There must be a clear understanding of vulnerable populations and regions, based on an assessment of the capacities to cope with climate variability and change. We are conscious that coping and adaptation strategies are not equally available to all affected populations. At the same time, it is important also to develop formal measures of vulnerability and their application to planning adaptation measures and strategies. The inter-disciplinary work involved requires various Ministries, Agencies and Expert Institutions to pool their resources, knowledge and information. We need to know much more about the factors influencing vulnerability and the aspects related to planning for adaptation. Our understanding in the area of vulnerability and adaptation tools needs to be mature and be refined so as to enhance their applicability.
India is particularly vulnerable to likely increase in the incidence of extreme events. The impacts of climate change could hinder development and progress in eradicating poverty and potentially aggravating social and environmental conditions. In the context of the current debate about climate change, it is necessary to show that the developing countries, like India, are taking considerable actions in terms of policies, programmes and projects. Technology transfer can speed up the modernization process and additional funds can accelerate government initiatives in energy conservation. However, policies for poverty alleviation must be on high priority.
The hierarchy of damage considerations as discussed above - hunger, regional economic, farmer/farm sector, and yield vulnerability, helps to focus on adaptive strategies that reduce vulnerability. How can we avoid yield failures? If yields fail, what other crops can be grown? If farming becomes uneconomic, what can be alternate land use options to increase the profits to the farmers?
Historically, farming systems have adapted to changing economic conditions, technology and resource availabilities and have kept pace with a growing population. While the technological potential to adapt may exist, the socio-economic capability to adapt differs for different types of agricultural systems. An evergreen revolution is the pathway to sustainable advances in productivity per units of land, water and time without associated ecological or social harm. One of the weaknesses is mismatch between production and post-harvest technologies and between production and market demand, and the consequent need for the Government of India to undertake "trade relief" operations like cyclone, flood and drought relief. We can face the internal threats through integrated attention to regulation, education and social mobilization through Panchayati Raj institutions. Also, there is a need to restructure research strategies in a manner that strategic, anticipatory and participatory (i.e. with farm families) research, all receive adequate attention.
The Rural Knowledge Centers should provide computer aided and internet connected information services, so that farm families have timely and relevant meteorological, management and marketing information. Another area, which needs an urgent attention, is the restructuring of the State Land Use Boards in a manner that they are in a position to offer proactive advice to farm families on land use and cropping systems, based on likely monsoon behaviour, ecological efficiency and trends in prices and markets. Assured and remunerative marketing opportunities hold the key to sustaining farmers' interest in producing more.
Immediately, an action is needed to defend the productivity gains we have already made and to extend the same to the areas which have been bypassed by the farm revolution, particularly dry farming areas, and to make new gains through sustainable intensification, market - based farming systems diversification, and value addition to primary produce through agro-processing and agri-business.
The income and on-farm and off-farm employment potential of farming can be improved only through integrated farming systems, based on crop-livestock-fish-trees combinations. Multiple livelihood opportunities are essential both as an insurance mechanism and for a reasonable total "take-home" income. India's strength lies in a farming systems approach to the use of natural resources. This is also the pathway to ecological farming. Such research is best done in farmer's fields through a participatory approach. Conservation of bio-resources, particularly medicinal plants and agro biodiversity in dry farming areas, and their conversion into economic products through biotechnology, will help to end the situation where "poor people inhabit a rich country".
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