, donor agencies, and other development practitioners.

The key messages of this brief are:

  1. Climate change poses medium- to long-term risks to both ecosystems and ecosystem-dependent livelihoods, and calls for the adoption of adaptation actions that can address both aspects in an integrated manner;
  2. One of the ways that EbA can contribute to increasing resilience of agricultural livelihoods and ensuring food security in a more coherent way is by integrating related practices throughout the NAP process;
  3. EbA can be part of NAP planning objectives as well as a means for implementation;
  4. Integrating EbA in NAPs, focusing on agriculture sectors, should build on and use approaches that are already tested in the fields of climate-smart agriculture, agroecology, sustainable natural resource management, […];
  5. The barriers to mainstreaming EbA into NAPs include lack of evidence-based knowledge on EbA, including evidence-based on robust monitoring system, […];
  6. These barriers can be addressed by improving cross-sectoral coordination; strengthening capacities and knowledge on the social and economic benefits and trade-offs of EbA, […].

Read the full briefing note here.


This article was published on Prevention Web.
Cover photo by Naseem Bura on Unsplash.

Ribena hunts for climate-resistant blackcurrants that can cope with Britain’s mild winters

Ribena hunts for climate-resistant blackcurrants that can cope with Britain’s mild winters

By Madeleine Cuff

Cordial maker Ribena is attempting to head off the threat climate change poses to its business by developing a new variety of blackcurrant that can cope with Britain’s increasingly mild winters.

Ribena, which is owned by Lucozade Ribena Suntory, buys up 90 per cent of Britain’s £10m blackcurrant crop each year. But milder winters fuelled by climate change threatens poorer quality, less reliable fruits for its drinks business.

That is why Ribena is investing £500,000 in a five-year project with the James Hutton Institute to develop a new variety of blackcurrant that doesn’t need a cold winter to deliver good summer fruits.

“We are seeing big shifts in our climate. We’ve had an incredibly mild winter, followed by the sunniest May ever, and the driest May in 124 years,” Ribena’s blackcurrant agronomist Harriet Prosser said. “That puts us in a really difficult position.”

Warm winters

Standard blackcurrant varieties need around 2,000 “cold hours” – when the temperature drops below 7C – before they start to bud in the Spring, Ms Prosser explained. The cold spell reduces the risk of frost damage to new buds, and ensures blackcurrant shrubs flower at the right point in the season for peak pollination.

But this year, blackcurrant growers in the UK’s South East saw just 1,300 “cold hours”, raising the risk of lower yields and an unevenly ripened crop.

Long-term threat

Ribena is trying to manage Britain’s unpredictable weather patterns by sourcing blackcurrants from across the country, from Kent to Scotland. Its growers also use a range of varieties, including some better adapted to warmer climates.

But each year growing a bumper crop of blackcurrants in Britain becomes more of a challenge. This year Ribena resorted to using a specially developed nutrient-rich “energy drink” on the plants to encourage fruiting, Ms Prosser said.

Finding a blackcurrant that thrives in Britain’s warming winter conditions is crucial to the sector’s long-term prospects. “I think we would always work to keep British blackcurrants going,” Ms Prosser said. “It would get harder without this breeding programme.”


This article was originally posted on inews.co.uk.
Cover photo by Needpix.
Cotton 2040: Creating a resilient cotton industry in turbulent times

Cotton 2040: Creating a resilient cotton industry in turbulent times

Acclimatise are delighted to announce the establishment of a new partnership with Forum for the Future as co-delivery partners on the Cotton 2040 initiative.

To survive in an increasingly climate-disrupted world, the cotton system requires significant, radical change which can only be achieved by a systemic, collaborative approach involving actors across the supply chain.

Cotton represents about 25% of all fibre used in the textile sector globally and supports the livelihoods of around 350 million people. The industry is facing increasing climate change pressures include changing rainfall patterns, availability of water, rising temperatures and competition for land for food and fuel.. Increasing the amount of sustainably grown cotton is key to reducing cotton’s impact and adapting to the negative impacts of the climate crisis; but while progress is being made, uptake and production is limited, preventing sustainable cotton from mainstreaming.

See a recently published blog by Forum for the Future’s Associate Director, Charlene Collison, on why we need to transform commodity value chains in light of the current pandemic and the on-going climate change threat.

About Cotton 2040

Facilitated by Forum for the Future and supported by Laudes Foundation, Acclimatise and Anthesis, Cotton 2040 aims to accelerate progress and maximise the impact of existing sustainability initiatives across the global cotton industry, by bringing together leading international brands and retailers, sustainable cotton standards, existing industry initiatives and other stakeholders across the value chain.

Since 2016, Cotton 2040 has been engaging the industry to understand and align around potential future risks and opportunities for sustainable cotton. The initiative’s progress to date includes building the CottonUP Guide to sourcing sustainable cotton, creating the first platform providing comprehensive information on sourcing cotton across multiple sustainable standards. Forum for the Future have also been carrying out foundational work with sustainable cotton standards, programmes and codes on pathways towards greater alignment in traceability and impact reporting (the latest phase of this work has been carried out in collaboration with Project Delta).

Cotton 2040’s progress has been guided by a steering group that included sustainable cotton standards, programmes and codes (organic, represented by Textile Exchange; The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI); CottonConnect; Cotton Made in Africa (CMiA); Fairtrade; MyBMP (Cotton Australia); and the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA). Brand and retail partners have included M&S, Target, Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Ltd. and Burberry, among others, alongside industry partners such as IDH, ICAC and more.

Over the next three years (2020-2022), Cotton 2040 and its partners will deliver a set of three interconnected workstreams with the biggest potential to drive a systemic shift to mainstream sustainable cotton through collaborative efforts.

Acclimatise will co-partner the delivery of the first of three workstreams planned for Cotton 2040. This first workstream is related to planning for climate adaptation. The three workstreams include:

  1. Planning for climate adaptation: Creating sector-wide collaborative action to understand and adapt to the changing climate. Working with cotton producers, brands and retailers and industry initiatives, we will develop a common understanding across the cotton system as to how climate change is likely to impact key stakeholders and regions, and agree on a shared set of priorities for action across the cotton sector.
  2. Sourcing sustainable cotton: Driving the uptake of sustainable cotton with brands and retailers, building on the success of the CottonUP guide launched in 2018.
  3. Developing sustainable business models: Supporting a widespread shift towards alternative business models which ensure fairer distribution of value and risk between stakeholders, and enable the regeneration of land and resources.

How to get involved?

Each partner involved in Cotton 2040 has joined in recognition that no one organisation or company can solve the sector’s challenges alone. But we need many more to join – and more funding to make the impact that is needed.

We are now inviting expressions of interest and commitment from organisations wishing to contribute to one or more of these workstreams in 2020 and beyond.

Those wishing to find out more can contact Charlene Collison, Associate Director – Sustainable Value Chains & Livelihoods at Forum for the Future on c.collison@forumforthefuture.org


Cover photo by Trisha Downing on Unsplash.
Relational adaptation: how small agribusinesses can foster climate resilience in the Caribbean

Relational adaptation: how small agribusinesses can foster climate resilience in the Caribbean

By Laura Canevari

Small businesses operating in the Caribbean are faced with constant challenges.

First, the challenges when operating from an island: you are in a remote and isolated location with limited natural resources; costs of production are high; transport costs are high; there are no economies of scale; and your domestic markets are quite small.

Second, trading policies are unfavorable to local producers. There is a high level of dependence on imported inputs (including fuel); a lack of diversity in the goods exported and in trading partners; and a rapid depreciation rate of some Caribbean currencies (such as the Jamaican dollar), which increases operational costs and reduces business competitiveness, both locally and internationally.

Third, access to finance – including finance for innovation and for relief – is very challenging. High interest rates, lack of collateral, and the burden of government (in terms of tax rates and bureaucratic inefficiency) are highly problematic.

Agriculture in the Caribbean has also been fundamentally shaped by the colonial legacy of plantation economies. There is a tendency in favor of export-oriented production, and the best arable lands have – and continue to be- allocated to major export crops such as sugar cane and bananas in large scale operations. This leaves only marginal – and hilly – areas for small-scale domestic production. These areas are generally under-utilized, many times due to farmers lacking the investment capital to clear and develop more land at their disposal, or to update their equipment and practices to increase land use efficiency.

And this is just the top of the iceberg.

Climate change, a threat multiplier

Add to this reality climate change: A threat multiplier capable of generating new and amplified perils to a group of actors that are already in relentless struggle for survival. Analysis of observed meteorological records show a warming and drying trend across the entire region as well as an increase in tropical storms (especially for hurricanes category 4 and 5). In the future, the Caribbean region is expected to experience further erratic rainfall, higher temperatures, stronger droughts and greater climate variability.

Multiple effects on agricultural systems emerge from these changing conditions. In particular, changes in temperature and in rainfall patterns and diversion from favorable agro-climatic conditions can hinder farming productivity, lowering yields and the quality of the produce. Increase intensity of hurricanes and tropical storms can increase the incidence of coastal and riverine flooding and expose assets to high wind speeds. These hazards can generate damages to infrastructure and equipment, making it difficult to undertake farm operations and reach markets; and it can also impact on communities and labour force.

But it is not just farmers that are exposed to the challenges generated by these changing conditions. When we take a whole value chain approach, we can see that climate change generates differentiated risks along all tiers of a value chain, depending on the resources and activities needed to carry value chain operations. To illustrate this point, Figure 1 below shows the different actors, resources and activities along the cassava value chain in Jamaica and some of the key associated climate hazards that each tier is exposed to.

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Figure 1: Representation of climate sensitivities along the Jamaican cassava value chain. Source article available here.

Strategically relate to better adapt

New forms of innovation aligned with the socio-economic and climate realities of the Caribbean are therefore needed. It is herein that a relational approach to climate adaptation can be most beneficial.

As a form of soft innovation, relationship building and strengthening can help actors in agri-business reach critical resources – such as finance and information – helping to increase their adaptive capacity. My research also finds that business relations affect actors’ ability to share or transfer climate risks, making businesses more or less susceptible to adaptation actions taken by others and granting businesses greater or lower flexibility when responding to climate hazards. These dynamics can alter businesses’ perceptions and attitudes towards climate risks and their adaptive responses. In addition, effective relationship management can increase value chain flexibility, visibility and agility, strengthening the overall resilience of agricultural value chains and their capacity to withstand and respond to external shocks, including climate hazards.

When thinking about barriers to climate adaptation, a key challenge that SMEs face is their ability to engage in and benefit from open innovation processes. Due to their size and financial capabilities -which restrict resource allocation for in-house R&D- SMEs are more reliant on open innovation processes than larger firms, and also perform it more intensively. However, SMEs ability to engage in open innovation processes is not only reliant on SMEs internal organisational learning capabilities: It also depends on their capacity to build collaborative relationships with counterparts in order to unlock access to new inflows of knowledge, and on the overall levels of inter-organizational knowledge and innovation openness of the broader business network.

What is the role of government in promoting relational adaptation?

Governments can formulate adaptation strategies focused on stimulating and incentivizing relational innovation, i.e. innovation that occurs through the establishment of new relationships or the re-structuring of existing ones. They can promote the development of cooperatives, business associations and industry clusters, as these networks facilitate information flows between agribusiness and support the dissemination of adaptation best practices. In order to help reduce the current R&D investment gap, strategies can also promote the development of linkages between universities and value chain actors. If done effectively, these network developments can help to reduce the burden on government extension services, as actors can then access information and training through others.

Moreover, business networks improve collaboration, information sharing and joint problem solving. They also help developing shared values and beliefs among businesses, and promote the creation of a shared risk management culture, which are thought to increase value chain climate resilience. There is therefore scope for governments to provide support and allocate resources to the formation, expansion and maintenance of business associations and industry clusters, as they can directly enhance the capacities of businesses to respond to climate risks. 

Government and development agencies lacking the resources to promote harder (i.e. more technologically driven) forms of adaptation, may see the promotion of relational innovation as an interesting avenue to promote adaptation. As a form of soft adaptation, supporting relationship building could complement existing adaptation strategies in agriculture whilst easing the burden of government activities.

An enabling environment that promotes adaptation through relational innovations grants greater agency and responsibility to value chain actors. In other words, governments can help framing the conditions for the development of a network structure that facilitates exchange and interaction, but that relies on actor’s abilities to develop and manage relationships effectively. Thus, whilst businesses can directly seek to increase their adaptive capacity by building strategic relationships, governments and development agencies can also play a role in facilitating the development of an enabling environment for relationship building.

This article is based on the research studies carried by Laura Canevari at King’s College London. Free access to peer reviewed publications available below.

  • Canevari-Luzardo, L. (2019). Climate change adaptation in the private sector: application of a relational view of the firm. Climate and Developmentdoi:10.1080/17565529.2019.1613214[
  • Canevari-Luzardo, L., Berkhout, F., & Pelling, M. (2019). A relational view of climate adaptation in the private sector: How do value chain interactions shape business perceptions of climate risk and adaptive behaviour? Business Strategy and the Environment. doi: https://doi.org/10.1002/bse.2375
  • Canevari-Luzardo, L. M. (2019). Value chain climate resilience and adaptive capacity in micro, small and medium agribusiness in Jamaica: a network approach. Regional Environmental Changedoi:10.1007/s10113-019-01561-0

Read the original article on LinkedIn.
Cover photo by Laura Canevari.